THE grandstands are empty and silent, the pictures of colourful celebration just a fading memory.

Today, The Press can reveal the £5 million cost to the city of losing the Ebor Festival.

Tourism bosses believe that is how much the cancellation of the four-day festival of racing at Knavesmire – and 75,000 punters with it – has cost York’s economy.

Today the pain was being felt by a huge range of businesses across the city, from pubs, hotels and taxi firms to hat shops, beauty salons and even butchers.

Some traders said the abandonment was a “financial disaster”, while others said they had received some extra business to compensate for trade which had been lost.

Tony Griffiths, the manager of The Knavesmire pub in Albermarle Road, said: “It’s been a disaster financially. We ordered in a large stock of food which we’ll really struggle to ship out to other pubs. It’s a nightmare – devastating.”

‘Race-goers should visit attractions’

TOURISM bosses are urging disappointed race-goers to stay on in York and enjoy the city’s numerous attractions.

Visit York’s Visitor Information Patrols (VIPs) have been “inundated” by thwarted race-goers wanting to find alternative places to visit, according to spokeswoman Kay Hyde.

Daniel Kiernan, pictured, a VIP team member, said he had been approached by many couples who wanted to make the most of their day.

“There really has been a surge in customers,” he said. “We’re hopefully alleviating people’s disappointment and providing help. I think people are really appreciating the service.”

Clifford’s Tower and the Castle Museum were said to be particularly popular with race-goers at a loose end.

Lee Clark, of York Museums Trust, said the Castle Museum was currently running a special exhibition on the 1960s and there are also a range of exhibitions on at York Art Gallery, where one of equine painting The Whistlejacket, by George Stubbs, can be seen on loan from the National Gallery.

He said race-goers wandering round the city centre could also see great works of art for free through the Grand Tour open air exhibition of paintings. “The Grand Tour in York offers people the chance to see some amazing replicas of the most famous paintings in the world on show across the streets in York –from Constable to Monet,” said Mr Clark. Tours can be downloaded from

It was also possible to see Viking swords, Roman statues and medieval jewels at the Yorkshire Museum.

However, frustrated race-goers who might want to take a cruise on the Ouse have again been thwarted by the weather.

Brian Clarke, managing director of YorkBoat, said that due to the recent unseasonably heavy rain, which has caused the cancellation of the races, the River Ouse had gone into flood. “This in August is most unusual and very disappointing from a business point of view and particularly disappointing for our visitors to the City of York. “This, I must stress, should only last until Thursday, when we hope to be fully operational and, as usual, our friendly crew will be welcoming all onboard.

“YorkBoat is looking forward to a busy bank holiday weekend on the strength of the good forecast.”

Waterlogging disappointment

YORK Racecourse chiefs were forced to abandon the remainder of the four-day Ebor Festival after being defeated by the wet weather.

A lunchtime inspection yesterday revealed Knavesmire to be unfit for racing during the rest of the week, following the abandonment of the opening two days.

The news is a huge disappointment for the York Race Committee, which was looking forward to welcoming up to 100,000 spectators to the meeting – for which a record £2.7 million of prize money had been secured.

Racecourse spokesman James Brennan said: “The weather has beaten us. It’s hugely disappointing for everyone – for the connections of the horses of an Ebor Festival which promised record prize money and for the race-goers who look forward to coming.”

William Derby, chief executive and clerk of the course, said: “The course is waterlogged in several places and there is no prospect of recovery. We have had a 5mm sharp shower yesterday afternoon and under 1mm in a shower this morning.

“There is no prospect of the course recovering, so I’m afraid the Ebor Festival 2008 has been abandoned.

“Obviously, it is hugely disappointing for racegoers, connections and the racecourse team. We look forward to May 2009.”

Meanwhile, Newbury Racecourse is offering free entry to anyone holding tickets to any day of the Ebor meeting.

The Berkshire-based track is staging the replacement to the Ebor Handicap – the totesport Newburgh Handicap.

‘New drainage could have saved festival’

RACING would probably have been able to go ahead this week had York’s planned new drainage system already been in place.

The next phase of work on the £2.5 million project is due to get under way following the abandonment of the four-day meeting.

Nicholas Wrigley, York Race Committee chair, reckons the work – due to be completed in time for the start of the new season in May – could have made a difference had it been operating this week.

