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The countdown to Kiplingcotes Derby begins

In a couple of weeks’ time, runners and riders will assemble at Londesborough Wold Farm, just five miles outside Middleton-on-the-Wolds, for this year’s Kiplingcotes Derby.

England’s oldest horse race takes place on Thursday 16th March, continuing a tradition that dates back over 500 years, to a time when Henry VIII was celebrating 10 years as King of England.

The race returned for the first time since 2019 last year when Lockington jockey Sally Hill won for the second occasion on her horse Paddy, aptly-named with last year’s derby taking place on St Patrick’s Day.

Hundreds of spectators are expected to line the course from Etton to Londesborough Wold to watch a race that is steeped in tradition and history.

The rules of the race dictate that if the Derby does not take place in any given year, it should never take place again. That meant that during the COVID years, as well as others when the weather has made the course un-raceable, two jockeys and their horses walked the four miles in front of race trustees and a handful of other people.

But there should be no such issues this year, with the recent dry spell of weather offering organisers encouragement that the going should be good, perhaps even good to firm in places when raceday comes around.

“Everything is proceeding as normal,” race trustee Philip Guest told the Wolds Weekly. “All the usual preparations are taking place, but the race has a very simple format.

“It is not held on a racecourse as such and we don’t have any real facilities, other than the portable toilets that were introduced a number of years ago!

“The only complicated aspect is the road closures that need to be put in place and one or two other arrangements that we need to prepare for.

Kiplingcotes Derby 2022

“The course is looking okay at the moment; we just hope that there isn’t a huge downpour in the lead-up to the race, as it can get very boggy on the home straight.

“But we’re in the lap of the gods as far as that is concerned. Frost isn’t so much of a problem; it would just make the going a little harder.

“The waterlogging of the course is the main worry, as the puddles can be extremely deep, even though it doesn’t always appear that way.”

To enter the Kiplingcotes Derby, all jockeys must arrive at the course before 11am on the day of the race. Last year, 19 riders took up the opportunity. All horses are then led out between noon and 1pm and must complete the course by 2pm.

Riders must weigh 10 stone and first past the post receives winnings of £50. One of the quirks of the race sees second place given the remainder of the entry fees, a sum of money which often totals more than the winner’s prize pot.

A further oddity is that it is impossible for spectators to see both the start and finish of the race, with most electing to take up a position close to the winning post.

Philip explained that having already fielded enquiries from riders based as far away as the East Midlands, he’s expecting a healthy number of entries for the race, as well as lots of spectators enjoying a date that’s firmly fixed on their calendars.

“Last year, the race went very well and we were very happy with it,” he said. “We have already had a number of enquiries from people who would like to enter the race.

“The only way to enter is to turn up within the requirements set out. I always warn those who call me that it is an arduous event and not for the fainthearted.

“But some people like to enter just to say they have completed the race, be that on a shire horse or a pony, and they can often come to the finish line a long, long way after the leaders.

“Some of the enquiries have come from people as far away as Leicestershire and in the past, entrants have travelled from Scotland.

“You just never know how many people are going to turn up until the day. The only worry we had was in 2019, when it was the 500th running of the race. But it all went okay and we put the more competitive riders at the front on the start line and those who were not so towards the back.

“We didn’t want a cavalry charge at the end of the race.

“It’s always nice to have support from spectators on the day, as long as people don’t get overenthusiastic and stand on the course, which has been an issue.

“We don’t have substantial barriers and we know that people do like to take photographs. It means we have to warn people to stay away from the horses, as galloping horses do not just stop.”

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