Racing: Musselburgh plan to build on successful summer with national hunt extravaganza

Racecourse manager Bill Farnsworth is pleased with Musselburgh's performance. Pic: TSPL
Racecourse manager Bill Farnsworth is pleased with Musselburgh's performance. Pic: TSPL
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Musselburgh enjoyed their best-ever summer campaign this year with record attendances – and the East Lothian track has been shortlisted for several racing industry awards.

Fine weather helped boost the crowds with just short of 43,000 paying customers for the 17 summer flat racing fixtures – an overall increase of eight per cent - but all the major racedays saw much-improved attendances.

“We got off to a great start when our Easter fixture saw a 62 per cent increase and the switch to a new date in September for the Edinburgh Cup led to another 40 per cent boost in the attendance for that day,” said racecourse boss Bill Farnsworth.

“The weather was kind all summer, the Stobo Castle Ladies Day in June was a sell-out again and our family day in July say more than 4000 turn up for a mid-week fixture, including 1000 children.

“It has been almost unbelievable. On the track we had some really good class competitive racing and the number of runners held up really well. It could not have been better.”

Local owner Gerry McGlavery was the track’s top owner for the summer season, having also taken that accolade for last winter’s jumping campaign, while Musselburgh have retained their VisitScotland five-star status.

Senior Operations and Commercial Manager Sarah Montgomery said: “Advance sales were up nine per cent and prize money was up six per cent compared to the previous year too, Customer experience is central to everything we do and we shall be trying hard to improve again.

“The owners’ experience score of 91 per cent, which is independently assessed by the Racecourse Association, means that we have retained their Gold Standard award for the 9th consecutive year.”

The team will learn next month if they have been successful in the Racecourse Association Showcase Awards, which celebrate innovation and excellence on British racecourses.

Now the team are looking ahead to the winter jumping season, with the first of the 11 National Hunt fixtures scheduled for next Wednesday (November 6).

The major winter events include the New Year’s Day meeting with £100,000 in prize money and featuring the Betway Hogmaneigh Hurdle and the Auld Reekie Handicap Chase.

“Our Hogmanay fixture has become very successful and we have put a crowd limit of 6000 on that day,” said Farnsworth. “It will be a sell-out and the action will feature on the ITV coverage from Cheltenham.

“We again have our two day Cheltenham Trials meeting early in February which also features the Edinburgh National over four miles – the longest race we have ever staged. We expect there will be £250,000 in prize money over the two days.

“And on Friday, March 20, we stage the first day of the Great North Festival. It is a three day festival embracing Musselburgh, Kelso and Carlisle and we will have four hurdle race finals as the culmination of the Northern Lights series, which runs on all the Northern tracks through the winter.

“Kelso will stage a very attractive card the following day and Carlisle are putting on the finals of the steeple chasing series on the Sunday. There will be £500,000 in prize money over the weekend and it should prove to be a real boost for grass roots jump racing up here in our area.”