THE Dante Festival 2024 is returning to York Racecourse today (May 15).

The opening event of this years racing calendar sees the three day festival, which runs until Friday, boast a prize pot of over £1.5 million for participants. With every race worth £25,000 or more.

A third of the contests will see prize money increased, whether that is the Group 2 1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes, the Group 2 Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Middleton Stakes, or a £15,000 boost to a handicap on each of the three days.

Taking part in the curtain raising race, the Duke of York Clipper Stakes, is sprinter Azure Blue. Trained by Michael Dods, the five-year-old mare won in the Group two contest at York Racecourse last year.

York Press: Michael Dods has confirmed that Azure Blue will be making a returnMichael Dods has confirmed that Azure Blue will be making a return (Image: Supplied)

Dods, who trains at Piercebridge near Darlington, said: "She had a bit of a setback with her feet and then she had ulcers, which finished her early. She seems fine now. Obviously, it’s a long time since she last ran but we’re happy with her.

"Whatever she does there, she will come on a lot for the run."

The three days of racing will run from 2.15pm to 5.20pm.

Each day consists of races ranging from five furlongs long to one mile and four furlongs long.

Who are the favourites?

Azure Blue will run in Wednesday's 1895 Duke of York Clipper Stakes, at 3.15pm. The bookies are calling a five-horse race, with very narrow odds between: Azure Blue, Swingalong, Mill Stream, Spycatcher and Montassib.

Thursday's flagship race comes at 3.45pm on Thursday, in the Dante Stakes race. Odds Checker has the favourites as Ancient Wisdom, Al Musmak and Caviar Heights - with all three tipped for the win across a selection of bookies.

On Friday, the British champions series race - the Yorkshire Cup - will also run at 3.45pm. The bookies typically favour Tower of London so far, with Vauban in a close second. The winner of both races at 3.45pm on Thursday and Friday will win £180,000 in prize money.

How much will it cost?

All daily admission prices at the Dante Festival have been frozen at their 2023 rate, meaning admission to the Clocktower Enclosure remains just £8, with further age, group and advance concessions across the enclosures, starting at £23.50 for a group into Grandstand & Paddock.

Car parking is free of charge and no booking fees are charged.

York Racecourse has confirmed that a selection of Heineken beers such as Birra Moretti will join North Yorkshire brewed ales from the Theakston stable, being served across the site including a specially created IPA which will feature as a guest ale in the Flying Frankie pub, it will retail at £6.20 for a pint.

York Racecourse added that champagne will be priced at £43, and they've assured that it will be widely available.