Thirsk Racecourse Hotels

Thirsk Racecourse
David P Howard / geograph.org.uk

One of the UK’s real horseracing hotbeds, the county of Yorkshire is home to a number of thriving training centres, in addition to nine racecourses. And of those nine, one of the most northerly lies just outside the town of Thirsk from which it takes its name.

Only 20 miles from York, this picturesque track, adorned with well-manicured lawns and flower gardens, is famed for its friendly atmosphere, and rarely fails to draw in the crowds during the summer months.

Next Race Days

  • Friday 26th July 2024
  • Saturday 3rd August 2024
  • Friday 9th August 2024
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Hotels

Given its location amidst the Yorkshire Moors and Dales, and close proximity to the popular tourist destination of York, many racegoers making the trip to Thirsk may wish to extend their visit with an overnight stay in the area. And, happily, for those seeking to do so, accommodation options are in plentiful supply, both close to the track and a little further afield.

Closest to the Course

Whilst there is one guest house that is a few hundred yards from the track, the largest concentration of hotels is to be found within the town of Thirsk itself. Home to author, James Herriot, and the inspiration for the fictional village of Darrowby, the town was also the birthplace of one Thomas Lord, of Lord’s Cricket Ground fame.

Possessing a number of historic points of interest, including St Mary’s Church and the World of James Herriot Museum, Thirsk also boasts an excellent pub scene for such a small town, with the traditional Golden Fleece Hotel, the Red Bear, and the quaint Little 3 all worth investigating. Accommodation options in town all offer a comfortable stay at a reasonable price.

The Three Tuns Hotel Wetherspoon
The Three Tuns Hotel Wetherspoon
10 min walk

The Three Tuns Hotel in Thirsk is located in the town centre and brags famous guests including William Wordsworth & James Herriot. Being part of the famous Wetherspoon brand, the hotel offers a restaurant and bar with reasonably priced food and drinks.

The Golden Fleece Hotel, Thirsk
The Golden Fleece Hotel
9 min walk

The Golden Fleece Hotel in Thirsk is just a 9-minute walk to Thirsk Racecourse. It is considered one of England's oldest coaching inns and is situated on the cobbled market square of Thirsk. Being a pub hotel, there is, of course, a restaurant and a bar in a relaxed environment.

Slumber in the Shambles

Charming though Thirsk is, it may be a little on the quiet for some tastes. For those seeking something a little livelier to pair with their racing trip, the wonderful city of York is the obvious choice. Only around a 50-minute drive, or a quick 15-minute train journey away, one of the UK’s most popular tourist destinations is crammed with attractions, including the Jorvik Viking Centre, York Dungeons, and the traditional shopping street of “The Shambles”.

The old-fashioned Last Drop Inn, the three-storey Market Cat and the rustic Valhalla are amongst the drinking establishments on offer, whilst York is home to a wide range of accommodation options, from chains to more bespoke offerings.

Radisson Hotel York
Radisson Hotel York
46 min drive

The Radisson Hotel York overlooks the River Ouse and is a quick walk to the York train station, as well as all the sights of York. There is a bar and grill with an international menu that overlooks the river, as well as a cocktail bar to enjoy a post-race drink.

Hampton by Hilton York
Hampton by Hilton York
45 min drive

The Hampton by Hilton York is opposite the York Railway Station for ease in getting the 15-minute train to Thirsk and is just a 10-minute walk to the historic centre of York. There is a restaurant and bar and a breakfast is served each morning.

Travelodge York Central
Travelodge York Central
52 min drive

Travelodge York Central is located near the heart of York and offers clean, no frills accommodation - everything you would expect from the famous chain. The hotel is a 52-minute car journey to the racecourse or you can hop on a train from York to Thirsk that takes around 15-minutes!

Escape to the Country

For those seeking a more tranquil base of operations, Thirsk is conveniently located around 15-minutes or less from the picturesque delights of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Home to a wide range of plant and animal life, and historical landmarks including the famous “Kilburn White Horse”, the park is also peppered with accommodation options. By virtue of lying towards the western edge of the park, we have chosen some of the most conveniently located for racegoers.

The Fauconberg
The Fauconberg
15 min drive

The Fauconberg is another option in the North York Moors National Park in the delightful village of Coxwold that is only a 15-minute car journey to Thirsk Racecourse. The pub hotel is a 17th century inn that has a restaurant and bar and often puts on live music or theatrical performances.

