Thirsk has a rich history of Horse Racing, starting in Hambleton, which sits atop Sutton bank, and was the site of the of the first 'official' racecourses in England dating back to 1740. An act was passed giving only Newmarket, York and Hambleton the right to run 'proper' races. However, Thirsk did not really get going until Squire Fredrick Bell set up a course of sorts in the land adjoining Thirsk Hall in 1855. these race were very much a contest between friends and involved matches over fences and hurdles and some non thoroughbred races.
Formality arrived in 1875 and continued to grow until the war closed the racecourse in 1914. Reopening in 1924, developments continued until the Second World War, when the course became an Army camp. Sir Loftus Bates came back briefly as Managing Director but sadly died in 1951. He left numerous racing legacies behind, least not Thirsk.
Thirsk Racecourse remains in the Bell family some 294 years after they became the official owners in 1723 and John Bell is one of the current Directors.
Some Early Thirsk Winners & Facts
1855 Owned by the Bell family, the 15th March was the date racing began at Thirsk, over a two day meeting and was run on a total income of £700, including prize money.
1859 The Hunt Cup, value £30: Won by EGG SAUCE. Hurdle race over 1 1/2 miles
1862 The Hunt Cup, value 100 sovereigns: Won by LADY BIRD over 2 1/2 miles
1867 The Silver Cup: Won by EDGAR (permission had to be obtained from the Stewards for assistance to be given to the Jockey, Mr J.S Thompson to carry his weight clothes to the scales as he was carrying so much lead)
1872 Both the Hunt Cup and Silver Cup that proved such a feature, were not given this year, and for the first time at Thirsk, two selling races substituted them.
1880 Up until this year there had only been one meeting held at Thirsk, that was April. Now an autumn fixture was held in October. The Spring meeting saw GRAND FLANEUR win the Hambleton Plate with OLIVETTE winning the Autumn Handicap Plate.
1896 Thirsk received a Royal Visit from The Prince of Wales, later King Edward, and a large crowd, not seen since the days when Fred Archer rode at Thirsk, attended the meeting. The Royal Stand, nicknamed The Royal Pavillion, is built in the centre of the course for his use on 17th and 18th October.
1914 -1923 The Racecourse is closed for the duration of the war.
1924 The Hambleton Stand is built and the racecourse reopens on 8th August by ex Dragoon Guards Officer, Brigadier -General Loftus Bates.
1940 The St Leger was run at Thirsk (called the Yorkshire St Leger) and won by TURKHAN ridden by the legendary Gordon Richards and owned by the Aga Khan.
1967 Thirsk's Tatterstalls (1967 stand) and family stand were built.
1989 Thirsk hosted Doncaster's 1989 William Hill November Cup, won by Firelight Fiesta, after drainage problems caused the abandonment of racing at that year’s St Leger meeting.
1995 The James Herriot Hall was opened. A nod towards Thirsks' famous literary vet James Herriot and the world famous Herriot Museum based in Thirsk.
1997 In April STARBOROUGH won the Thirsk Classic Trial, run over 1 mile and then went on to win the inaugural St James Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot in June the same year, under Jockey Frankie Detorri.
1999 The Pavilion Stand was built which now hosts the Annual Badge members, the popular Cherry Tree Bar and the Racecourse Offices.
2012 FARHH wins the Thirsk Hunt cup for Trainer Saeed bin Suroor and goes on to win the Quidco Champion Stakes Group 1 at Ascot the following year. The same year the Thirsk Summer Cup was introduced, with a prize fund of £30,000 and was won by LORD AERYN at 20/1.
2014 The Thomas Lord Dine & View Restaurant was opened and is named after the founder of Lords Cricket Ground, born in Thirsk, his house is now a museum.
2017 The Hambleton Cup is now in its 162nd year of running