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Although Kiplingcotes is not a racecourse today in the conventional sense, it does host a unique event each year on a picturesque course in the Yorkshire Wolds. The Kiplingcotes Derby claims to be the oldest continuously run race in the English racing calendar. It may well have been contested as early as 1519, and the list of rules shown at the bottom of this page was constructed and dated 1519, but the earliest record of it taking place was in 1555. A certain Thomas Carter of Helperthorpe, a lowly herdsman, was giving evidence in court and claimed to have witnessed the race run at Kiplingcotes Ashe on Shrovetide 1555. Given that Easter for that year was on Sunday 14th April, and that the race has traditionally taken place on a Thursday, Shrove Thursday would have been on 28th February 1555. In the early part of the 16th century hunting gentlemen from the parish donated £355 for a Plate and a cash prize, free from an Act of Parliament, to be given to the winner of the Kiplingcotes Plate. The list of subscribers are shown below. Although the race was open to all horses, invariably the race was won by a thoroughbred. In later years this became a problem because any horse or rider taking part in the event was disqualified from entering any future race run under Jockey Club rules. Fortunately in 1985 the Jockey Club relented and made the Kiplingcotes Derby a unique exception to this rule. The actual racecourse at Kiplingcotes held its final meeting on 19th March 1789, but the Derby is still contested each year over a 4 mile course, starting near to the former Kiplingcotes railway station and finishing at Londesborough Wold Farm.

If you have photos, postcards, newspaper cuttings or book references about the race, or can provide a photo of a previous winner, then email

487th running:-Thursday 17th March 2005
1. Wolfe (aka Wandering Wolf) ridden by Harriet Bethell
2. Plumbob ridden by Robert Howarth
3. Royal Citizen ridden by Ken Holmes
4. Achilles Thunder ridden by Anthony Sumpton
5. Markham Lad ridden by David Pritchard
6. Christie ridden by Sally Simpson
7. Lady Willow ridden by Pauline Harrison
8. Alfie ridden by Isabelle Barrett
9. Strawberry Jake ridden by Heather Buck
10. Oberon ridden by Robert Harrison
10 ran

The results are shown courtesy of Chris Pitt.

488th running:-Thursday 16th March 2006
1. Etton Lad ridden by Katie Croft
2. Cool Affair ridden by Laura Crawford
3. Monty ridden by Ken Holmes
4. Markham ridden by David Pritchard
5. Ellie ridden by Clare Rouse
6. Sundance ridden by Nicky Ghetler
7. Memorable ridden by Stephen Crawford
8. Mulligan ridden by Sarah Thompson
9. Wind Whistler ridden by Bethany Shoesmith
9 ran

The results are shown courtesy of Chris Pitt.

489th running:-Thursday 15th March 2007
1. Charlie (aka Rare Presence) ridden by Liz Stubbins
2. Flossy (aka Fiore Di Bosco) ridden by Steve Crawford
3. Boris ridden by Catherine Bell
4. Barney ridden by Laura Crawford
5. Cool Affair ridden by John Thirsk
6. Etton Lad ridden by Katie Croft
7. Stormy ridden by Rosemary Riby
8. Castletown Lad ridden by Danny Ablott
9. Senza ridden by Robert Howarth
10. Minnie (aka Welsh Doll) ridden by Vicky Hooper
11. Rossini ridden by Caroline Branton
12. Quinn ridden by Paul Piddington
13. Shannon Style ridden by Anthony Sumpton
14. Rock On ridden by Dorothy Walker
15. Connor (aka Inchconnell) ridden by Ian Hooper
16. Wilsy ridden by Phil Walker
17. Brandy Snap ridden by Heather Buck
17 ran

The results are shown courtesy of Chris Pitt. Click here for his full race report

490th running:-Thursday 20th March 2008
1. Maisie (aka Minster Fair) ridden by John Thirsk (A joiner from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor)
2. Cid (aka City Music) ridden by Liz Stubbins
3. Etton Lad ridden by Katie Croft
4. Barney ridden by Laura Crawford
5. Reindeer Dippin ridden by Heather Buck
6. Dispol Trump ridden by Richard Lewis
7. Colleens Pride ridden by Sharon Porter
8. May Song ridden by Cathy Featherstone
9. Ebor ridden by Charlotte Holmes
10. Minnie ridden by Natalie Arthur
11. Rupert ridden by David Gough
12. Delta ridden by Karen Orridge
Unofficial starter: Grace ridden by Norman Barratt (did not weigh out)
12 ran

I am grateful to Chris Pitt for giving permission for his report to be included, and to Mary Pitt for the excellent photographs shown below.