The Stapylton Arms
The Stapylton Arms
19 min drive

The Stapylton Arms is a restaurant and pub with accommodation options in the North York Moors National Park in the village of Wass. The hotel offers a garden, shared lounge, restaurant and bar with a full English breakfast each morning.

The Forresters Arms Kilburn
The Forresters Arms Kilburn
14 min drive

The Forresters Arms Kilburn has a restaurant, bar, terrace, dartboard and shared lounge and is only a 14-minute drive from Thirsk Racecourse. The area is known for hiking and fishing and the hotel is located on the edge of the North York Moors National Park.

About the Racecourse

Thirsk track
JThomas / geograph.org.uk

A flat-only venue, the Thirsk season is focused on the warmer months of the year, with the track’s 15 fixtures all taking place between the months of April and September. A relatively punter-friendly course in terms of scheduling, six of those meetings take place on Saturday afternoons, with a further four being evening affairs. Located close to the major training establishments of Malton and Middleham, Thirsk is a popular destination for trainers based in the north, leading to higher-than-average field sizes at many meetings.

Lying on the A61 which links Thirsk with the fellow racing town of Ripon, the track is relatively easy to reach by road from all directions; the A1 and A19 approaching from the north and south, the A170 from the East and A61 from the West. The track is well signposted, but for satnav users the postcode to enter is YO7 1QL. Upon arrival at the track, racegoers will find ample free parking available close to each of the main enclosures.

For those travelling by train, Thirsk Train Station enjoys strong links with a number of major cities, including London, Manchester, Middlesbrough, and York. The station is an easy half-mile walk from the track, or alternatively racegoers may wish to take advantage of the free shuttle bus service which operates on all race days. Shuttle journeys from the station commence around three hours before the first race, with the return service leaving the track one hour after the last. Those travelling from York meanwhile have the additional option of taking the number 30 or 70 bus service, both of which stop close to the course.

The Course

Thirsk’s 1m2f left-handed circuit is broadly oval in configuration, featuring two four-furlong straight sections, and a pair of fairly sharp bends. In addition to the main oval, the track also features a chute which runs directly into the home straight, containing the starting point for races over five furlongs, six furlongs, 1m7f and two miles. Whilst the entirety of the back straight and the majority of the turning sections are completely flat, the home straight itself does feature undulations over much of its distance, most notably in the chute section, and a dip leading into the final furlong.

Whilst the bend away from the stands is relatively easy, that which turns back into the home straight is a little trickier. Featuring a ridge running up the centre of the track, unbalanced runners may be pushed very wide around here, forfeiting ground which can prove very difficult to regain. That troublesome bend, in combination with the undulations in the straight, makes Thirsk a track more suited to nippy, well-balanced, runners, as opposed to the longer-striding galloping type of performer.

When looking at the draw on the straight course, high numbers tend to fare best. Runners must however be able to break well in order to take advantage of a high draw, as the field tends to bunch up towards the stands side rail. On good to soft or slower conditions, this high draw bias tends to even out, with a position towards either rail holding the edge over a central berth. Over longer distances, a definite bias against those drawn low is in evidence, with middle numbers faring best of all.

One thing that can generally be relied upon at Thirsk is a sound racing surface. A combination of an excellent drainage and watering system, and the fact that the track operates exclusively during the warmer months, means that extremes of going are a real rarity around here.

Dress Code

Casual dress is permitted in the Paddock Enclosure, but a stricter code is in force in the Premier Enclosure and Hospitality. Ladies are advised to dress as if for a smart occasion in these sections, with many opting to complement their outfit with a hat or fascinator; whilst for gents, a collared shirt and jacket are compulsory, complete with smart long trousers or tailored shorts, and shoes. No ripped clothing, mottle-dyed denim, sportswear, or fancy dress will be permitted in these areas.

The Stands

There are two main enclosures in operation at Thirsk; the Premier Enclosure, and Grandstand, Paddock and Picnic Enclosure. Priced at £21 for a standard meeting and £26 for a premium fixture such as Ladies Day, a ticket to the Premier Enclosure provides excellent views, seated areas, Parade Ring access, and the most comprehensive range of bars and dining options, including the Thomas Lord Dine and View Restaurant, the Hambleton Dining Room, the Woolpack Bar and the Cherry Tree Premier Lawn.

The Grandstand and Paddock enclosure is priced at £14-£15 for the vast majority of meetings and affords access to a seated area of the Grandstand, the Parade Ring, and Winners’ Enclosure. Catering options in this busy area are provided by the Saddle Room, James Herriot Hall, Jubilee Bar, 1967 Stand and a range of mobile vendors. A Grandstand and Paddock entry also allows racegoers to enter the Picnic Enclosure. Hugely popular with families, this area contains a whole host of additional entertainment for younger racing fans.

