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.
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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.