THE eyes of the horse racing world will be on York Racecourse over the next four days for its flagship meeting - the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival.

Taking place from today until Saturday, the festival will see tens of thousands of racegoers descend on the Knavesmire to enjoy stellar racing action.

Record prize money of well over £5million will be on offer, with the meeting set to attract the highest rated horse in the world - Crystal Ocean, the highest rated mare in the world - Enable, the highest rated filly in the world - Magical, and the highest rated stayer in the world - Stradivarius.

The increase in prize money of more than £600,000 is largely focused this year on Sky Bet Ebor Saturday, where the feature contest for four-year-olds and upwards becomes the richest flat handicap in Europe with prize money of £1,000,000, double that of last year.

Both the Group One Darley Yorkshire Oaks, on Thursday, and Group One Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, on Friday, will see their prize money rise to £400,000, an increase of £50,000 on 2018. The highest rated mare in the world, Enable, is set to contest the former, with the highest rated sprinters in Europe - Ten Sovereigns and Battaash - contesting the big sprint.

Independently ranked in the top five races in the world last year, the Group 1 Juddmonte International, also has £1million on offer to the horse seeking to follow such superstars as Frankel or Sea the Stars into the Winner’s Enclosure on the opening day. Star of Mark Johnston’s Middleham stable, Elarqam, has been given a supplementary entry and so is set to take on Crystal Ocean, the Sir Michael Stoute-trained thoroughbred.

From sprinters to stayers on Friday, with the richest ever renewal of Weatherbys Hamilton Insurance Lonsdale Cup, offering £225,000 for the best stayer.

Once again the Lonsdale is the final leg of the Weatherbys Hamilton Stayers’ Bonus with Stradivarius in contention for the £1 million bonus.

On all four days, stand-side racegoers will be able to watch and participate in the Slingsby Ebor Fashion Lawn by simply registering before 12.30pm. A panel of judges will cast an expert eye over the preparations and attire before them, ready to decide winners on each day. On Thursday, the best dressed racegoer will win a very special prize - a short break for two people to Dubai including a trip to Meydan Racecourse.

On Ladies Day and the closing day of the four-day meeting at 1.20pm, parachute display teams are set to drop in on the Knavesmire with the RAF Falcons on Thursday and the Silver Stars of the Royal Logistics Corps on Ebor Saturday.

The first four races on each of the four days will be broadcast live on ITV1, in addition to every race being covered live on Racing TV and SIS. GBI Racing will be transmitting the event to in excess of 30 countries around the world. For the first time, the festival will be broadcast live on NBC in the USA as well as on the national broadcasters of both Canada and Poland.

Away from the track, a brigade of some 80 chefs, backed by a wider raceday team of more than 2,000 staff, will provide the welcome, services and treats.

During the festival, crowds can also enjoy musical entertainment. Yorkshire-based jazz and brass bands perform on the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn, with Murphy’s Marbles playing their own blend of Irish foot stomping, good time tunes. Local bands, The Monotones and Paradise Lane, will play to racegoers after the last race into the early evening on each of the four racedays from the Edwardian Weighing Room Lawn.

William Derby, chief executive and clerk of the course, said the festival is the “highlight of our year,” adding: “With the record investment in prize money, the stellar entries, ongoing investment across the site and all the countless initiatives and innovations, this year looks set to be a landmark event of top quality racing action as well as a tremendous social and fashion event.”