The 2008 Derby goes to Thirsk

John Thirsk, a joiner from nearby Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, won this year’s Kiplingcotes Derby, riding his ten-year-old mare Maisie. Originally called the Kiplingcotes Plate, England’s oldest horse race takes place in the East Yorkshire Wolds, over a four-mile straight course comprising grass verge, tarmac road, a sea of mud and a disused railway bridge. It has traditionally been run on the third Thursday in March ever since its inception in 1519. The 300-strong crowd who braved the drenching rain and bone-chilling wind witnessed an exciting tussle between Maisie and Cid, the mount of last year’s winning rider Liz Stubbings, with Maisie pulling clear close home to win by two lengths.
Ken Holmes

 The 2006 winners Etton Lad and Katie Croft were ten lengths further back in third. Although there have been no bookmakers there for over 50 years, some entrants nonetheless prefer to keep their cards close to their chest. Subsequent investigations revealed Maisie to be Minster Fair, a winner over hurdles at Ayr when trained by Alistair Whillans. As for runner-up Cid, he was previously known as City Music and had won a three-mile hurdle at Hexham for Sue Smith in 2006.With a winner’s prize of just £50 it will never threaten Epsom’s Derby in terms of prestige, but it does predate our premier Classic by more than 250 years.

John Thirsk celebrates victory

491st running:-Thursday 19th March 2009
1. Maisie (aka Minster Fair) ridden by John Thirsk (A joiner from Holme-on-Spalding-Moor)
2. Charlie (aka Rare Presence) ridden by Liz Stubbins
3. John Rich ridden by Sally Ireland
4. Zak ridden by Heather Buck
5. Master Flash ridden by Kelly Massey
6. Bliss ridden by Elsie Bradley
7. Generals Lady ridden by Laura Rafferty-Trow
8. Maisie (aka May Song) ridden by Cathy Featherstone
9. Colleens Pride ridden by Debbie Stabler
10. Charlotte ridden by Sharon Porter
11. Leo ridden by Dorothy Walker
12. Grace ridden by Norman Barratt
13. Willow ridden by Phil Walker
14. Brother Sylveste ridden by David Gough
15. Foxglove ridden by Kerry Clements
16. Stella ridden by Katie Mountifield
17. Tom The Bomb ridden by Holly Crisp
DNF Rosie ridden by Leslie Evans (unseated rider)
DNF Steelers Dream ridden by Melissa Bean (fell)
19 ran

I am grateful to Chris Pitt for giving permission for his report to be included, and to Mary Pitt for the excellent photographs shown below.

Thirsk gets the Derby again

John Thirsk, a joiner from nearby Holme-on-Spalding-Moor, repeated last year’s Kiplingcotes Derby success on his 11-year-old mare Maisie, also known as Minster Fair, formerly a winner over hurdles for Alistair Whillans. But it was only by the narrowest of margins that he beat the 2007 Kiplingcotes winners, Liz Stubbins and Charlie, a.k.a. winning point-to-pointer Rare Presence, in a thrilling climax to Britain’s oldest horse race. Traditionally run on the third Thursday in March ever since its inception in 1519, it takes place in the East Yorkshire Wolds, over a four-mile straight course comprising grass verge, tarmac road, muddy track and the long-abandoned Enthorpe railway bridge. Nobody knows how many runners will take part until eleven o’clock on the morning of the race, by which time all the riders must have weighed out on a set of 1940s coal miner’s scales.
Winner John Thirsk & runner-up Liz Stubbins

This year’s renewal attracted 19 runners, comprising a mixture of Thoroughbreds, hunters, cobs and a skewbald pony. Before they made their way to the start, clerk of the course Susan Hillaby recited the rules, which include the proviso that “any rider that striketh another rider shall win no prize”. With no big screen to relay pictures and no form of commentary, the 300-strong crowd braved the chill mid-March air and waited patiently for someone to shout “Here they come!”, then witnessed a tremendous duel over the last quarter mile, with Maisie just edging home by a neck. Another winning point-to-pointer, John Rich, the mount of Sally Ireland, having her first ride in this historic race, led to the A614 Driffield-Market Weighton road crossing before being overtaken by the first and second but stayed on at one pace to finish third. Thirsk was presented with the winner’s prize of £50. The runner-up received the entrance money of £4.25 per person, amounting this year to £80.75. So, as is often the case at the Kiplingcotes Derby, the winner got the glory plus a trophy and a horse blanket, but the second came away with more money.

Winner John Thirsk and Maisie

The Founders of Kibling Coats (sic), within the East Riding of the County of York, to be observed and Ridd (sic) yearly, the third Thursday of March, is shown below:-

  £     £
Earl of Burlington 30   Matthew Constable Esq 5
Lord Dunbar 10   James Moyser Esq 5
Lord Bellass 10   John Hearne Esq 5
Lord Langdale 10   Edward Gower Esq 5
Charles Lord Clifford 10   Lewis Gower Esq 5
Michael Wharton 20   Sir William Carrer 5
Thomas Grantham Esq 10   William Boynton Esq 5
Sir Henry Bellas 10   Sir William Cobb 5
Sir Francis Boynton 10   Thomas Strickland Esq 5
Sir John Hotham 10   Samuel Nevill Esq 5
Sir William Strickland 10   William Gee Esq 5
Sir Marmaduke Constable 15   William Thompson Esq 5
Sir John Wentworth 10   Barron Shorroy 5
Sir John Legard 10   Richard Rammington Esq 5
John Stapleton Esq 10   John Lister of Seaton Esq 5
James Duroy Esq 5   John Dalton Esq 5
Sir Henry Chomley 5   Thomas Stillington Esq 5
Sir Christ Wivill 5   Robert Dolman Esq 5
Sir Robert Hildyard 5   William Osbaldeston Esq 5
Sir Francis Cobb 5   William Brockman Esq 5
Sir Ralph Wharton 5   Philip Mickton Esq 5
Sir Hugh Bethell Le Ryse 5   Cornelius Twizzleton Esq 5
Sir Matthew Preston 5   Edward Barnard Esq 5
Sir Barrington Bowther 5   Philip Constable Esq 5
Sir Jerry Smith 5     £355

