Horse Racing: Musselburgh cheered by record crowds

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Musselburgh have ended their flat season on a high with attendances well up and record crowds at two of their major fixtures.

Crowds on the East Lothian track over 15 summer fixtures totalled 50,599 – an increase of 3,913 on last year to leave racecourse boss Bill Farnsworth and his team delighted.

“Things have surpassed all expectations and it is even more satisfying when you consider the economic situation and the atrocious wet summer Britain has had to contend with,” said Farnsworth, after overseeing the final meeting of the flat campaign on Monday.

“We had a record crowd of just under 9000 for Ladies Day and the crowd on Edinburgh Gold Cup day was 7000 and that was a record for that fixture too. We have been especially thrilled at how the latter meeting has built up in recent years and we shall be looking to improve the racing programme on that day yet again.”

With crowds up by 8.4 per cent, Musselburgh will certainly be the envy of the other Scottish tracks, several of which have been badly hit by the wet weather. Hamilton Park lost four fixtures, including a couple of the main days, and Ayr have also succumbed to waterlogging, which included losing the first day of the Ayr Gold Cup festival last month.

Perth have also been badly hit by waterlogging through the summer, but Musselburgh’s free-draining sandy soil means the East Lothian circuit is rarely hit by waterlogging.

“We usually need to use our watering system right from the very first fixture to the last,” said Farnsworth, “and we spent £140,000 on upgrading the system prior to this term, but ironically after using it for our first meeting at Easter, we never had to resort to watering again this year.”

Musselburgh still have four National Hunt fixtures left this year – a two-day meeting on November 8 and 9 and they also race on Friday November 30 and Monday December 10.

But the New Year’s day meeting is the one Farnsworth is most looking forward too and he reports that almost 1000 tickets have already been snapped up.

“We only got the fixture in 2010 and had to abandon

because of frost and the same thing happened the following year, so this year was the first time we managed to stage

it and we got a crowd of

around 3600. So it is really

encouraging that advance sales are going so well this time and, given kind weather, we are hoping for around 5,000. It’s a day we intend to really build on in the coming years.

“We invested over £100,000 in laying a stretch of all-weather track around the paddock bend on the jumps course and had a live test with horses galloping over it before racing on Monday. It all went well and jockeys and trainers seemed pleased with the surface.

“There was always a lot of wear and tear on that stretch with the turf being churned up during the winter weather and we hope that this will help greatly from a horse welfare point of view and also help to attract better-class runners,” he added.