Date of Review: 18th May 2023
Address: York Racecourse, Knavesmire Road, York, YO23 1EX.
Phone: 01904 620911
Hotel Accommodation: https://www.trivago.co.uk/en-GB/opr/hotels-near-york-racecourse?search=500-765656
Track Layout: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to At The Races)
York is a flat, oval-shaped, left-handed course that is circa 2.0 miles in circumference. It also has a sweeping turn into a long, five-furlong home straight to the finishing post.
These characteristics ensure it’s a very fair track, which suits long-striding, galloping horses. It is regarded as the best flat racecourse in the North of England. The track was made into a full circuit in 2005. Six-furlong races are run on a straight (a high draw in these races has proven to be a distinct advantage), and 7-furlong races start on a chute.
The course hosts two major festivals during the year: the Dante-Festival in May, which is for the Derby and Oaks trials, and the Ebor Festival in August, which includes three Grade 1 races: the Yorkshire Oaks, the Juddmonte International, and the Nunthorpe Stakes. It also holds the famous Ebor Handicap, which is the highest value prize money handicap in Europe, on the Saturday.
For the 2023 season, York Racecourse has announced a record prize fund of £10.75m. This tops the record prize fund of 2022, which delivered a record number of runners and an average field size of 11.88, the highest of any racecourse in the UK. It is an extremely popular racecourse and attracts over 350,000 racegoers each year. York replaced Ascot during its redevelopment in 2005 and held the ’Royal Ascot at York’ meeting.
York racecourse is rich in history, and there is evidence that suggests racing here dates back to Roman times in the days of Emperor Septimus Severus. The first records of a race meeting in this area date back to 1709 at Clifton Ings. In 1730, racing was moved to Knavesmire, which is the site of the course today.
The first grandstand was built in 1754. In 1842, the York Racecourse Committee was formed and still manages racing at York to this day (now part of the York Racecourse Knavesmire LLP). In an effort to improve the quality of racing, the famous Gimcrack Stakes was introduced in 1846. The course has benefitted from repeated investments and improvements over the years. In 1965, a five-tier grandstand was opened. The Melrose Stand was opened in 1989, and the Knavesmire Stand in 1996. In 2003, the Ebor Stand was opened.
A piece of racing history was made at York, when the famous Brigadier Gerard was beaten for the only time in his 18 race career by Roberto in the inaugural running of the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup in 1972.
York Racecourse stages 18 days of racing a year (all flat) from May through to September. The flagship festival is the Ebor meeting, which is held in August.
The Racecourse Advisor Ratings Guide to York Racecourse:
By Road : The racecourse is located approximately two miles from York city centre. The traffic is notorious in York at the best of times, so on racedays it does get seriously congested. Getting off the racecourse and through town after the races have finished can take up to an hour, so beware! The most convenient way to reach the track is via the A64 and the A1036 (Tadcaster Road) from the south and the A19 and the A59 from the north. Then use the York Ring Road to avoid the city centre. The course is very well signed from a long way out. Rating: 7/10.
By Rail: York Railway Station is approximately 1.5 miles from the racecourse. So, a short taxi ride or brisk walk if preferred. York is a major railway station, with trains running directly from London, Manchester, Birmingham, and Edinburgh. There is a shuttle bus service from York Railway Station to the racecourse that runs between 11.00 am and 1.00pm and returns from 4.00pm onwards during racedays. Rating: 7/10.
Parking: Ample free car parking is available on Racecourse Road. Head for ‘Car Park D’ for public parking. It is a vast piece of grassy land, and it is a short walk to the track. There are separate car parks for owners & trainers and bookmakers. Vehicles can be left overnight and collected by 11am the following day if required. Rating: 9/10.
Pricing: On the day of our visit, we opted for the Grandstand and Paddock tickets at £25.00 each (£23.50 for a group of 6 or more people booked in advance).
The County Stand is £40.00 (£38.50 for a group of 6 or more people booked in advance), which includes a race card. Be aware that the dress code at this stand is jacket and tie for gentlemen. There is also the Clocktower Enclosure, which is a bargain at £8.00. This is positioned on a grassy bank on the opposite side of the track, which views the stands and is near the winning post. Picnics are allowed in this area (no glass or BBQs).
Further to this, you have the full-blown hospitality options of the Melrose Club Lounge at £145.00 per person, which is on the second floor and has its own balcony overlooking the straight. Or The Premier Racing Lounge, which is next to the parade ring for £80.00 per person.
Concessions for juniors and seniors over 65's can be booked in advance. However, concessions are for collection on the day of racing only, as proof of age and ID is required, such as a UK driving licence, government issued ID card, or passport. Children under 18 are admitted free of charge, with an accompanying adult only, to all meetings.
Overall, we feel this is really excellent value for a day of very high-quality racing, at a major racecourse with all of the facilities and splendour that York delivers.
