York Racecourse and Sky Bet have announced that the winners of three designated races will gain an automatic place in the first £1-million Sky Bet Ebor, to be staged at York on Saturday, August 24, 2019, the fourth day of the Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2019.
The three designated races, all run at York, will form a series entitled the "Race To The Ebor". The three contests nominated for the inaugural season of the "Race To The Ebor" are:
Sky Bet Melrose Handicap (3YO only) - 1m 6f, Saturday, August 25, 2018 (day four of Welcome To Yorkshire Ebor Festival 2018)
Sky Bet Jorvik Handicap (4YO+)- 1m 4f, Wednesday, May 15, 2019 (day one of the Dante Festival 2019)
Sky Bet Grand Cup (Listed, 4YO+) - 1m 6f, Saturday, June 15, 2019 (Macmillan Charity Raceday 2019)
The winners of the three races above will be guaranteed a start position in the Sky Bet Ebor 2019 provided they are entered and confirmed in the normal way. In a further boost to connections, if these horses run in the Sky Bet Ebor 2019 they will have their entry fee to the race (worth £5,000) refunded.
In the event that any of the "Race To The Ebor" winners were set to carry the lowest weight in the 2019 Sky Bet Ebor, that horse's weight would be raised to the equivalent of the lowest-weighted horse that was set to run through the established entry process.
To complement this initiative York Racecourse has recently announced its investment in Britain's largest set of starting stalls, able to accommodate 22 runners, an increase of two participants on the 2018 configuration. Given that a" Race To The Ebor" winner may well also qualify to get a run in the Sky Bet Ebor 2019 on ratings in the usual manner, and that normal racing circumstances might mean that not all the three "Race To The Ebor" winners may line up in August 2019; the new stalls mean that there are likely to be as many chances to get a run as in previous seasons.
As well as the Sky Bet Ebor, the five-year partnership with York Racecourse announced in April this year, sees Sky Bet support the Sky Bet Melrose Handicap. This popular race is often referred to as the "three-year-olds Ebor" and has received a 20% boost to prize money to £125,000 for its 2018 staging. With the Sky Bet Ebor now for four-year-olds and upwards, the "Race To The Ebor" ensures that a link with the Classic generation is maintained.
Michael Shinners, Racing PR Manager at Sky Bet, commented: "Sky Bet is delighted work with York to launch 'The Race To The Ebor' today.
"With the first £1-million Sky Bet Ebor set to take place in 2019, the 'Race To The Ebor' will provide three great opportunities to gain an automatic place in Britain's richest handicap. The three races in the 'Race To The Ebor' are all slightly different and we hope will build the excitement to August, 2019.
"Connections of the winner of next week's Sky Bet Melrose Handicap will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are already guaranteed a run in the Sky Bet Ebor in 12 months' time, while the Sky Bet Jorvik Handicap at the Dante Festival in May offers the ideal starting point for Sky Bet Ebor contenders. Given the calibre of horses contesting the Sky Bet Ebor in recent years, we felt it was important to include a conditions contest in the 'Race to The Ebor' and so we are pleased to include the Listed Sky Bet Grand Cup as part of the series."
William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course at York Racecourse, added; "We are delighted to have extended our successful partnership with Sky Bet, the 'Race to The Ebor' demonstrates our shared commitment to develop the race programme at York and to showcase what will be the first £1-million handicap race on the Flat in Europe."