RACING fans will be descending on York Racecourse today as the 2018 season gets underway with the three-day Dante Festival.

With a record investment across the season of more than £8 million in prize money, the opening of the redeveloped Clocktower Enclosure and ongoing improvements across the racecourse, this is set to be a big summer on the Knavesmire.

Prize money over the three days of the Dante Festival has risen for the seventh year in succession to £1.2 million, and every race is worth £20,000 or more.

Today’s £100,000 Tattersalls Musidora is one of 23 races across the York season to now offer at least a six figure sum.

The champion sprinter of last season, Harry Angel, looks set to go to post in the fastest contest of the week, the Group Two Duke of York Clipper Logistics Stakes, staged over just six furlongs.

The Betfred Dante, the race that gives the Festival its name, is staged on Thursday.

Friday’s principal race is The MansionBet Yorkshire Cup, with £165,000 on offer to the leading stayers over one mile and three-quarters, a valuable and highly-rated Group Two ‘Cup’ race.

The new season at York Racecourse will see the opening of a £5 million improvement scheme to the grassed infield area which runs parallel to the final furlong of the track.

The area has a new name - The Clocktower Enclosure - after the listed building.

Other improvements include two new toilet blocks, twin canopies either side of the clocktower that offer catering and betting facilities and improved access for pushchairs and wheelchairs.

James Brennan, head of marketing and sponsorship, York Racecourse, said: “To see horses starting to arrive and read about the stars we are expecting creates a real buzz. Of course, we’ve been busy over the Closed Season, so hope the returning racegoers like the things we’ve done; the new Clocktower Enclosure, giant screens and additions to the fresh local food. I can’t wait.”

York will be supporting Racing Welfare in its Mental Health Awareness week activity, with a particular focus on Thursday.