A NEW season offering a record-breaking prize fund basked in spring sunshine at York yesterday.
Yet chief executive William Derby hopes value for money will continue to make a trip to the Knavesmire the hottest ticket in town.
In any case, there’s a lot more to York’s 2014 then the races, not least the Tour de France and concerts from the Beach Boys and Wet Wet Wet.
York’s 2014 got underway with day one of the three-day Dante Festival yesterday with the week’s highlight – the Betfred Dante Stakes – taking place this afternoon.
And chief executive Derby is thrilled the Dante will be one of countless highlights over York’s year as part of a wider appeal at the course in 2014.
This week’s Dante meeting is followed by Stowe Family Law LLP Grand Cup day on May 31 and a two-day meeting over the second weekend in June, cumulating with the ever popular Macmillan Charity Raceday.
But in a real ‘one off’ the Knavesmire will then host the start of Day Two of Le Grand Départ when the Tour de France comes to Yorkshire on July 6 – one week before the two-day John Smith’s Cup meeting.
The course’s Music Showcase Meeting in July then features performances from the Beach Boys on Friday, July 25 and Wet Wet Wet on Saturday, July 26, all washed down by a bottle of house champagne priced at just £30. And Derby knows there will also be something for everyone as part of August’s four-day Ebor meeting complete with attractions such as ‘Fashion at the Ebor’, as well as on Family Raceday on Sunday, September 7.
“It means there’s much more to a day at the races then the races.
“We hope that people will come to York this year not just for the sport but for a fabulous day out and a fabulous occasion,” Derby told the YEP.
“We have things like at our showcase meeting in July whereby this year we have got the Beach Boys on Friday and Wet Wet Wet on the Saturday.
”It’s all part of process of attracting people who have maybe not been racing before to come and see some great bands and some good racing and enjoy the experience.
“That’s been a real popular policy of ours and last year we had the Kaiser Chiefs who were fantastic and I think everyone will know a Beach Boys track so it should be great fun! That and our family day in September are all part of broadening the sport to as wide a base as possible.”
Yesterday’s season opener certainly attracted a wide-ranging crowd of which Harry Redknapp and Glen Johnson were the stars of the show, all basking under welcome spring sunshine.
It is now on the first Sunday in July that Derby is praying for the kindest weather most.
“We’re delighted to be part of the Tour de France and I think it will be an amazing occasion for Yorkshire,” said Derby.
“To host the start of Day Two is an honour for us as a racecourse and it should be a great day – and a great weekend for the county.
“We’d hope for a blue sky July weekend and a real one-off event.”
Plenty to rejoice on the Knavesmire therefore and, as ever at York, celebrating in style at the course needn’t cost the earth.
Derby enthused: “As with last year we’ll have a bottle of house champagne here at £30.
“And we work very hard with our champagne houses to offer great value champagne for people to enjoy and add a real sense of occasion to the day.
“We are very proud of that and put a lot of effort in to that.”
He added: “I believe that sets us apart from some of the other venues.”
York certainly proved a class apart yesterday, with the world the course’s oyster ahead of season 2014.