Added to this, Dave (Mr Shrewdy), who is the King of the Race Cards, and a man of detail, said that the official race card on the day was the best he had ever seen. Priced at £4.00 which is near the top end, but it delivers serious value for money. It is in effect a small reference book at 80 pages. Filled with racecourse facts, details, and maps as a complete guide to the racecourse and places to eat & drink, showing all of the facilities available.
His particular favourite section was the Alpha Index of jockeys & trainers for the day, along with the Tale of the Clock and Big Race trends. By far the best race card we have come across so far on our travels. Another big tick in the box for York Racecourse. Rating: 10/10.
Catering: As we both enjoy doing "racecourse reviews" and not restaurant reviews or pretending to be food critics, our aim is to just give you an overall idea of what culinary options are available at the track on race days.
In the grandstand and paddock stand where we were situated, there is an absolute abundance of catering options. There are far too many to go into detail about without turning this into a food blog, which we do not want to do. Hence, a quick overview:
Wood fired pizzas with a choice of toppings: £13 a pop. Pork Hot Roast Buns: £8.50. Fish & Chips £11.00. Asian street food van serving Thai / Japanese / Chinese food: £3 to £10 depending on what takes your fancy. Burgers: Gourmet Burgers / plain / cheese/ bacon: £6.20 to £9.50. Portion of chips: £3.70. Traditional Cornish Pasties: £6.00. Seafood Shack: Scampi & Chips £11.50. Tea & Coffee Van: £2.75 per cup. Greek Food Outlet: £7.95 to £9.70. Seafood & Champagne Bar and a traditional sweet shop. In fact, there are two of them, and the one nearest the County Stand sells cigars. Now that’s posh!
Some of the food & catering option - York Racecourse
You are genuinely spoilt for choice, and you ain’t going hungry at York Racecourse – that much is for sure. After a very short deliberation, we decided on the pie shop. It was a wise decision. A choice of pies: Free- Range pork pies. Angus Steak Pies. Chicken in a Creamy Sauce pies. Minced Beef & Vegetable Pasty. Prices range from £4.60 to £8.50. All are available with mushy peas, gravy, and mint sauce if that’s how you like it. We chose the warm pork pie with mushy peas, and it was good. Highly recommended.
As it was a warm, sunny day, we also decided to treat ourselves to an ice cream. Hey, that’s just how we hang sometimes! Dave had the Peppermint Chip Choc (not the other way around), and Ray pushed the boat out with the Chocolate & Sea Salt combo. Single cones are £3.10. Double cones are £4.20 and if you are feeling really decadent, you can throw in a Flake for another £0.50p. The best ice cream we have tasted at a racecourse for many a long year – genuinely. As we sat outside in the sunshine and ate them, we felt like Andy Dufresne and Red in the final scenes of The Shawshank Redemption movie. We could almost hear Morgan Freeman speaking those immortal words: "Get busy living or get busy dying”. OK, we slightly exaggerate, but you catch the drift…
If you are feeling thirsty, then there is no shortage of bars at York either: The Alleged Bar. Bahram Bar. Bustino Bar. Dayjur Bar. Mill Reef Bar. Ragusa Bar and the Theakston’s Bar without naming them all. A good number of them also have outside seating areas. In the main grandstand itself, there are three floors, all with large bar areas and access to outside viewing of the racecourse itself.
Overall, there is a vast array of food and catering options across the grandstand and paddock areas. In our opinion, all are well priced. All busy, and all with helpful and friendly staff. What more can you ask for at a racecourse? Rating: 10/10.
Guinness Standard: As expected, we are pleased to report draught Guinness is available at various bars at a price of £6.90 a pint. Not the cheapest we have had, but also not Cheltenham Racecourse prices either. It was a nice pint of Guinness as well, to be fair. Along with this, there is Amstel Larger at £6.50 and John Smiths Extra Smooth and Theakston’s Best Bitter at £6.20 a pint. Strongbow Original Cider is £6.90 a pint. Pretty reasonable pricing all round we feel, for a racecourse of this stature. Rating: 9/10.
Viewing: The viewing experience at York is very good indeed. You can see the horses virtually 100% of the time during all races. The Grandstand & Paddock where we were located offers superb facilities to watch the races and allows access along the running rail right up to the winning post next to the Melrose Stand. Two large TV screens are located either side of the finishing post, which is something we like.
The Viewing Experience: The Grandstand & County Stand Enclosures - York Racecourse
There are other TV screens located at the side of the winners' enclosure and at the back of the bar facing the parade ring also. Each floor of the grandstand offers plenty of elevated, outside viewing areas to the course. There is no shortage of seating and ample cover from the elements, should it be required. Rating: 10/10.
