Kiplingcotes Derby 'under threat'

A horse race which is said to be the oldest in England is in danger of folding because of rising health and safety costs, organisers have said.

The historic Kiplingcotes Derby is believed to have taken place near Market Weighton in East Yorkshire every March since 1519.

Its rules state if the race is not run one year, it must never be run again.

Race trustee Guy Stephenson said regulations have made the race increasingly expensive to organise.

The derby is a four-mile flat race on farm lanes and tracks.

Mr Stephenson said the Kiplingcotes Derby committee had to spend £200 on new signs for the main road this year and £227 for liability insurance.

"It's costing us a fortune really. It's all about health and safety. It means we've got to go out and get sponsors these last two years, but whether we can keep doing that I don't know."

Mr Stephenson said Humberside Police had suggested organisers hire stewards for the race, because road closure rules now mean 10 officers are needed.

But he said hiring a private firm could cost £800, which would be unfeasible.

The race traditionally takes place on the third Thursday in March and riders face extremely rough going.

Mr Stephenson said there were usually about 12 entrants but in past years there have been as many as 20, and as few as one.

Image caption The Neil Thwaites Memorial Finishing Post signifies the end of the race

The race starts on a grass verge in Etton, not far from the old Kiplingcotes railway station, and finishes approximately 12 minutes later at Londesborough Wold Farm.

The derby was first held when Henry VIII was on the throne, and has survived harsh winters and foot-and-mouth outbreaks.

Entry to the race is £4.25 - the equivalent of four guineas, which is said to be the entry fee from 1519.

First prize is £50 but organisers said it sometimes proved advantageous to come second, as this rider received the sum of the entry fees.

Racing journalist Chris Pitt said despite the Cheltenham Festival in Gloucestershire the same week, he would not be anywhere else:

"People talk about tradition a bit too often now, but for me it is that tradition of a race that is nearly 500 years old.

"They're a grand crowd - both those who take part and those who come to watch."

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