What’s the oldest horse race run in Britain?

The Kiplingcotes Derby is reputedly the oldest and arguably the ‘wackiest’ horse race run in Britain. As the name suggests, the race has been run, on the third Thursday in March, on a four-mile course from Etton to Londesborough Wold Farm, near Kiplingcotes, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, every year – with a few notable exceptions – since 1519. The course is virtually straight, but precipitous in part and easily waterlogged; country lanes, roadside verges and farmland all form part of the four-mile journey.

The traditional rules of the Kiplingcotes Derby state that if the race is not run once it can never be run again. So, in the event of cancellation – as happened in 1947, because of snow, 2001, because of foot-and-mouth disease, 2018, because of damage to the course and 2020, because of coronavirus –

a lone jockey ‘walks’ the course to ensure the survival of the race.

Horses and riders of any age or ability can enter, subject to payment of an entry fee and a minimum weight requirement of 10st 0lb, without tack; they simply need to assemble at the winning post by 11.00am on the morning of the race, for the formal reading of the rules. Paradoxically, also riders weigh in at the winning post before making their way to the start and racing back in the opposite direction. According to the rules, the winner receives fixed prize money of £50, but the runner-up receives 80% of the remainder of the entry fees on the day; at £5 per person, at the last count, it is not difficult to see how the winner often comes off second-best in terms of prize money.

Which are the most valuable races in Britain?

The most valuable horse races in Britain naturally include some of the most prestigious, and most coveted, contests on the horse racing calendar. Traditionally the fourth Classic of the season, the Derby Stakes, or Derby, for short, run over a mile-and-a-half at Epsom, is currently the most valuable horse race run in Britain, with a total prize money of £1.62 million. Elsewhere on the Flat, the Ebor Handicap, run over a mile-and-three-quarters at York, has received a massive boost in prize money since Sky Bet took over sponsorship of the race in 2018 and now has a total prize fund of £1 million; it is, in fact, the most valuable race of its kind, not only in Britain, but in the whole of Europe.

In 2020, two Group One races at Royal Ascot, namely the Prince of Wales’s Stakes, run over a mile-and-a-quarter, and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, run over six furlongs, were due for an increase in prize money, to £1 million from £750,000 and £600,000, respectively. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, prize money at the Royal Meeting was amended, such that all eight Group One races were run for £250,000.

Generally speaking, National Hunt racing is less lucrative than Flat racing, in terms of the prize money on offer. Nevertheless, while not quite on a par with the Derby, the Grand National, run over four miles and two-and-a-half furlongs at Aintree, offers total prize money of £1 million, making it the most valuable steeplechase run in Europe.

What is The Longest Horse Race in the World?

According to Guinness World Records, the longest horse race in the world is the Mongol Derby which, since 2009, has been staged annually each August in the Binder district of Khentii Province in eastern Mongolia. The Mongol Derby traces a 1,000-kilometre, or 621-mile, route across a vast expanse of grassland, known as the Mongolian Steppe, and attempts to recreate the messaging system established by Genghis Khan, Emperor of the Mongol Empire, in the early thirteenth century.The course is punctuated at regular intervals by a network of horse stations, or ‘urtuu’, as they are known locally, twenty or so miles apart. The stations are hosted by local families, employed by the race organisers, The Adventurists, to provide food, accommodation and support to participating riders.

The same families provide native Mongolian horses, 1,500 or so of which are trained, specifically, for the Mongol Derby each year. Mongolian horses are stocky, ranging between twelve and fourteen hands in height, but, although diminutive by Western standards, are deceptively strong. The vast majority live in semi-feral herds, outdoors, throughout the year, and largely fend for themselves, with human intervention. They must survive not only the short, warm summer, but also the long, dry and frigid winter – which can resul temperatures as low as -40°C – for which Mongolia is notorious. Mongolian horses are blessed with a calm, docile temperament and an abundance of stamina, making them the perfect partners for the Mongol Derby. Indeed, riders from all over the world are prepared to stump up the not insignificant entry fee – £11,375 at the last count – which also includes three days’ training.