Do you fancy a bit of a gamble on the horses? Visiting Yorkshire in March? Well the first meeting for 2010 is not until the 14th May at York – but if you really want to go to where the action is – get out to Kipplingcotes on the 18th March where it’s all happening... again!
Forget Ascot – that’s only been going since 1711; Epsom Downs is a mere child, born in 1780 – but Kipplingcotes? Well that is a different matter; Kipplingcotes is THE King in the sport of Kings!
And where on earth is Kipplingcotes I hear you ask? Well it is classified as a ‘small hamlet’ close to Market Weighton (also spelled Wicstun by the purists) and is located in what I still refer to as the ‘East Riding of Yorkshire’.
It is also the home of the oldest horse race in England. Horses and riders competed against each other for the first time in 1519 – but for the life of me I cannot find out why! What caused the first intrepid horsemen to put themselves and their horses to the test in what can be the most contrary county for weather conditions in March
The reason seems lost in time; but today it is still a proud tradition, one that has been carried on throughout the passage of time - without fail. In fact there is a clause, dating back to the race’s endowment in 1669, that states if the race misses a year it can never be run again.
This has placed some pressure on the organisers in time past, such as 1947, when the weather was so bad that even the farmers of East Yorkshire were reluctant to put their horses to the test; - things were looking bad; when one local farmer took it upon himself to walk a solitary cart horse around the course, ensuring that the conditions of the endowment were met. They breed ‘em tough in Yorkshire!!
Like all races the Kipplingcote Derby has its own set of rules –so for anyone considering entering here are some details you may wish to know.
First; riders must weigh in at a minimum of ten stones (or whatever it is now – one hopes the race official follow tradition rather than new fangled changes) –but this excludes the saddle. Anyone who doesn’t use the flat English saddle is probably carrying too much weight.
And this can be important because horses can be of any age – as indeed can be riders. One of the most successful ‘jockeys’ is Ken Holmes of Cliffe near Selby, who is 78 this year. He last won the race in 2002 and holds the record with 10 wins.
However, I understand that while the winner gets £50, the second place receives the sum of the entry fees, which can often outweigh the first prize – so there truly is no shame in coming second in the Kipplingcotes Derby!!
The course itself is extremely challenging. Not for these hardy souls the boring flat green swards of Beverley and their ilk; no this course provide a true test of horse and rider.
Starting at the now defunct railway station it meanders along farm tracks and back lanes; and while there has been no jockey fatalities, sadly some horses have succumbed to the pressure and collapsed. Perhaps age may be a factor in that.
The winning post is near the Londesborough World farm, where most people gather to see the eager competitors heading for home.
There is an excellent record of the 2009 race here; it seems that even after almost 500 years the race is still going strong.
So if you want somewhere to go on March 18th this year; if you are fascinated by the bond between horse and rider – don’t bother with Ascot or Epsom, head straight for Kipplingcotes and the 491st running of the Kipplingcotes Derby.
But you had better take a flask of hot tea and ‘something’ with you, it gets a little chilly in March, and the facilities are a little basic. But it’s a great day out for all that.