Musselburgh pays to draw strong fields

Bill Farnsworth
Bill Farnsworth
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Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth will be paying appearance money to ensure that there are plenty of runners for this week’s big New Year’s Day fixture.

The racecourse will pay £500 to the connections of horses which run in the juvenile hurdle which opens the Thursday card and the stayers hurdle later in the afternoon as they continue an experiment to boost horse numbers.

“Small fields have become a problem within the industry recently,” said Farnsworth. “So, we decided to try this experiment for two steeplechases at the last meeting and we felt it was quite successful.

“Now we intend to carry on right into the summer, using this scheme to boost races which regularly produce small fields. It basically costs us between £2000 and £2500 for each race, but small fields affect the media rights payments we get from the off-course betting industry.

“All racecourses get around £8000 per race, but that is reduced if the race attracts less than eight runners. A race with just four runners means we lose £2000 of that payment and a three-runner race means we get just half of the full payment, so we are £4000 out of pocket.

“So it makes financial sense to spend a couple of grand to try and ensure there are eight runners rather than to end up with just four horses turning out and losing £4000.”

The cold spell has left a little frost on the track, but

Farnsworth is confident it will ease completely in the next 24 hours.

“It is a decent forecast with temperatures of plus ten degrees for Thursday and we are delighted with the quality of the entries. There are 97 entered for the six races and we expect runners from the south of England and from Ireland,” he added.

The track spent £250,000 in the autumn on improving facilities following a record-breaking Flat season and Farnsworth is hoping for a big crowd on Thursday when the £40,000 Totepool Hogmaneigh Hurdle and the £30,000 Totequadpot Scottish Premier Chase will be screened live by Channel 4.

The Hogmaneigh Hurdle is beginning to make its mark and Farnsworth has high hopes it will eventually become a £100,000 contest and the highlight of the national New Year’s Day programme, despite strong rivalry form Cheltenham.

“Their big race is a novice chase, so we feel there is definitely room for a big hurdle race and we will be working hard to build up our race over the next couple of seasons,” he said.