The scheme will see the turf dug up and track widened, along with the introduction of new irrigation measures.

Some work has already been carried out on the edges of the track. Asked whether the system would have saved the meeting, he said: “I would love to say absolutely. I think probably. I’ve been to look, not only at the course, but also at the drains we have got – that are in place. I checked them to see they are running.

“The key issue was whether they were running because the water level is so high and everything goes into the main drain and out in the river but, notwithstanding that, they are actually running very well.”

He said the back straight of the course, where two drains had been installed on either side, was in “great” condition.

“The bits that are really difficult are at the far bend around the four furlong marker – where we have only put in place one drain at the moment.

“Horses have worked down the back straight, the ones that are in the stables, and people were saying the going was fine – perfectly raceable and probably soft rather than anything worse.

“At the moment, with the drainage system, I think we would be all right.”

Deluge sinks trade

THE loss of the Ebor Festival may have cost the York economy up to £5 million, a tourism chief believes.

And inquiries by The Press have revealed the pain is being felt by a huge range of businesses across the city, from pubs, hotels and taxi firms to hat shops, beauty salons and even butchers.

Some traders said the abandonment was a financial disaster, while others said they had received some extra business to compensate for trade which had been lost.

Independent research by University of York economists revealed earlier this year that race meetings brought £40 million into the city’s economy last year.

It stressed visitors did not only spend money at the racecourse, but also at bars, restaurants, shops, hotels and bed and breakfasts across the city.

The loss of the meeting has caused a national loss of around £200 million turnover on betting.

Racecourse spokesman James Brennan said the Ebor meeting normally attracted 75,000 visitors – about a quarter of the total for the year – and it had been anticipated this week’s longer-than-usual festival would have attracted even more race-goers.

Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of the tourism organisation Visit York, said today it was difficult to calculate precisely how much the cancellation had cost the city’s economy, but she estimated losses could total up to £5 million. She stressed some race-goers had stayed on or come to the city despite the loss of the racing.

A survey by The Press has shown pubs and other businesses near the racecourse, and along the route from it into the city centre, are among the hardest hit.

Tony Griffiths, manager of The Knavesmire pub, in Albermarle Road, said: “It’s been a disaster financially. We ordered in a large stock of food which we will really struggle to ship out to other pubs. There are kegs upon kegs of beer that we have got in specially. It would have been the busiest week of the year. It’s devastating.”

Brendan Aherne, manager of Nags Head, in Micklegate, said business had been “very, very poor.”

He said: “Yesterday you couldn’t tell it was a scheduled race meeting day. There is no passing trade. We have too much stock. We have loads ordered to come in. Luckily, there is a bank holiday coming up.”

Niall Spembrowicz, manager of the Living Room, in Bridge Street, said: “There’s been a lot of cancellations, but there has also been a lot of bookings to compensate.”

A spokesman for The Winning Post pub, in Bishopthorpe Road, said the day-to-day nature of decisions by the racecourse had made it difficult to plan, so that staff had had to be sent home.

Derek Ashdown, manager of the Trafalgar Bay Inn, in Nunnery Lane, said: “We haven’t suffered as yet, but that’s not to say that we won’t over the next two days.”

Abi Lyon, of the Nail Bar One beauty salon in Swinegate Court, said: “It’s been dead today. It’s normally very busy in Ebor week with manicures, pedicures etc.” Karen Golding, manageress of SOTA hairdressing and beauty in Micklegate, said it had lost a lot of trade, having had many people booked in for race days. “We’ve had quite a lot of no-shows from visitors with no details logged.”

The Hat Company, in Pavement, said business had been very different from usual. “We’re normally packed out. It was very busy last week, and people still came in up until Monday, but began to become more hesitant yesterday, waiting for the outcome.”

Michael Brown, of Knavesmire Butchers, where beef sandwiches are normally a big hit with hungry race-goers, said business had been “steady” for the past couple of days, when it would normally be hectic in Ebor week.

Mark Wilson, secretary of the York Private Hire Association, said the loss of business caused by the cancellation came at a quiet time of year, when drivers relied on the meeting to give them an extra boost. Larry Taylor, a director of 659659 private hire, said: “We along with everybody else are very disappointed.”

York Racecourse spokesman James Brennan said that, while the course was insured against cancellation, it would still suffer lost income through the cancellation, although he could not put a figure on this.