A new race – the Edinburgh National – will be amongst the highlights at Musselburgh this winter.
The East Lothian track get their National Hunt programme under way with a two-day fixture this week and will have in excess of £700,000 in prize money in the coming months.
The new event will have £40,000 in prize money, will be aired live on terrestrial TV and is part of the Cheltenham Trials fixture in February.
Designed as a trial for the Grand National itself at Aintree next spring, it will be over four miles, one furlong and be the longest race ever staged on the seaside circuit with the start right in front of the stands and the runners completing three circuits.
Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth, who is seeking a sponsor for the race, said: “It will be a 0-150 rated chase. There aren’t many marathon chases in the north and the programme is often hit by bad weather, so we certainly feel there is a need for such a race. Musselburgh is a perfectly-flat course, just like Aintree and Ayr, who stage the Scottish National, so we think it could prove to be a real National trial.
“We are looking for a sponsor and it will be televised live as part of the card on the first day of our Trials fixture.”
Musselburgh have been able to extend their highly-successful Trials meeting to two days – Saturday, Feb 4 and the following afternoon – thanks to a fixture swap with Welsh track Fsos Las.
“They were keen to race on Easter Sunday, so we swapped our flat fixture that day for the Saturday in February and will now have 15 races over the two days which are the most important in our winter calendar,” explained Bill.
There will be in excess of £240,000 in prize money across the two days and a dozen of those races are trials for the big events at the Cheltenham Festival in March and other major races in the spring.
The £50,000 Scottish County Hurdle Trial over two miles, the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial and the Scottish Foxhunters Chase feature on the opening stage with the trials for the Albert Bartlett and Supreme Novice Hurdles the following afternoon along with the Pertemps Hurdle Series Qualifier.
The meeting always attracts runners from the major southern stables, as does the Tote sponsored Hogmaneigh fixture on New Year’s Day when there will be £128,000 in prize money.
The £50,000 Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle is supported by a classy £40,000 chase over two-and-a-half miles and a £20,000 juvenile hurdle and Bill is delighted that Musselburgh will be joining Cheltenham as the launchpad for the new ITV racing coverage.
“ITV are bridging a 27-year gap when they take over from Channel 4 on January 1and it’s great that Musselburgh are sharing this particular bit of limelight with Cheltenham,” he said. “Anyone suggesting such a thing even ten years ago would have been laughed out of the park.”