Musselburgh forced to cancel October meeting

Bill Farnsworth
Bill Farnsworth
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Flat racing in Scotland will come to a premature end this year – thanks to a new rule and the intransigence of the racing authorities.

In past seasons, Musselburgh has raced on into October on the level, but the track officials have been forced to axe that fixture and will now close the summer season on Sunday, September 27.

That leaves the meeting at Ayr on October 8 as the finale for flat racing north of the Border – almost five weeks before the curtain comes down nationally on the turf racing campaign.

The allocation of fixtures is closely regulated by the British Horserace Authority, but tracks are able to stage extra days where applicable at their own expense and with a minimum of £90,000 offered in prize money.

Musselburgh has been staging such a self-funded fixture in the second half of October, but the BHA have decided to introduce a new rule that self-funded fixtures must have a minimum of £140,000 in prize money, and so Musselburgh have been forced to opt out.

“It just seems absolutely crazy,” says Musselburgh boss Bill Farnsworth. “We introduced this fixture as we felt the racing industry in Scotland needed it at a difficult time of year.

“We actually had £92,000 in prize money in 2014 and at that sort of level we can just about break even, but the new BHA rule means it just would not make financial sense to put up an extra £50,000.”

The new rule seems to have been introduced to prevent all-weather flat tracks from putting on additional cards, but Farnsworth points out that there are no all-weather circuits in Scotland or the North of England.

“We have had talks with the BHA, pointing out the situation here in Scotland, but they have refused to budge,” he said. “They are applying the rule rigidly and it seems so unfair on owners and trainers who are based here in Scotland.

“It takes away another opportunity for horses based here to run and earn prize money.”

Of the three flat racing tracks in Scotland, Hamilton does not begin until early May and ends on Monday, September 28, while Ayr stages the Scottish National meeting in mid-April so cannot begin the flat racing season until the end of that month. By then, the rest of Britain has been flat racing on turf for more than a month. While Musselburgh begins over the Easter weekend early in April, there is then a six-week break to the next meeting on May 11.