Musselburgh races brings in New Year with knockout six-race card

There is no guest appearance by undisputed world boxing champion Josh Taylor as was planned for Musselburgh’s Betway New Year’s Day meeting, but there is a knockout programme of high quality jumps racing.

By Stephen Rafferty
Friday, 31st December 2021, 6:03 pm
Updated Friday, 31st December 2021, 6:04 pm
Musselburgh's New Year's Day meeting will go ahead behind closed doors
Musselburgh's New Year's Day meeting will go ahead behind closed doors

In line with Scotland’s Covid-19 guidance on large sporting events, the traditional January 1 meeting is being staged behind closed doors with a limited 500-strong attendance restricted to owners, trainers and the course’s annual members.

Musselburgh was ready to welcome a capacity crowd of 6,000 but those not able to attend can take some solace that three feature races on the £105,000 six-fixture card will be broadcast live on ITV. All ticket holders (and for the Januar y 3 meeting) have been offered a transfer to a future race day or a full refund.

In the £30,000 Betway Hogmaneigh Handicap Hurdle (2.10pm), last year’s hero Blakeney Point is one of four course and distance winners lining up in this two mile contest. He is trained by Donald McCain, who is also represented by Fiveandtwenty - another scorer on the same card 12 months ago.

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Also worth watching is Tommy’s Oscar, trained in Northumberland by Ann Hamilton, and a gallant runner-up in the Scottish Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Musselburgh in February, coming off wins at Doncaster and Haydock.

The other £30,000 feature is the Betway “Auld Reekie” Handicap Chase (2.50pm) over 2m 4f. In a tight-looking betting heat, Bryony Frost rides the likely favourite Paul Nicholls-trained Amour De Nuit, who was third in the 2018 Scottish County Hurdle.

Gaelik Coast also lines up in this one and is looking to register a third course and distance win.

Successful at the East Lothian track in October, the McCain-trained gelding lost all chance in the early stages at Newbury last time when he slipped before the first fence.

Not surprisingly, he could never get going after that and was well-beaten in a race won by Fanion D'Estruval. He can show he is better than that.

Frost, also booked by Nicholls for the mount on Carry On The Magic in the opening race, the Betway First Foot Juvenile Hurdle (12.30pm), is returning to where her career was launched. It was back in 2015 at Musselburgh that she gained her maiden success under Rules on Current Event, and her current strike-rate of 45 per-cent (five wins from 11 mounts) is the best she has recorded at any British jumps venue.

Midlothian teenager Conner McCann has gained all three of his wins so far at Musselburgh and rides Aurora Thunder for his boss, Kinross-based trainer Lucinda Russell, in the £20,000 Betway Hair Of The Dog Handicap Hurdle (1.40pm).

Musselburgh Racecourse general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: “Our Betway New Year’s Day meeting is one of our jumps season highlights and for those fortunate to attend in person and others watching on ITV we have a cracking programme lined up.

“It was extremely disappointing and a considerable financial hit for us to have to take the meeting behind closed doors and this means we can only welcome owners, trainers and our Annual Members.

“We share the frustration of the 6,000 racing fans who planned to bring in the New Year at Musselburgh, however, the safety and health of our customers, staff and racing industry personnel, is paramount and we are following all Scottish Government guidelines to minimise risk.