Record prize money of more than £1.7m will be on offer at Musselburgh next year with the biggest race worth a staggering £100,000.
The Scottish Sprint Cup in June will be the richest event of 2014 with a six-figure tag despite bookmakers William Hill dropping out of sponsoring the event after just one year.
“We are just digesting the news from William Hill and will be actively searching for a new sponsor,” said racecourse boss Bill Farnsworth. “But we had intended to raise the Sprint prize money to a guaranteed £100,000 and will be keeping to that.”
The East Lothian track is beginning to reap the benefits of a policy in recent years of upgrading the race programme and moving towards racing at weekends. Next year sees a total of 27 fixtures, with ten over jumps and the rest on the flat.
No less than 19 fixtures will be at the weekend with a dozen Friday dates, four Saturdays and three Sunday meetings and Farnsworth believes a proper balance has been achieved between two major customer bases in what is the track’s best ever annual line-up.
“We need to service the off-course betting industry as well as providing good racing for our racegoers and I think we have managed that now,” he said.
“Our on-going policy of improvements to both track and racing programme means we now stage some high profile fixtures which attract the crowds and provide excellent racing, but also bring in increased revenue from the off-course betting industry via the Levy Board.”
Farnsworth says the decision to race on Good Friday was almost unavoidable with the racing authorities keen to see racing taking place on that day.
“We have had an Easter fixture for some years with racing on both Saturday and Sunday, but because we were not a ‘betting criteria’ fixture on the Saturday we got little support from the Levy Board and it was virtually funded by ourselves.
“By switching to the Friday, we become a fully-funded fixture, which means we get Levy Board funding and are likely to earn more money from the off-course betting industry. We are a not-for-profit organisation so have immediately been able to put that extra income into prize money.
“Easter Saturday this year had £100,000 in prize money, but by moving to Good Friday we generate that additional income that has enabled us to put in an extra £50,000.
“The big race on Friday is the £50,000 Royal Mile Handicap and there will be well over £200,000 on offer over the Easter weekend.”
All told, there will be in excess of £1.1m up for grabs during the summer, while the 2014 programme begins on New Year’s Day with a well-established fixture which has £120,000 in prize money.
It is the first of Fansworth’s high-profile days and the main event – the Hogmaneigh Hurdle – will be worth £40,000, while Musselburgh also race two days later on Friday, January 3. With a meeting at Ayr in between, it means a bright start to 2014 for racing enthusiasts.
Cheltenham Trials Day on Sunday, February 2 sees a bumper £130,000 card with all eight races as qualifiers or prep races for the Cheltenham Festival the following month. Regular sponsors John Smiths and Albert Bartlett again support the day, while Pertemps sponsor for the first time when they back the only Scottish qualifier for the Pertemps Series, which has its final at the Festival.
With Easter falling late in 2014, Musselburgh have a near two month break between the jumping programme and the start of the summer fixtures. June is the busiest month with four meetings, beginning with the £60,000 Edinburgh Cup on Saturday, June 7, with a two-day fixture the following weekend that includes the ever-popular Ladies Day on Saturday, June 14.
Tickets are already going well for what is always a sell-out day when the £100,000 Scottish Sprint Cup takes place.
The popular family days have been pencilled in for Tuesday, July 22 and Sunday, September 28 – the Royal Regiment of Scotland raceday – while the Archerfield Cup is the highlight on August 8.
The flat programme has over £1.1m on offer and ends with the Scottish flat season finale on Saturday, October 11 with a £70,000 programme bringing down the curtain down on racing North of the Border.
“The weekend is when most people are able to go racing and we are also mindful of being part of an area which is a premier tourist attraction and that many visitors come to this part of the world – especially at weekends,” said Farnsworth. “That is a market we feel we have tapped into successfully and we hope that continues.
“We still have our fair share of mid-week fixtures to provide sport for the off-course market, but we are certainly excited about the line-up for next year.”
Musselburgh 2014 fixtures
January – 1st, 3rd, 17th.
Feb – 2nd, 12th, 24th.
April – 18th, 20th.
May – 2nd, 12th, 23rd.
June 7th, 13th, 14th, 27th.
July – 22nd.
Aug – 1st, 8th, 20th.
Sept – 5th, 15th, 28th.
Oct – 11th.
Nov – 6th, 7th, 28th.
Dec – 8th.