Musselburgh Racecourse kicks off a record breaking summer season with a new fixture on Easter Saturday which features a new race – the £100,000 Queen’s Cup.
There will be more than £1.25million on offer in prize money in the next seven months and the new race – a handicap for older horses over a mile and three quarters – came about after Her Majesty gave permission to name a race after her during her visit last summer to mark the bi-centenary of the East Lothian track.
The first of 16 fixtures on the flat this year sees long-standing Musselburgh sponsors Totepool back the whole of the seven-race card, which also includes the £50,000 Royal Mile and opens the flat racing season in Scotland.
Musselburgh pioneered the implementation of racing on Good Friday and have raced on that date for the past three years, but now the fixture moves to Easter Saturday and is highly unlikely to move back again.
“We are delighted to be able to stage a new race in honour of Her Majesty’s visit here last year and are looking forward to moving to racing on the Saturday,” said racecourse general manager Bill Farnsworth.
“There is £210,000 in prize money and we will have major terrestrial TV coverage. Four of our races will be broadcast by ITV who are making Musselburgh their base for the day.”
Farnsworth is hoping for a crowd of around 5000 and reports that advance sales for the track’s other two big dates in June are well up on last year.
“We are limiting the crowd on our Ladies Day on Saturday, June 17 to 10,000 and it will be a sell-out again, while tickets for Edinburgh Cup Day on Saturday, June 3 are also going fast,” he said.
The £80,000 Edinburgh Cup will again be sponsored by Edinburgh Gin and is a 1m 6f stayers event for three-year-olds and has been specifically upgraded in distance so that it becomes a prep race for the Group Three Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot a fortnight or so later.
“The Ascot race has been reduced from two miles to one-and-threequarter miles and our race distance stepped up to that trip from one-and-a-half miles so that it becomes a stepping stone to the Queen’s Vase. Who would ever have thought that we could talk of Musselburgh and Royal Ascot in the same breath,” Farnsworth said.
Last year’s race was won by Dal Harraild, who went on to win at the Glorious Goodwood festival and at Newmarket and Farnsworth is hopeful that the new race will put Musselburgh firmly in the centre of the programme for the staying stars of the future.
Major bookmakers William Hill again back the £100,000 Scottish Sprint Cup – to be held on Ladies Day and the £40,000 consolation event for those horses who do not make it into the big race line-up and ITV coverage will again be beamed form the seaside venue.
Five of Musselburgh’s 16 dates are on a Friday and Farnsworth said: “They work very well. People often finish work early that day to start the weekend and the level of corporate hospitality is also high on that day. Money earned from media rights and the Levy Board is also dictated by the level of betting turnover a race day generates and we have found that Fridays do well in that sense too”.
There are four evening fixtures and one twilight meeting, which is scheduled for Saturday, September 16 – Doncaster St Leger day and the final Classic of the season.
Another new race, the £20,000 Caledonian Cup – a handicap for three-year-olds over one-and-threequarter miles – is the feature on that day, while the meeting on the evening of July 14 is a new fixture with £75,000 prize pot.
August is the busiest month with four fixtures, while two family fun days have been arranged for Tuesday, July 25 and Sunday, October 1.
Musselburgh will bring down the curtain on flat racing in Scotland for the year when they race on Monday, October 16. A decent card will feature two £20,000 events – the Flying Scotsman Conditions Sprint and a 7f handicap – and provide a fitting conclusion to what already looks like the most successful summer season on the old links.
MUSSELBURGH FLAT FIXTURES
Saturday, April 15
Thursday, May 4 (e)
Friday, May 5
Friday, May 26 (e)
Saturday, June 3
Saturday, June 17
Friday, July 14 (e)
Tuesday, July 25
Friday, August 4 (e)
Friday, August 11
Wednesday, August 30
Thursday, August 31
Friday, September 8
Saturday, September 16
Sunday, October 1
Saturday, October 16
• (e) denotes evening meeting