THE first meet of the season at York racecourse got underway today in glorious sunshine - and 2019 looks set to be a record-breaking year for the course.

Prize money for the three-day Dante Festival is £1.2 million and every race is worth £20,000 or more.

Across the season, prize money is up £600,000 to an eye-watering record investment of £8.8 million.

On top of this, York has just opened its new Premier Racing Lounge, as well as making ongoing improvements across the course, including two new giant screens overlooking the parade ring.

The new development has converted the ground floor of the existing Melrose Stand into a pre-booked lounge, offering reserved seating combined with the benefits of modern technology.

Among the big winners at today’s meet were Frankie Dettori riding First Eleven in the Ebor Jorvik Handicap and Andrea Atzeni on Nausha in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes.

The Tattersalls Musidora, which has proved a leading indicator of form for the Oaks, is one of 23 races offering at least a six-figure sum this season.

Typically, fillies from this race return as older horses to contest the Middleton Stakes on the Thursday of the festival - a race set to be graced tomorrow by Lah Ti Dar, who impressed at 2018’s Ebor Festival.

Thoroughbred Too Darn Hot is also ready for his seasonal return in the Dante stakes this afternoon.

Last year’s champion juvenile will face seven rivals in the £165,000 group 2 race, regarded by many as the leading Derby trial.

The racecourse’s James Brennan said of yesterday’s action: “We were delighted to be back underway and looking at the faces, there were lots of smiles.

“There were lots of happy people in the new lounge and it was the best start to the season in terms of weather that we’ve ever had.”

Friday’s principal race is The Yorkshire Cup.