THE 2018 season at York Races will feature the course's highest quality and richest ever race programme.

Beginning on May 16, the famous Knavesmire turf will now stage 30 races across the season that are part of the Pattern (racing’s traditional method of highlighting races of high quality).

It has been confirmed that the leading northern venue will host two new Group Three races – the upgraded John Smith’s Silver Cup on July 14 and the new Al Basti Equiworld Dubai Brontë Cup on May 26 for older fillies and mares over 14 furlongs.

Prize money for the season will be over £8 million after an increase of £500,000.

While the headline boost comes for the Sky Bet Ebor – to be run at £500,000 up 75 per cent on last season – there are also increases for three other contests on the Saturday of the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival. That includes a 20 per cent rise for the Sky Bet Melrose.

In what promises to be a bumper year for stayers on the Knavesmire, the Weatherbys Hamilton Lonsdale Cup itself will offer record prize money of £225,000 – as well as being the final leg in the £1 million Weatherbys Hamilton bonus.

With every race at the showpiece Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival (August 22-25) worth at least £70,000, all 122 contests over the 18 days will offer a minimum of £15,000 in reward to connections.