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Magic million: Sky Bet make Ebor first seven-figure Flat handicap in Britain

Close call: Nakeeta (near side) gets the better of Flymetothestars in a thrilling finish to the 2017 Ebor
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From £285,000 last year to £500,000 this year and a whopping £1 million next year. That is the astonishing speed with which the now Sky Bet-sponsored Ebor will become British Flat racing's first seven-figure handicap.

York's groundbreaking five-year deal with the Yorkshire bookmaker will make the Ebor Europe's most valuable race for stayers, with the famous prize's new sponsor vowing to make Ebor Saturday "the most innovative, inclusive, adrenaline-fuelled Flat racing event of the year".

Nakeeta's connections celebrate Ebor success

Nakeeta landed the final Betfred Ebor last year en route to running in the Melbourne Cup, whose public popularity and media coverage York aspires to one day emulate. This year's Melbourne Cup, the first to be held under the Lexus banner, will offer £3.8m in prize-money.

In an effort to prevent damage to the three-year-olds' Pattern programme, the Ebor will in future be restricted to horses aged four or over.

However, only two three-year-olds have lined up in the last decade due to the order of participation being determined by weight not rating.

Britain's most valuable races

Investec Derby (Epsom) £1.5m
Qipco Champion Stakes (Ascot) £1.3m
Qipco King George (Ascot) £1.25m
Qipco Queen Elizabeth II (Ascot) £1.1m
Randox Health Grand National (Aintree) £1m
Juddmonte International (York) £1m
Qatar Sussex Stakes (Goodwood) £1m
Sky Bet Ebor (York) £1m from 2019
Prince of Wales's Stakes (Ascot) £750,000
William Hill St Leger (Doncaster) £700,000

Sky Bet will also take over the backing of the three-year-olds' only Melrose Handicap, which rises in value from £105,000 to £125,000, while the firm replaces Betway as sponsor of York's St Leger trial, the £170,000 Great Voltigeur Stakes.

York chairman Teddy Grimthorpe said: "The Ebor has been a feature of my racing life and I think these plans set it on a firm course for future success.

"This great race encapsulates ambition, innovation and heritage, all of which are very much a part of York’s ethos."

Richard Flint: "We're excited to be part of the future of such a great race"

Similarly excited, Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint said: "Sky Bet is proud to be based in Yorkshire and we're excited to be part of the future of such a great race. Today is only the first phase of an exciting partnership which I hope will mean fantastic things for Yorkshire racing."

The Ebor shake-up comes at a time when the sport is seeking to boost the profile of Flat stayers and their attractiveness to owners and breeders.

York's Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup, another long-time feature of the Ebor meeting, was recently named as the final race in the new WH Stayers' Million.

Connections of a horse who wins the Gold Cup, Qatar Goodwood Cup and Lonsdale Cup will receive a £1m bonus, provided that horse had gone to Royal Ascot having won one of the Longines Sagaro Stakes, Boodles Diamond Ormonde Stakes, Yorkshire Cup or Matchbook Henry II Stakes.

BHA chief executive Nick Rust said: "British racing has made its commitment to the continued production of quality staying horses well known, and this sizeable investment is another boost for owners, breeders and trainers of staying horses.

"We need to do more to ensure that we keep stayers in training here in Britain and reduce the number of horses being exported overseas.

"A £1 million Ebor in 2019 will certainly be a significant incentive, as will the increased prize-money for the Melrose."

There were riotous scenes at York after Heartbreak City's 2016 Ebor triumph
Sky Bet will continue to sponsor the Listed City of York Stakes – Britain’s richest Group 3 at £180,000 – at the Ebor meeting, and will add the £100,000 Group 3 Strensall Stakes and two Ebor day handicaps to its portfolio.

Sir Mark Prescott, whose Hasten To Add landed the Ebor in 1994, welcomed the massive increase in Ebor prize-money and also the decision to exclude three-year-olds.

"This is wonderful news and a tremendous investment by York and Sky Bet in what was already the richest Flat handicap in Europe," said Prescott.

"I also think it makes sense to exclude the Classic generation, who have other options such as the Great Voltigeur and St Leger."

Luca Cumani, three times victorious in the Ebor, said: "I think it's fantastic. Any boost to prize-money is good news. I only wish they had done this a few years ago so I could've won it as a £1 million race already!"

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Today is only the first phase of an exciting partnership which I hope will mean fantastic things for Yorkshire racing
E.W. Terms