Musselburgh commemorates late Prince Philip and aims to break record

A new race commemorating the HRH Prince Philip will be launched on Wednesday (November 2) at the opening meeting of Musselburgh racecourse’s jumps season – and the track is also aiming to break its attendance record on New Year’s Day.

The East Lothian course received Royal approval to mark the late Duke of Edinburgh’s visits to the course by staging the Prince Philip Perpetual Challenge Cup, a £25,000 stayers’ chase over three and a half miles, on Wednesday. It will start a busy 11-fixture National Hunt season, which includes the traditional New Year’s Day meeting, the bet365 Scottish Cheltenham Trials weekend in early February, and the Go North festival in late March.

With advance ticket sales for New Year’s Day doing well, racecourse general manager Bill Farnsworth has revealed the track capacity has been increased to 7,000. If the meeting sells out, it would be a modern-day record attendance at a Musselburgh jumps meeting.

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He said: “We were heading for a sell-out last New Year’s Day but due to the pre-Christmas Covid spike the meeting had to be held behind-closed doors. That was obviously very disappointing, but we hope to build on this to kick off 2023 in great style, and with a full house at Musselburgh there is no better place to be on the first of January.”

The Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to Musselburgh Racecourse in East Lothian in 2016. Picture: Andrew Milligan/PA

On top of an excellent race card, race goers will have the added bonus of witnessing the running of the world’s oldest amateur athletics race as the famous New Year Sprint returns to Musselburgh after a short break. The bet365 Scottish Cheltenham Trials over the weekend of 4-5 February will boast prize money of more than £250,000 with the Scottish County Hurdle and Edinburgh National races on the Saturday carrying prize money of £40,000 and £50,000, respectively.

The feature race on the Sunday is the Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial which has increased prize money from £25,000 to £40,000. Farnsworth added: “This is Musselburgh’s only Class 1 race and with the support of the British Horseracing Authority, we are delighted to have been able to increase the prize fund.”

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The Go North Race Day on Friday 24 March closes Musselburgh’s jumps season and is part of a weekend festival of racing which includes Kelso and Carlisle racecourses.

The Duke of Edinburgh walks through the crowds during a visit to Musselburgh Racecourse in 2016. Picture: Andrew Milligan / PA