Racing: Musselburgh set for Easter bonanza

Musselburgh launches the Scottish Flat season today with a two-day Totepool Easter Festival, starting with a Good Friday card with £170,000 prize money and following up with its traditional Easter Sunday Family Day.
Irish raider Bayan, left, could be well suited to todays Balmoral Cup at Musselburgh. Picture: GettyIrish raider Bayan, left, could be well suited to todays Balmoral Cup at Musselburgh. Picture: Getty
Irish raider Bayan, left, could be well suited to todays Balmoral Cup at Musselburgh. Picture: Getty

The East Lothian track made UK racing history last year when it became the first track to stage turf racing on Good Friday and general manager Bill Farnsworth views this fixture as a platform for establishing a three-day Easter Festival in years to come.

“It’s all systems go and with prize money of £1.15 million over our 16-fixture Flat season we have managed to increase the average prize money to £70,000 per race meeting,” said Farnsworth.

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“We have an excellent combination of superb prize money and quality horses on Good Friday, our popular Easter Sunday Family Day appeals to all ages and features the Musselburgh Gold Cup. Our longer term ambition is to make this a three-day Easter Festival with the introduction of jumps fixtures and we are working towards that.”

With two £50,000 feature races both shown live on Channel 4, it is little surprise today’s meeting has attracted some of the country’s leading trainers.

Last year’s champion trainer Mark Johnston landed the Brocklesby Condition Stakes at Doncaster last weekend with Ravenhoe and he is out to grab the Musselburgh version in the £15,000 Scottish Brocklesby Condition Stakes with Sixth Sense ridden by Joe Fanning. However, trainer David O’Meara will put in a strong challenge with Brocklesby runner-up First Bombardment.

In the first running of the £50,000 Balmoral Cup Handicap, Mark Johnston’s recent all-weather winner Fire Fighting is in fine form, as is Richard Fahey’s Gabrial The Terror.

However, the 1m 6f stamina test could play into the hands of successful dual purpose performer Bayan, an eye-catching Irish raider from the powerful Gordon Elliott yard, which has shown great form over hurdles.

In the £50,000 Totequadpot Royal Mile Handicap, William Haggas, who has a 36 per cent strike rate with his Newmarket raiders, has booked Paul Hanagan for the ride on Tadqeeq, while Malton trainer John Quinn has entered Moonlightnavigator, a convincing course winner last summer. 
Borderlescott would be a hugely popular winner if the veteran sprinter were to take the £25,000 5f Totepool Sprint Trophy named in his honour.

However, the locally owned 13-year-old, now in the hands of Robin Bastiman’s daughter Beccy, will face an uphill task in the attempt to outspeed the likes of David Barron’s progressive Robot Boy, Kevin Ryan’s Blaine, the winner of the Gimcrack at two, who bounced back to form last year winning a handicap at York and finishing third in the Ayr Gold Cup, and Jim Goldie’s classy Hawkeyethenoo.

Uplawmoor-based Goldie said: “He’s shown on the gallops recently that he is back to his best, his work has been brilliant and Hawkeyethenoo could be a horse to follow on the Flat this season.”