England’s oldest (and perhaps oddest) horse race, the Kiplingcotes Derby, will be taking place this week in Yorkshire.
The race is first thought to have taken place in 1519 and has continued annually on the third Thursday in March. But what is so special about it?
The Kiplingcotes Derby is unusual in that it is not run over a typical racecourse. Instead the derby is run over farm lanes and tracks, starting at an old stone post on the grass verge in the parish of Etton, near the old Kiplingcotes railway station. It ends at Londesborough Wold Farm, where there is a wooden finishing post. A distance of around four miles. The course is maintained by a clerk who is paid five shillings (25p) annually.
The original race rules, which were drawn up in 1618, are as follows: ‘A horse race to be observed and ridd yearly on the third Thursday in March; open to horses of all ages, to convey horsemen’s weight, ten stones, exclusive of saddle, to enter ye post before eleven o’clock on the morning of ye race. The race to be run before two.’
The winner of the Kiplingcotes Derby receives a prize of £50, however the second placed horse usually wins more, as the prize is made up of all the entrance fees gathered that year.
All those wishing to enter the Kiplingcotes Derby must gather by the starting post at 10am on race day. This means that until the morning of the race no one can be sure how many entrants there will be. However, the rules state that if the race is not run one year then it must never be run again, so there always needs to be at least one horse and rider taking part.
There have been several occasions when the derby has been at risk of ending due to lack of participants. In 1947, during a particularly harsh winter, one local farmer completed the course, just to keep the tradition going. Again in 2001, during the foot and mouth crisis, the race was run by a single horse and rider.
When: 21st March 2019
Where: Kiplingcotes, near Market Weighton, East Riding of Yorkshire
£: Free to watch