The most valuable flat handicap in Europe is the Ebor Handicap, run over approximately 1 mile and 6 furlongs, or 1 mile 5 furlongs and 188 yards, to be precise, at York Racecourse during the so-called ‘Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival’ in August each year. Inaugurated, as the Great Ebor Handicap, in 1843, the race takes it name from Eboracum, a Roman fortress town that ultimately evolved into the modern-day city of York.
The Ebor Handicap was first sponsored by the Tote in 1976 and sponsorship passed to bookmakers Betfred following their purchase of the Tote, for a report £265 million, in 2011. By that stage, the Ebor Handicap was already the most valuable flat handicap in Europe with total prize money of £210,000 and by 2017 that figure had increased to £285,000.
In 2018, Sky Bet, the sports betting division of Sky Betting & Gaming, was unveiled as the new sponsor of the Ebor Handicap. As part of a five-year sponsorship deal with York Racecourse, Sky Bet increased the total prize money for the Ebor Handicap to £500,000 in 2018 and, again, to £1,000,000 in 2019. In 2019, the race conditions were changed to exclude three-year-olds, so the Ebor Handicap is now contested by horses aged four years and upwards.
In Britain, and the rest of Europe, a Group One race is a horse race of the highest calibre, as designated by the European Pattern Committee. Group One races include some of the most prestigious, valuable and historic races in Britain, over distances between 5 furlongs and 2 miles 4 furlongs, on Grade One racecourses, such as Ascot, Newmarket and York.
Some Group One races, such as the ‘Classic’ races – that is, the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby and St. Leger – are restricted to certain age groups and others, such as the Nassau Stakes and Sun Chariot Stakes, are restricted to a specific gender. However, generally speaking, horses of the same age and gender compete at level weights in Group One races, with weight-for-age and weight-for-sex allowances for three-year-olds competing against older horses and fillies and mares racing against colts and geldings, respectively.
Of course, Group One races can occasionally be downgraded; to maintain Group One status, over a three-year period, the average official rating of the first four horses home in the race in question must be 115, or more. From 2018, in Group One races, other than two-year-old races, in Britain, a horse must have achieved an official rating of 80 to be allowed to run in the first place.