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York Ebor race names explained

The York Ebor meeting takes place this week, the Royal Ascot of the north. It is four great days of racing. But what about some of its race names? The Lowther, the Nunthorpe, the Acomb? How did those names come about?

Let’s take the easy one first, the Ebor Handicap. Eboracum was York’s Roman name. The Emperor Severus started racing in the year 208 at the place now called the Knavesmire. There were many other locations over the years. However, racing returned to the Kanvesmire in 1731.

The Gimcrack Stakes honours the horse of that name. Gimcrack, a pony-sized grey, won 26 races from 36 starts over eleven years. Ironically, Gimcrack never won a race at York. However, its winners include Blink Bonny, Sansovino, Bahram and Mill Reef, who all won the Derby.

The Great Voltigeur Stakes is named after Lord Zetland’s 1850 Derby and St Leger winner. The Flying Dutchman beat Voltigeur in a famous match at York in 1851. However, Voltigeur then won The Flying Dutchman Stakes in 1852.

The Juddmonte International started life as the Benson and Hedges Gold Cup in 1972. Roberto won that year, giving Brigadier Gerard the sole defeat of his career. It became the ‘Juddmonte’ in 1989, named after its new sponsor.

More York Ebor race names

The Lowther Stakes recalls ‘The Yellow Earl’, Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, whose other sporting interests included boxing, hence the Lonsdale Belt awarded to British champions. Apart from the 1822 St Leger winner Royal Lancer, he did not own many good horses.

Nunthorpe is an area of York, as is Acomb. The Acomb Stakes has been a Group 3 since 2006.

The Nunthorpe began as a low grade seller in 1903. It became a conditions race in 1922 and was called the William Hill Sprint Championship from 1976 to 1989. Furthermore, the Nunthorpe is one of the few races where two-year-olds can run against older horses. It is also the only British Group 1 race open to two-year-old geldings.

That’s why the York Ebor races are so named.



About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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