MUSSELBURGH Racecourse kicks off the Scottish flat season on Easter Saturday with a £250,000-plus meeting, which includes the first running of a race named in honour of Her Majesty The Queen.
The East Lothian course was given special permission by the monarch to stage the Queen’s Cup following her visit last July to mark the track’s Bi-Centenary Year.
Adding to the royal theme of Easter Saturday’s opener, Musselburgh also stages the £50,000 Royal Mile Handicap for quality three-year-olds over a mile distance.
While in an added attraction, Grand National winning horse One for Arthur will be paraded on the day.
The first Scottish-trained horse to win the Grand National since Rubstick in 1979, One For Arthur is guaranteed a rapturous welcome at the county track when paraded.
No stranger to Musselburgh, where she is a regular National Hunt winner, One For Arthur trainer Lucinda Russell has been overwhelmed by the reaction to the eight-year-old’s win and said the victory was a great boost for everyone working at her yard in Milnathort, near Kinross.
One For Arthur is part-owned by Gullane resident Debs Thomson who, with friend Belinda McClung, bought the horse under the tongue-in-cheek name Two Golf Widows, in referen
Groom Jamie Duff, who missed out on an Aintree presentation because she was busy cooling down One For Arthur, will be presented with a commemorative cup at Musselburgh.
The £100,000 Queen’s Cup is a stayers’ handicap to be run over 1m 6f and racecourse chief executive Bill Farnsworth is hoping it will become established as the first leg of the UK’s major staying handicaps, alongside the likes of the Chester Cup, Northumberland Plate and York’s Ebor.
More than £1.2 million in prize money will be on offer over the 16-fixture season, which stretches to October, an increase of £200,000 from last season.
Mr Farnsworth said: “We have a superb series of fixtures throughout the flat season and we are setting the tone on Easter Saturday with a high-quality meeting, including the new Queen’s Cup.
“We were honoured when Her Majesty gave permission to name this race after her and our ambition is to establish it as one of the flat season’s recognised major stayers’ handicaps and a precursor to pedigree races at Chester, Newcastle and York.”
Doors open at 11.30am, with the first race at 1.50pm and the last race at 5.05pm.
Musselburgh last week announced the £210,000 Edinburgh Cup Race Day on June 3 had agreed a sponsorship deal with Edinburgh Gin.
With a 7,000 attendance expected, the Edinburgh Cup grows in stature each season, and with the winner claiming £80,000 – up from £60,000 and now a Class 2 handicap – the race is primed as stepping stone for horses gearing up for The Queen’s Vase at Royal Ascot.
At the same meeting, Musselburgh has secured a new Class 1 event, the Maggie Dickson Fillies and Mares Listed Race.
Arguably Musselburgh’s premier event of the season, the Stobo Castle Ladies Day on June 10, features one of the UK’s fastest races, the £100,000 William Hill Sprint Cup.
Ladies Day is a high-point on the Scottish social calendar and adding pizazz to the proceedings will be celebrity television fashion expert Gok Wan.