Racing: Musselburgh crowds take another jump

A horse in the pool at Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle stables. Picture: Getty
A horse in the pool at Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle stables. Picture: Getty
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Musselburgh has enjoyed one of its most successful jumps racing campaigns ever with attendance up by more than 50 per cent over the ten-fixture season, which offered more than £600,000 in prize-money.

The 18,142 fans through the turnstiles represents an impressive 52 per cent rise, up from 11,927 the previous year, albeit there were three more meetings in 2013/14.

The East Lothian track also enjoyed substantial crowd increases at its two key meetings on New Year’s Day and the John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials day, with the 1 January fixture pulling in 4,013 (3,202) and the Cheltenham Trials meeting 2,471 (2,277), up by 25 per cent and 8.5 per cent respectively.

Musselburgh general manager, Bill Farnsworth, said: “By anyone’s standards, this has been a brilliant jumps season for Musselburgh, with crowds up at our two premier meetings and this has been replicated throughout the campaign.”

Meanwhile, Jonjo O’Neill held an open day for the media ahead of Cheltenham and said he feels Taquin Du Seuil represents his best chance of success at this year’s Festival when he lines up for the JLT Novices’ Chase on 13 March.

The seven-year-old is set to face his old adversary Oscar Whisky in the two-and-a-half-mile Grade One with the score currently one each between the pair. O’Neill expects the virtually guaranteed fast pace will suit his charge.

“He will get a proper gallop in the JLT. Obviously, there is not much between Oscar Whisky and Taquin Du Seuil,” O’Neill said at a press day at his Jackdaws Castle stables. “Oscar would have more pace but Taquin is a good horse and, as long as the ground does not dry out too much, he will run well. He is best on soft ground, though I will run him on good ground. I know he likes a good pace in his races and I could not have him in better shape – he is in really good form. O’Neill also sees Goodwood Mirage as a contender for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle if he handles the undulations. “If Goodwood Mirage acts on the track, he will run a cracker,” he said.

In Dubai, leading Classic hope Ihtimal predictably proved far too good for her opponents as she produced a scintillating display in the UAE Oaks at Meydan.

Saeed bin Suroor’s Godolphin filly showed her class in Britain as a juvenile, claiming the Sweet Solera at Newmarket and the May Hill Stakes at Doncaster before finishing third behind the ill-fated Chriselliam in the Fillies’ Mile. The three-year-old made a sparkling Dubai debut in the UAE 1,000 Guineas three weeks ago and was a 4-11 favourite to follow up under jockey Silvestre de Sousa, stepping up to an extended nine furlongs for the first time.

Ihtimal was a little keen off a slow pace, but had too many gears for her opponents in the straight, coming home ten lengths clear.

The horses placed in the UAE 1,000 Guineas filled the frame again, but swapped places. Guineas third Feedyah claimed the runner-up spot, with Guineas second Mensoora third on this occasion.