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The world’s oldest horse race

Posted in Animals, British Towns, Customs, Historical articles, Sport on Wednesday, 25 May 2011

This edited article about English customs originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 948 published on 22 March 1980.

racehorse, picture, image, illustration

An English thoroughbred horse

Did you know that the oldest horse-race in the world takes place in Yorkshire?

What came to be called the Kiplincotes Derby, held each year in the town of South Dalton, near Hull, has been run annually without a break since 1519. What’s more, it must be the only horse-race in the world where the horse that comes in second gets more than the one which comes in first.

The reason for this strange state of affairs is that when Lord Burlington and several other wealthy gentlemen decided to endow the race for perpetuity early in the 17th century, they stipulated that the winner should receive the interest on a sum of money they provided to ensure the race’s survival.

The owner of the horse that came in second was to receive the combined sum of the entrants’ fees.

Sadly, however, inflation has caught up with the Kiplincotes Derby. Nowadays, the interest on the capital Lord Burlington provided is only worth about £20.

The entrance fee is £4. 25 – so you can see that there need only be more than five entrants for the horse that comes in second to receive more than the actual winner.

So, as the horses battle up the course towards the winning post, the jockeys must be wondering if they will win the honour of being first or the lion’s share of the prize money.

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