FOR those who are unaware of the British Horseracing Authority’s method of giving approval to racecourses, it is crucial to know that the “class” of races at a track is a genuine indication of its standing.
The highest-ranked Group and Listed ratings tend not to be allocated to races at smaller tracks, so it is a considerable coup for Musselburgh Racecourse to be staging its first-ever Listed jumps race, the John Smith’s Scottish Triumph Hurdle Trial.
The Trial is one of five races valued at £20,000 or more at today’s John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials Day, a meeting which the East Lothian course has worked hard to build up over recent years. and which is now seen as a genuine curtain raiser for next month’s Cheltenham Festival.
Proof of the quality of racing on show today is that leading trainers Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls will go head-to-head for the first time at Musselburgh. The in-form Venetia Williams, Irish raider Gordon Elliot and well respected Northern circuit trainers Donald McCain and Lucinda Russell, plus perennial champion jockey AP McCoy and Grand National-winning rider Ryan Mania, are all participating so Scottish jumps fans are in for a treat.
Musselburgh general manager Bill Farnsworth, pictured, said: “Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls are akin to the Manchester City and Chelsea of the jumps world and it’s great to see them coming up here for what is arguably our strongest ever jumps fixture. They have both competed in this fixture in previous years but not together and it’s a tasty prospect to have them battling it out at Musselburgh.
“That’s not to say the big guns will have it all their way and our regular racegoers will be watching with interest to see the strength of resistance put up from Lucinda and Donald and other closer-to-home trainers like John Quinn and Malcolm Jefferson, to make sure they retain a share of the spoils.”
Farnsworth added: “There is always a strong Scottish contingent in the crowd at Cheltenham and I think many follow the progress of horses which have competed well at Musselburgh and go on to feature at the Festival. We are building a track record of Musselburgh winners which go on to do well at Cheltenham and I think this year will add to that reputation.”