Horse Racing

Kiplingcotes Derby: The Oldest Horse Race in England

Horse racing has been around for a long time, with some of the earliest known origins of the sport having been found in Central Asia. Dating back to 4,000 BC, shortly after humans started to domesticate horses, horse racing began as a pastime.

The modern form of horse racing as we know it today, however, is a little more recent than this. Over time horse racing became regulated and was transformed into the sport we know today.

Thus, in 1519 the first Kiplingcotes Derby was held – since then, it’s occurred on the third Thursday of March. In 2019, the course hosted its 500th race and was commemorated as the oldest race in all of England.

Where is Kiplingcotes Derby held?

In the East Riding of Yorkshire, Kiplingcotes is a small little hamlet near Mark Weighton. The race is particularly unusual because instead of being held on a traditional racetrack, the derby runs along the roadside. It starts near the Kiplingcotes railway station and ends at Londesborough Wold Farm.

Kiplingcotes and its Quirks

Since it’s been around for more than 500 years, the Kiplingcotes Derby has a few interesting and quirky traditions that are still followed well into the 21st century. They make for good fun and interesting storytelling. Here are a few fun facts:

  • The verge of the roadside is traditionally maintained by a clerk who is paid a mere 25 pence, during the course of the year and in the build up to the race. This equates five shillings in terms of old money.
  • The race covers about 6.4 kilometres, or 4 miles, and runs through farmland including vast tracks and fields.
  • The horses who take part in the race can be of any age, however, they must be at least 10 stone, excluding their saddle.
  • On the day of the race, all of the horses participating must be gathered at the starting point by 11:00 sharp.

The Winnings

According to tradition, the winner of the race receives 50 pounds in total and the rider who places second takes home the remainder of the ticket money. By modern standards, however, 50 pounds isn’t a lot of money, but back then, it was.

Thus, these days, it’s become common for the rider who comes in second to take home a lot more prize money than the winner, making for an interesting outcome to say the least, and one that anyone looking at racing tips will want to consider.

Every Year or Never Again

One of the most interesting traditions associated with Kiplingcotes Derby is that the race must be held every year – if it doesn’t happen, it can never occur ever again. Thus, due to this requirement, the race has run for more than 500 consecutive years, even during the Covid-19 pandemic and other difficult times, including the Foot-and-Mouth crisis of the early 2000s.

The caveat that has allowed this to happen is that it only takes one rider to complete the course of the specified day according to all the rules for the race to count. Thus, on many occasions, there have been only one or two riders participating in the Kiplingcotes Derby.