Nostalgia: History on the hoof at Musselburgh Racecourse

Norman McIntosh and Make Whoopee after winning the 1968 Gold Cup

Norman McIntosh and Make Whoopee after winning the 1968 Gold Cup

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EXHILARATING, nail-biting horse races mixed with colourful hats and dresses at the Musselburgh Racecourse – for seven years in a row, its Ladies Day has been the only sold-out racing event in Scotland.

However, the racecourse has a long and rich history stretching far further back, with just a few bumps on the road.

The beautiful track goes all the way back to 1816 when it was first established for the wealthy and the aristocracy. The sport, which has fascinated people for centuries, attracted enormous crowds even in post-war Britain, when horse races were the only event at which you could place legal bets.

The racecourse has always been the stage for thrilling scenes. In 1968, Make Whoopee with lightweight jockey Norman McIntosh, won “with a late run” by half a length over the favourite.

In 1959 Lester Piggott unexpectedly won the Edinburgh Gold Cup on his horse Illinois, even though it was his first visit to the course. According to reports at the time, Piggott “was able to look back his shoulder several times” and that the assumed challenge failed to materialise.

In the 1980s and 90s the racecourse was threatened by bankruptcy but survived thanks to new financial support.

However, the drama continued, and in 1996 the racing was obstructed when a horse broke free and galloped a full circuit of the track. The race was stalled but afterwards Sarasota Storm was able to win the Waverly Mining Handicap for the third time.

Today Musselburgh Ladies Day sells out its capacity of 9000 spectators well before the event takes place.