The UK’s Oldest Annual Horse Race

uk oldest race
UK's oldest horse race
Source: Vimeo


With more than 30 major festivals taking place each year in the U.K., starting with the Cheltenham in March and ending with the Chepstow Coral Welsh National in December, it is hard to establish which is Britain’s most important or emblematic horse race. We can, however, say which is its oldest. Dating back to 1519, the Kiplingcotes Derby, which will celebrate its 498th race this year, is the U.K.’s longest running annual horse racing event.

The Kiplingcotes Derby, which takes place each spring in a hamlet located in Market Weighton called Kiplingcotes, is a civil parish and small town in the East Riding of Yorkshire. The race does not happen over a typical course, as it comprises around four miles of field and farm track.

Although many race lovers come for the sheer sport of it all, enthusiasts will no doubt find it on popular betting boards like BetStars, given that it is fun to learn about the interesting rules, some of which you won’t find in any other race in the U.K. To start with, throughout its long history it has proven to benefit the second-place winner more than the first, which takes home the symbolic sum of £50. The former, however, is entitled to the sum of all the entry fees that altogether usually add up to more than the first prize.

Another peculiar rule about this traditional race is that if it’s not held one year then it cannot ever be held again. This is why to this day, it has been celebrated annually, with almost 500 races (and years) of history. The Kiplingcotes Derby kicks off outside Etton and ends in Londesborough Wold. With no formalized entries, it is hard to know how many runners take part in the race until the very day it is celebrated (everyone must show up before 11 a.m. at the winning post), but there are usually 15 competitors and they are not usually the most famous racehorses in the U.K.

The race recently gained more popularity as its last editions received TV coverage not only because of its history but also because it is a true challenge for runners due to the track it takes place on and the weather conditions. A bookie was re-introduced in the last races and saddles with numbers were bought so that it could be easier for him — Chris Johnson who was runner-up for the Jockey Premiership — and the public to identify the horses.

As far as winners go, Ken Holmes finished first 10 times (the first one in 1983) and Miss Jean Farrow was the first lady rider to win this competition in 1939. This year, Tracey Corrigan took the trophy home for the third time since 2014 and 2015. During the latter, she stated that she was relieved that she and her horse had made it to the finish line in one piece, alluding to the difficulties that this unusual racetrack presents. Emma Sanderson came in second and won six more pounds than Corrigan. Although the Cheltenham Festival usually overshadows this race, which takes place around the same time and is one of the high points of the season, the Kiplingcotes Derby clearly has a steady audience, with close to 500 people in attendance this year. This historic race, which proves that some traditions can be preserved, will take place on March 15, 2018, and celebrate its 499th edition so far.