A Guide to the Ayr Gold Cup Festival

Features | 16th September 2023

The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival is Scotland’s biggest Flat meeting. The feature race is Europe’s most valuable sprint handicap and it is also one of the most historic.


The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup Festival – often referred to as the Western Meeting – is a three-day fixture. It starts at Ayr Racecourse on Thursday 21 September and finishes on Saturday 23.

Dress Code

The Club Stand and hospitality areas have a smart-casual dress code. Most visitors dress smartly. Trainers and torn denims are not allowed.

There is no official dress code in the Grandstand but football shirts are not permitted in any enclosure.

There are some fantastic prizes being handed out for the most stylish gent, most stylish lady, most stylish couple and most stylish hat as part of the Ladies’ Day celebrations on Friday.


Despite being one of the UK’s most northly racecourses, it is easily accessible from all parts. The track is just 10 minutes from Prestwick International Airport and 40 minutes from Glasgow Airport.

The railway station is just five minutes in a taxi or 25 minutes’ walk. There are regular services connecting with the main rail network. By road, Glasgow is less than 40 miles from Ayr via the M77/A77. Edinburgh is less than 85 miles.

There is ample parking at Ayr Racecourse and it’s free.

TIcket Prices

Three-day ticket – Club Stand £81; Grandstand £48.

Thursday – Club Stand £26; Grandstand £20.

Friday – Club Stand £35; Grandstand £25.

Saturday – Club Stand £55; Grandstand £30.

There are discounts for groups, students and other concessions.

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Fashion Ayr Gold Cup Festival

Racing Highlights


The Festival kicks off with a seven-race card. The feature contest is the Virgin Bet Kilkerran Cup. Run over 1m2f, the winners of this competitive handicap are presented with one of the track’s oldest trophies.

The Phoenix Wealth Solutions EBF Novice Stakes was won last year by Kevin Ryan’s Hi Royal. He went on to be placed in both the 2000 Guineas and the Irish version of the Classic.


Ladies’ Day is headlined by two Listed races. The British EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes is for two-year-olds and has a habit of throwing up smart sprinters. The 5f contest has been won by subsequent Group 1 winners Quiet Reflection and Winter Power in recent years.

The Arran Scottish Sprint EBF is for fillies and mares. Trainer Michael Dods is the man to follow – he has won the race three times since it was introduced in 2017.


The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup tops the bill on the final day. It is one of the most hotly-contested sprint handicaps of the season and has been won by some topclass sprinters down the years. Lochsong, Continent and Regal Parade all lifted the prestigious trophy.

Last year, popular veteran Summerghand came out on top and he could be back to attempt to retain his crown. The supporting races include the Listed Virgin Bet Doonside Cup and the Group 3 Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Stakes.

Summerghand wins the Ayr Gold Cup
Summerghand and Danny Tudhope (no 8) winning The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup

After Racing

There’s no need to rush off after racing as there’s plenty going on at the racecourse. On Thursday, there will be live music from Chart Society in the Princess Royal Suite for three hours.

The will also be post-racing entertainment on Friday and Saturday as well. The racecourse is to the north of the town on the west coast of Scotland. It is extremely easy to get to the vibrant town centre where racegoers are well catered for. Whether it’s a pre-racing breakfast, a few drinks or a tasty supper, there are plenty of cafes, pubs and restaurants to choose from.

Tourist Attractions

Ayr and the surrounding area is a hotspot for golf. Royal Troon is the most famous course within easy reach. It has staged The Open Championship on nine occasions but there are more than a dozen other courses within 40 miles of Ayr catering for golfers of all standards.

Famous Scottish poet Robert Burns was born in Alloway, just a mile or so south of Ayr. Anyone interested in finding out more about the ‘Bard of Ayrshire’ can head to the fascinating Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, complete with its monument and gardens. They can also visit his
childhood home and follow the Poet’s Path.

There is miles of stunning beaches surrounding Ayr. They are perfect for a bracing walk or a gentle stroll in the sunshine. The views need to be seen to be believed and there are plenty of spots to enjoy an ice cream.

Other popular attractions include the Heads Of Ayr Farm Park, Belleisle Gardens and the Gaiety Theatre, as well as Rozelle House Museum and Galleries.