Musselburgh embark on a new flat season with record prize money and high hopes of being given a Royal approval.
For the seaside venue celebrates its 200th anniversary with a special fixture in July, when it is hoped that a senior member of the Royal family could be in attendance.
The Bi-Centenary Cup is the highlight of the Bi-centenary race meeting on Friday, July 8. Although the actual race conditions have yet to be framed, it is expected to be a valuable handicap over a mile for three-year-olds – just the sort of event that would attract a runner in some very famous colours.
“It will be a big day – the sort of thing to celebrate 200 years – and we are hoping to be graced by a Royal presence,” said Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth, “although nothing has been finalised yet.”
Despite the crushing blow of losing today’s prestigious Good Friday meeting with its £165,000 in prize money and a new sponsor in online bookmakers Bet 365, the East Lothian track is forging ahead with almost £1.2million in prize money spread over 18 fixtures during the summer months. And with the jumps programme carrying a further £650,000 it means that total prize money on offer this calendar year tops £1.83m.
“It’s fantastic and we are so grateful to our sponsors and everyone else who supports us,” said Bill. “We had record crowds for our winter programme and have fingers crossed for a hot, sunny summer and some great racing.”
The mid-summer period marks the zenith of the Musselburgh programme, for as well as the special Bi-Centenary fixture, the William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup takes place on Saturday, June 11.
The Channel 4 cameras will broadcast this £100,000 sprint around the country, while the consolation sprint for horses who fail to make the cut into the big race has been raised to £40,000.
The Stobo Castle Cup for stayers is worth £20,000 and there will be a total of £200,000 in prize money that afternoon.
And, of course, it is Ladies’ Day with a crowd of 10,000 expected and tickets are selling like hot cakes
The previous weekend – Saturday June 4 – marks the £60,000 Edinburgh Cup featuring on a varied programme when racegoers will be able to watch the Epsom Derby live.
“The £25,000 Edinburgh Castle Stakes is the main supporting event and often draws a juvenile good enough to go on to Royal Ascot that month,” said Farnsworth and he reports that ticket sales for that first June meeting are also running ahead of last year already.
Musselburgh will race three times during the Edinburgh Trades Holiday period – on Tuesday, July 19th, Friday, July 29th and Friday, August 5th. The £25,000 Archerfield Cup will be the feature on the final day.
Two tea-time fixtures are scheduled for Friday, September 2 and Saturday. September 10. Farnsworth added: “We had a couple last year and they are mainly for the off-course betting industry, but we found that we got quite a decent crowd on the Saturday and are hoping for a repeat this time around especially as we will again stage some harness racing before the thoroughbred card starts.”
Last week’s decision to abandon today’s meeting after new turf laid last summer on the bend after the winning line as part of a £140,000 project took longer than expected to bed in because of the wet winter was a body blow.
“We were gutted,” said Farnsworth. “All seemed to be going well until we worked some horses around the bend in a trial and things just weren’t right. We need some warmth and sunshine and then I am sure all will be well.”
The curtain falls on October 11 with a mid-week fixture that the track bought from the BHA in the annual fixtures auction, while there will be family days with all the fun of the fair for free and lots for keep the younger racegoers entertained.
Musselburgh host flat meetings on these days: Sunday, April 24; Friday, April 29; Monday, May 9; Friday, May 27; Saturday, June 4; Saturday, June 11; Monday, June 27; Friday, July 8; Tuesday, July 19; Friday, July 29; Friday, August 5; Wednesday, August 24; Thursday, August 25; Friday, September 2; Saturday, September 10; Sunday, September 25; Tuesday, October 11.