Articles of the race drawn up in 1519

1st Every man that is a Founder he is to put Twenty Shillings in Gold for his stake when he hath a horse, gelding or mare that runs for the prize, and every other person Four Pounds in Gold, and if any person that is a founder put in a horse that is not his own, he must put in Four Pounds in Gold for his stake or be adjudged not to run for the prize.

2nd Every horse, gelding or mare that runneth for the prize shall be led out between twelve and one of the clock, and shall run the course before two of the clock in the afternoon.

3rd Every horse, etc, that runneth for the Prize shall start bridled and saddled and shall run with rider weighing 10 st., fourteen pounds to the stone, according to ancient custom.

4th Every horse, etc., that runneth for the Prize shall have their Judge or Trier, and put their stakes into the clerk's hand at or before eleven of the clock, who will be at the weighing post ready to receive it, and set down the name of the owner of every horse, etc., his horse's name and colour, and his rider's name and Judge's name, and to take a record from the Judge every horse's place at the end of the course.

5th Whosoever doth stop or stay any of the running horses that rideth for this Prize, if he be either the owner of a horse that runs or his servant will be adjudged to hinder the horse, his horse shall win no prize.

6th Every rider that layeth hold of any of the other riders or striketh any of them shall win no prize.

7th Every rider that wanteth any more than one pound of his weight after he has run shall win no prize.

8th That the horse that runneth first by the Weighing Post set up at the end of the course observing the articles shall win the rize, and the second horse etc., shall have the stakes, only so muck yearly detained and taken out of the stakes as shall finish, support, repair and maintain the Rubbing Houses at the end of the course, and what be deemed necessary to be done about the said course in maintaining the weights, posts and levelling ground, etc., and any two or more of the Founders are authorised to direct and appoint yearly how much of the stakes shall be detained or taken out for the uses aforesaid.

9th George Plaxton, of Londesburgh, is declared to be clerk and to keep the weights, and is to receive fifteen shillings from him that winneth the Prize, that is ten shillings for keeping the weights and five shillings which he is to employ for mending the course every year, and likewise to receive twelve pence for every Trier's name that he enters in his book, and he is to appoint a man to start the horses, to whom the Master of the winning horse is to pay two shillings and sixpence, and he is to take care that there be not any horse, etc., do start within a quarter of a mile of the running horses, and the said Trustees or the major part of them is hereby declared from time to time to nominate and appoint who shall be their clerk at their will and pleasure.

10th All the Posts on the course to be left on the right hand, otherwise he shall win no Prize.

11th Every man that is a Founder and his heir's male are herby declared to be Founders to this course for ever, and that the eldest son of every Founder shall have the privilege of putting in a horse as a Founder during his father's life, and that the names of every Founder be fairly written on parchment to remain constantly with the clerk, and likewise on the same parchment to be set down in whose custody the writing or security shall remain which is taken for any part of the sums of money so contributed.

12th The master of those horses that run wherein there shall happen any difference, shall each of them name one Founder to determine this difference, and if they cannot agree, those two Founders are to name an Umpire.

13th Any of the riders being required by any of the Triers or Judges shall be weighed after the course, and in case of refusal or want of weight according to the Articles shall be adjudged the last horse.

14th That is any horse, etc., be brought to run under the name of a Founder and that there be any suspicion by any person that such a Founder is not really the owner of such horse etc. and that the said suspicion be declared to the clerk of the course, he is directed to acquaint the Judge or Trier of such horse etc., and such Founder, if he be on the course. is forthwith upon notice to repair to the said clerk, and engage to the Trier upon his honour that such horse etc., is really his own without any manner of equivocation, fraudulence, or deceit; or if such Founder be not upon the course himself, then some Gentlemen on his behalf is to clear the doubt in the same manner as aforesaid, and if there be no such clearing of the aforesaid doubt, then such Founder is either to put in Four Pounds towards the increase of the stakes or else to be adjudged not to be in a capacity to win the Plate, but shall be adjudged the last horse.

If you have photos, postcards, newspaper cuttings or book references about the race, or can provide a photo of a previous winner, then email

Much of the information about this race has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

British Newspaper Archive Online

Northern Turf History Volume 2 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Kiplingcotes Derby by Alison Ellerington

The Sporting Magazine

A List of Horse-Matches Run by Reginald Heber 1751-1772

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1773

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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