Kiplingcotes Derby – A Project on England

The Kiplingcotes Derby is the oldest horse race in England, and fantastically, it is still being run after 501 years. Better still, it is reliably understood that the race has been run every single year. Taking place between the old Railway Station at Kiplingcotes and Londesborough Wold Farm near Market Weighton, the race is run over uneven and inconsistent ground, following the same line as tradition dictates.

This year, due to the coronavirus, the race was run in a fashion only carried out three times prior and run at a canter by two horses. The tradition must carry on regardless, like in 1947 when the course was covered by snow drifts so great that a single rider took four hours to complete it. The prize money for the race is awarded in a manner that means the second place rider often takes a much larger sum than the winner, with 1st Place taking £50 and 2nd Place taking the rest of the earnings.

The race is held dear by the local community, normally drawing hundreds of people to watch the event, and trustee Guy Stephenson remembers the race clearly from the time he was a boy, to the extent that he has been involved in the planning for his entire life. There is an incentive to ensure that the required funds are gathered as the cost of private ambulance and health insurance must be met to comply with Health and Safety Legislation, so the tradition may seek to interest an increasing number of commercial endeavours. This is often seen as a flashpoint for those who expect traditions to appear traditional and those who try to maintain its existence, but it seems that events of this nature must open themselves to change to keep the joy and interest in the tradition alive.

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