Parade Ring / Winners Enclosure: The parade ring & winners enclosures are more than a decent size and located directly adjacent to the Melrose Stand. There is plenty of terracing around both to enable good viewing, with seats / stools also at the front. Next door and just to the right of this is the pre-parade ring.
The parade ring & winners enclosure - York Racecourse
Access is only available from the front and left hand side of the enclosures and not at the back. However, there is plenty of space to view the horses, jockeys, and stable connections. This part of the course is very pretty, with plenty of immaculately trimmed hedges and shrubs for decoration. A lot of effort and attention have gone into this area, and it shows. Rating: 10/10.
Bookmakers / Betting Facilities: There is a large bookmaker's pitch that is located directly in front of the grandstand. We stopped counting at 45 individual pitches. There is also a separate bookmaker's pitch at the side of the Melrose Stand. So there is no shortage of bookies. There are also a number of William Hill concessions on the course, the largest being on the ground floor and at the entrance to the stand. There is also one on the third floor. Put this together with the numerous Tote facilities on course, and it’s fair to say that punters are more than well catered for. Rating: 10/10.
York Racecourse Tours: The best kept secret about York Racecourse is the free guided tours they offer. We discovered them by accident, and if you are genuinely interested in horse racing, then they are an absolute must! There are two different tours on each race day: The first is a tour of the jockeys' weighing and changing rooms before the races commence. The second one is a tour to the starting stalls to watch the horses being loaded and dispatched by the starter before each race. The first tour starts at circa 11.45am and the second tour starts 20 minutes before the start of each race. The tours commence from a small enclosure in front of the Melrose Stand and adjacent to the parade ring / winners enclosure.
The Starting Point of the Free Guided Tours at York Racecourse
The tours are conducted by Robert (Bob) Earnshaw, who was a very famous National Hunt jockey in his day. Robert won the King George VI Chase on Wayward Lad. Three times winner of the Two Mile Champion Chases on Badsworth Boy (which is still a record) and also a Cheltenham Gold Cup on Silver Buck in 1982. After retiring from the saddle, Robert became a trainer, and after that, he served 29 years as a steward. To say he knows his stuff is somewhat of an understatement. The tours are absolutely superb. Robert really is a fantastic host. Very friendly, highly informative, and nothing is too much trouble. He also has a few good stories to tell!
We genuinely cannot recommend these tours highly enough. They give you a great insight and education into how things operate and work at a racecourse on race days. In our opinion, York Racecourse should really put some effort into promoting these tours, as in our experience they are pretty much unique. They are also a credit to the owners and management of the course for running them.
The start of 5-furlong sprint on the free guided tour - York Racecourse
Friendliness of Course Staff: There are plenty of very helpful and very friendly course staff everywhere around the course. We saw a couple of litter pickers also working the concourses. Overall, a good old fashioned Yorkshire welcome. Rating: 10/10.
Pros & Cons: The only issue with this racecourse is the traffic in and around York, and that’s hardly the fault of the racecourse. For the size, stature, and quality of the course, the pricing is excellent and most certainly offers very good value for money, we feel.
The catering is superb. A wide range of high-quality food options to suit all tastes and all pockets. It would be difficult to go hungry at this racecourse, that much is for sure. The viewing experience is excellent. You can see all of the action wherever you are in the stands. The grandstand area where we were located is first class. Plenty of room, plenty of seating with an elevated view if you prefer it, and more than ample cover if required.
The parade ring & winners enclosure are very picturesque and well-tended, with top notch viewing facilities. The bookmakers' pitch is huge, and any number of William Hill or Tote counters if you prefer them. The free guided tours are exceptional. The owners and management of the course should be commended for taking the time, trouble, and expense to run them. If you ever do visit this racecourse, then make sure you don’t miss them.
In our opinion, as far as British racecourses go, York really does set the benchmark. It is genuinely difficult to find fault with it in any category. The great news is that you can still use cash along with your credit cards here, which for us is a huge thumbs up. Good old fashioned Yorkshire common sense has prevailed, and other racecourse owners should take note.
In our opinion, if you fancy a day out at the races and are unsure of where to go, then we strongly suggest that you put York at the very top of your list! Rating: 10/10
VIP Watch: No real big time VIPs of any note were spotted during our visit. However, we did spot Andrew Gemmell the owner of the famous National Hunt horse, Paisley Park. So, we are claiming that one.
Overall Dave & Ray Rating: 9.5/10.
The full day's racing results can be found here: https://www.sportinglife.com/racing/meeting/2023-05-18/york/96683
Facilities & location layout of York Racecourse: (Image: courtesy of & acknowledged to The York Racecourse Knavesmire LLP)
A fully interactive course guide and layout map can be found here: https://www.yorkracecourse.co.uk/interactive-course-guide.html
Aerial View of York Racecourse: (courtesy of & acknowledged to Google Earth)
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