Musselburgh dangles £1m carrot as Flat season starts

Musselburgh gets the Scottish Flat season under way tomorrow with the double header Betfred Easter Festival and is putting up more than £1 million prize money over its 17-fixture campaign.

The Easter Saturday Royal Mile Handicap meeting boasts a £108,000 prize pot and has attracted a quality field vying for the £50,000 feature race, the Royal Mile Handicap and supporting £20,000 Totepool Borderlescott Sprint Trophy, while the Easter Sunday family day meeting features the £25,000 Musselburgh Gold Cup.

Other seasonal highlights at the East Lothian course include the Totepool Edinburgh Cup Day on 1 June and a glamorous double header on 14 and 15 June with Stobo Castle Ladies Day on the Friday, followed by the £100,000 plus William Hill Scottish Sprint Cup meeting on the Saturday.

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Musselburgh racecourse chief, Bill Farnsworth said: “We have broken the £1m prize watermark for the first time and that has been a continual progression, tweaking the programme to make the best use of what we have at Musselburgh and working closely with our sponsors. Kicking off the season with the £50,000 Royal Mile Handicap on Easter Saturday, this sets out our stall for quality racing over the summer.”

Kingsley House trainer Mark Johnston will make a bold bid to land tomorrow’s Royal Mile Handicap with a powerful hand of four runners headed by recent all-weather winner Fraserburgh.

The Royal Mile Handicap has attracted a field of 11 runners, including the tough-as-teak Top Notch Tonto, from the yard of Ian McInnes. Top Notch Tonto progressed to win a valuable Ayr nursery in September before ending his 2012 campaign with a commendable third in Pontefract’s listed Silver Tankard.

Horses trained by David Barron always merit consideration at Musselburgh and his Newstead Abbey must not be underestimated. This improving three-year-old is bidding for a three-timer after two clear-cut wins at Wolverhampton. Last time out, Newstead Abbey showed an impressive burst of speed to quicken through a narrow gap and beat Skytrain and his finishing speed could be the key to a third success.

Seven runners go to post for the £20,000 totepool Borderlescott Sprint Trophy staged in honour of the Scottish-owned multiple listed and group race winner who retired last year. This valuable conditions race would appear to be a match between the evergreen course specialist Hamish McGonagall and the 2011 Prix de l’Abbaye hero Tangerine Trees.

The latter is set to receive plenty of weight from Hamish McGonagall and trainer Bryan Smart has been in winning form on the all-weather circuit. Musselburgh regulars, however, are unlikely to desert Tim Easterby’s old favourite Hamish McGonagall who has such an impressive record in this race over the past seasons.

Jim Goldie is regularly in the money at Musselburgh’s first turf meeting of the season and the Uplawmoor trainer will fancy his chances of going close in the £13,000 7f handicap at 4.45 with his course winner Rasaman. This proven handicapper has to be held up for a late run and, should the gaps not come in time, then Ruth Carr’s Klynch, an unlucky third at Southwell, could be the one to take advantage.