Thirsk Racecourse Guide

Thirsk Racecourse describes itself as a forward-thinking and progressive venue that builds on the area’s lengthy and rich association with horse racing. It’s a family friendly venue and has some lovely, picturesque views, especially on the beautifully maintained paddock.

Flat racing here begins in April and finishes in September. There are usually 16 fixtures spaced out between these months with several high profile and well attended meetings among them.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

Thirsk’s left-handed round course is around a mile and a quarter in length but there is a chute on the near side from which some races begin, including six and five furlong sprints. This straight track is slightly undulating while the rest of the course is largely flat and includes some relatively straightforward turns.

Many jockeys take to the stands’ side rail at Thirsk but this does lead to a lot of congestion in busier races. Horses who need space in which to operate often struggle as a result, as do ones unable to maintain their balance around the top corner. The top bend is a little hilly and features a ridge which can put horses off their stride if they ride it badly. Doing so means from then on, it becomes a very difficult race.

Major Races

The Thirsk Hunt Cup, which runs in late April or early May, is one of the most cherished races at the course. The Class 2 race always attracts a sizeable field, usually at least 14 runners and in 2012 it was won by Farhh, later a Lockinge Stakes and Champion Stakes winner.

The Thirsk Summer Cup is the biggest race later in the season and is the showpiece event on the first August fixture. It recently secured a prize purse of £30,000, making it a highly lucrative race by Thirsk’s standards. Like the Hunt Cup, it is contested over one mile and regularly features fields on the larger side.

Visiting

Healthy competition from the summer course of Ripon, situated just 12 miles away, helps keep Thirsk focussed on ensuring racegoers have a fantastic time.

  • Dress Code: No dress code exists in the Family or Paddock Enclosure so racegoers are free to wear what they like. In the Premier Enclosure, things are rather stricter. Gentlemen need to wear a collared shirt, smart trousers and shoes with both jacket and ties encouraged but not mandatory. Anybody deemed not suitably dressed will be asked to leave until their attire meets the minimum standards.
  • Ticket Prices: Family Enclosure tickets, which cost either £6 or £8 do not come with an online discount but Paddock and Premier Enclosure tickets do. Pre-booked online prices for the Paddock Enclosure cost either £15 or £14 and are always £1 cheaper than on the day. As for the Premier Enclosure, admission costs either £21 or £25 when bought online compared to £22 or £28 on the day. Advanced purchases finish 24 hours before the meeting. Be aware that a booking fee of £3 applies per transaction. No concessions are available except for under 18s who can enjoy free entry when entering alongside a paying adult.
  • Membership: Single annual badge membership is priced at £185 for adults and £95 for juniors (aged 18-25). There is also the option of having membership that comes with an additional, transferable badge for guests for £330. With an annual badge you will be able to attend over 40 exchange race fixtures, 11 days of Yorkshire County Cricket action and free rounds of golf at Easingwold Golf Club. In addition, you will be able to invite two guests along on a selected raceday each season.
  • Getting There: With Thirsk train station just half a mile from the racecourse, getting public transport to the course is a convenient option. It’s a very easy walk down a straight road to the course but if you’d prefer, you can hop on the free shuttle bus that begins three hours before the first race and ends an hour after the last. For a small town, Thirsk is well connected by train with direct services running from the likes of London Kings Cross, Manchester and Middlesbrough.
  • Parking: Free parking is available for all enclosures.

History

Thirsk has been no stranger to racing for many centuries. Its link to racing can be traced back to 1612 when competitive equine action took place on nearby Hambleton Hills and James I issued a Gold Cup for the winner. Racing here ended in 1775 but its racing involvement lives on today as it is the location of a busy thoroughbred training centre.

It wasn’t until 1855 that Thirsk held its first racing fixture on its current course. This was largely thanks to Squire Frederick Bell, a local landowner who took responsibility for arranging the racing on his Thirsk Hall estate. The place would soon be visited by champion jockey, Fred Archer, who enjoyed two victories on the Yorkshire course in 1844.

In order to accommodate royal guests, a Royal Pavilion was built in 1895. When Edward, the Prince of Wales, paid a visit, it was a very memorable moment for the course. The visit did nothing to harm Thirsk’s growing reputation, which due to the expansion of the railway, was able to attract racegoers and trainers from further afield. Many trainers from around the country came to take part in the 300 Guineas Stakes which began in 1879.

Perhaps the biggest race ever to feature at Thirsk was in 1940 though, when it was the substitute venue for the St Leger. With Doncaster unable to host racing due to World War Two, Thirsk kindly did the honours and this renewal was won by Irish Derby champion Turkhan.

Since then, plenty of money has been invested at Thirsk and it has rightly gained a reputation for having quality facilities and modern services. Racegoers can now enjoy free Wi-Fi while enjoying food and drink at a range of excellent bars and restaurants.