A further option for racegoers arriving by car is that of a £30 Park and View ticket. Granting entry to a designated area within the picnic enclosure, for one car containing up to four adults, this represents excellent value for money. Under 18s go free with a paying adult in all main enclosures, whilst discounts are available for OAPs.

In addition to the standard ticketing options, a range of hospitality packages are available. Private boxes are able to cater for groups of between eight and 50 people, with meal deals priced at between £99 and £135 per head depending upon the fixture. Thirsk’s trackside marquees offer similar packages for larger groups, with the best advice being to contact the course in advance in order to discuss your individual requirements.

Upcoming Fixtures at Thirsk

Date Time Type Surface
Friday 26th July 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Saturday 3rd August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Friday 9th August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Friday 16th August 2024 Evening Flat Turf
Friday 30th August 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Saturday 7th September 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf
Monday 16th September 2024 Afternoon Flat Turf

Major Meetings

Blurred jockeys

Whilst always competitive, Thirsk is not renowned for a particularly high quality of racing, with no events rated at Listed level or above. As with all tracks though, there are those meetings which stand out from the crowd in terms of popularity and attendance, with the following three topping the pile.

Thirsk Hunt Cup

The track’s signature contest takes place in late April/early May each year and sees a field of talented handicappers do battle over the one-mile trip. With good prize money on offer, the Thirsk Hunt Cup regularly attracts runners both from the top northern yards and southern-based operations. No stranger to being won by a quality performer, Farhh landed this in 2012 before going on to multiple Group 1 successes. Always one of the first dates in the diary of North Yorkshire racegoers, be sure to book early for this punter-friendly Saturday afternoon fixture.

Ladies Day

The Thirsk Hunt Cup may top the pile in terms of the quality of the action on offer, but if it is the social side of racing which floats your boat, then this early September fixture is tough to beat. Described as the day when “fashion meets the flat”, Ladies Day sees a little glitz and glamour descend upon the course, as Yorkshire’s finest don their best frocks. With live music amongst the additional entertainment on offer and excellent prizes to be won in the best-dressed competition – not to mention a competitive seven-race card on the track – this is one of the most popular days on the local racing calendar.

Thirsk Summer Cup Meeting

Taking place over a Friday and Saturday in early August each year, the weather gods are often kind to this summertime meeting – a fact which certainly doesn’t hurt the average attendance. Inaugurated in 2012, Saturday’s feature event is a handicap contest over the 1m trip, and with £30,000 in prize money on offer invariably attracts a highly competitive field. With live music in the stands on each of the two days and additional attractions for the children, this family-friendly fixture is well worth a look.

History

A wintry Thirsk Racecourse
DS Pugh / geograph.org.uk

Racing has taken place in the Thirsk locale since way back in 1612 when, together with Newmarket and nearby York, it was one of only three officially recognised racetracks in the country. Based at Hambleton Hills, which is now a thriving training centre, the track enjoyed royal support in those early years, with King James I issuing a Gold Cup to be awarded in what was the track’s flagship contest of the era.

Racing on Hambleton Hills came to an end in 1775, and it wasn’t until 1855 that events first began to be held at the current site, on a course built by landowner Squire Frederick Bell at his Thirsk Hall Estate.

Thirsk Hunt Cup in 1862

Establishing the signature event of the Thirsk Hunt Cup in 1862, the course benefitted from a large surge in attendances in the latter half of the nineteenth century, fuelled by the rapidly expanding railway network. 1895 then saw the building of the Royal Pavilion in anticipation of a visit from Edward Prince of Wales, with that Royal patronage further enhancing the reputation of the track.

St Leger Stakes in 1940

Forced into closure during WWI, the course was also used as an army base for the latter part of WWII. It was however open in 1940, the year in which it staged the most famous race in the history of the track. With Doncaster already having been repurposed to aid the war effort at that time, Thirsk stepped in to hold the classic contest of the 1940 St Leger Stakes.

Relatively unchanged in terms of infrastructure since the building of a new stand in the Silver Ring in 1967, the track has nevertheless undergone numerous facelifts in the intervening years. Still owned by the Bell family to this day, the track’s combination of a picturesque setting and facilities which coalesce the old with the new continues to draw in the crowds. Thirsk may not be Yorkshire’s most famous course, but this gem of a flat track is well worth a visit.