Thirsk Racecourse Guide

Overview

There is far more to racing culture in Yorkshire than stereotypical whippets. Take Thirsk Racecourse as an example. Located on the outskirts of the market town that James Herriot famously called home, Thirsk hosts a summer-long season of flat racing.

Found some twenty miles from York in the North Riding territory of Yorkshire, Thirsk Racecourse is a key attraction to this small but bustling market town. Most events will permit under 18s free if accompanied by a paying adult.

The racing track of Thirsk Racecourse is around a mile and a quarter in length, exclusively hosting flat racing meetings. The track is a left-leaning oval, with a run-in of roughly half a mile.

Racing aficionados often point to the turn before the final furlong as a deciding factor in many races. This turn comes with a slight dip, which throws some horses off their pace. Many experts advise against betting on large, powerhouse gallopers that take time to build pace. The track does not accommodate this need. Nimble and consistent runners typically enjoy more success.

This means that it is advisable to station yourself as close as possible to the side rail of the home straight at Thirsk racecourse, just after the left turn. This is where the action is, and where most races are won and lost. Get a spot here early, as regular racegoers are aware of this and the area becomes quite crowded.

The unofficial dress code for Thirsk Racecourse is smart-casual, but the owners have no problem with anybody upping their sartorial game. Jackets and ties for gentlemen visitors are not mandatory but heartily welcomed, especially in the Premier Enclosure.

The Paddock Enclosure is more relaxed, but certain restrictions will apply to the racecourse’s restaurants.  If you plan to attend in fancy dress, contact the racecourse in advance for permission and guidance.

History

Thirsk Racecourse officially opened its doors in 1875, though racing in the region dates back to far before this. Racing meets were held in Yorkshire as early as the 18th Century, with Thirsk a popular venue.

Thirsk was truly recognised as a viable location for the sport in 1855, when Squire Fredrick Bell built a racecourse on this land, Thirsk Hall. Friendly meetings and events were held, with a range of horses competing – including non-thoroughbreds.

The racecourse officially opened in 1875. The outbreak of The Great War in 1914 enforced closure until 1924, while WWII also saw a temporary hiatus. The site of Thirsk Racecourse became an army base for the Allied Forces.

These days, Thirsk remains one of the most prominent racecourses in Yorkshire – and it also remains a family affair. The Bell family still own the course, with John Bell currently holding a position as director.

Main Races and Meetings

As Thirsk does not run any National Hunt races, the fixture list is a little more condensed than some racecourses. All ticketed activities at Thirsk unfold during the summer season.

The Thirsk Hunt Cup is the most prestigious event of the course, with prize money worth up to £50,000. The Summer Cup in August is another significant event in the Thirsk racing calendar.

A typical fixture list for Thirsk Racecourse will unfold as follows:

  • April – Season opener and one evening racing meet.
  • May – The Thirsk Hunt Cup raceday, one evening racing meet, and Irish Day.
  • June – Two afternoon racing meets.
  • July – One afternoon racing meet, and the Go Racing in Yorkshire Summer Festival.
  • August – The Thirsk Summer Cup raceday, one evening racing meet and two Family Days.
  • September – Ladies Day, and an afternoon racing meet to close out the season.

As always, these events are subject to changing dates and cancellation. It is always advisable to check with the racecourse before travelling to Yorkshire in case of amended schedules.

Address

The official correspondence address of Thirsk Racecourse is:

Station Road
Thirsk
North Yorkshire
YO7 1QL

How to Get There

If driving to Thirsk Racecourse, use the post code listed above in your Sat Nav. This should lead you directly to the racecourse car park. If you prefer to navigate the traditional way, the racecourse is found at the peak of the A61, which can be joined from the A1 or the A19. The course is clearly signposted throughout the local area.

The easiest way to reach Thirsk through public transport is by rail. It’s a small station so you may need to change somewhere along your journey, though several major cities also run directly to Thirsk.

The racecourse is a fifteen-minute walk from the station, but if you need a little assistance with mobility, a free shuttle service also operates on race days. Alternatively, take a train into York and use a traditional bus service. Route numbers 30 and 70 serve Thirsk Racecourse.

Hotels

Thirsk may be a small town, but it is also a popular tourist destination. The attractions do not begin and end with the racecourse, so always book early when planning to attend. Thankfully, there are multiple options open to any visitor.

The Golden Fleece hotel is the closest accommodation to the racecourse and is widely regarded as the finest hotel in the area. There is also a Premier Inn found just a mile from the races, however, for anybody looking for a budget option.

Slightly further afield, but offering breathtaking views, are the White Horse Lodge and The Angel at Topcliffe. If you cannot gain access to any of these hotels, station yourself in one of the many options in York and travel to Thirsk by train.

Other Events at the Course

Thirsk Racecourse is a little smaller that some of the nation’s leading venues, so it tends not to host substantial events after hours. Two themed Family Days are tied with racing meets during August, though. Youngsters will be thrilled by the likes of Pirate Day and All Creatures Great and Small Day.

Naturally, Thirsk Racecourse is also available for private hire. It’s a popular wedding and conference destination, especially during the off-season. As Thirsk does not host meets during the National Hunt season, the racecourse is widely available for hire between October to March.

Other racecourses

Our team as of May 2020 have reviewed these racecourses that you can also bet on: