Kiplingcotes race off due to Covid-19

England’s oldest horse race, the Kiplingcotes Derby, will not be held again this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tuesday, 2nd March 2021, 12:58 pm
Steve Crawford sets off on his horse Firkin at last year's Kiplingcotes Derby. Picture by Simon Hulme

However, plans are being made for at least one jockey to walk the course and ensure the future of the event.

Organisers of the race are asking spectators to stay away from the course and said they hope the race will return in 2022. The race, which usually takes place on the third Thursday in March, has been contested across the Yorkshire Wolds since 1519.

This is only the fifth time the popular event has been run without a full card in its more than 500-year history.

The race enjoyed an uninterrupted run from 1519 until 1947, when a harsh post-war winter and huge snow drifts left the course impassable.

It then continued until 2001, when there were cases of foot and mouth disease at nearby farms, and was also called off in 2018 because off-roaders had damaged the course.

According to traditional rules, if the race is not run one year then it cannot be held the following March – so when cancellations have occurred, a single rider has walked the course.

Last year’s race also had to be called off due to the Covid-19 restrictions so two riders were asked to complete the four-mile course.

John Thirsk, a four-time winner of the race, and steward Stephen Crawford walked their mounts Harry and Firkin to make sure the race could continue.

One of the trustees, Claire Waring, said: “We’ve had to cancel the race again this year and walk the course again.

“That’s all we can do really.

“It will be the same as last year, we will have to get someone around the course to say it has been done.

“The course is likely to be boggy due to the weather and other issues.

“There won’t be a lot going on. We’ll make sure it’s done.

“We would like to ask spectators to stay away this year due to the Covid-19 situation.

“Hopefully the race can run as usual next year.”

The derby is one of the most eccentric events in the equestrian calendar.

Any horse or rider can enter, no matter what their age or ability, and thoroughbreds can be seen racing shire horses and ponies.

There are no advance entries and jockeys simply turn up at the starting post at 11am.

A dozen or more riders usually compete for the Kiplingcotes trophy along a course that runs along lanes and roadside verges.

Anyone carrying 10 stone or more can enter with the winner receiving £50.

However, tradition dictates that the rider who comes home second takes the larger prize of £4 of every £5 entry fee.