THOUSANDS of punters descended on Musselburgh to enjoy Scotland’s first ever Good Friday race meet.
Warm Bank Holiday weather inspired a day of fine frocks, champagne and wagers – with organisers declaring the event such a success they want to develop it into a three-day festival in the future.
Bill Farnsworth, general manager at Musselburgh, said: “When people think of Easter, we want them to think of Musselburgh in the same way people think of Kempton on Boxing Day. We want to give it its own identity.”
The glorious weather saw temperatures reach a high of 18C with a crowd of more than 3200 enjoying the action.Organisers described the turnout as “very good” given that this was an inaugural event on a date never before associated with racing.
Mr Farnsworth added: “It was a happy crowd and they were certainly getting into the racing judging by the noise .
“It was nice to see people enjoying the champagne, the weather, and bucket-loads of high-quality racing.”
In the racing itself, there was a near fairytale victory for sprinter Borderlescott in a race named after him. But the 12-year-old, who came out of retirement, was unlucky to lose by a nose to four-year-old Smoothtalkinrascal.
DJ, radio presenter and former TV presenter John Leslie, who was there with his pals backed Smoothtalkinrascal – which his friends joked was “very appropriate”.
The DJ said: “It’s been an excellent day. It’s a great idea to have a meet on Good Friday, everybody is really well dressed and has made an effort.”
Between them Bookmakers Betfred and Totepool reported takings of just under £60,000, not including the takings made by the independent turf accountants ringside.
Peter Collins, of Punters Pal, said business had “not been exceptional”.
“But that’s only to be expected because Good Friday is more of a family day,” he said. “If they can develop it as a three-day event, it would be a good achievement for the track.”
Sipping his Pimms and ginger, Frank Dolan, 57, of North Eliburn, Livingston, made an effort and was wearing his kilt. He said: “It’s been a fantastic day. My highlight so far has been seeing Tangerine Trees. He’s done well for us in the past but not today!”
Leigh Iles, 32, was on his stag do. Dressed as a princess he suffered a number of wardrobe malfunctions – but there was better news on the betting .
He said: “I won £500 on the first two races, which is great considering how much I’ve had to drink. There’s 36 of us up here from Bristol especially for the first Good Friday race here.”
Laura Allan, 36, of Inverness, the bride on a hen party, was with her friends and a hobby-horse called Magic. “It’s a brilliant atmosphere. I’ve won £130 so I’m going to make a day of it,” she said.