A RICH AND FASCINATING HISTORY
There’s been racing in or near Musselburgh since 1777, when meetings were organised by the Royal Caledonian Hunt.
After an absence of 27 years in 1816, the sport returned to Musselburgh permanently at a track laid out by the local town council.
Members of the hunt were, reportedly, so pleased with the track they distributed a sum of 50 guineas amongst the town’s poor to mark the opening of the course.
Racing has remained at the site, on the banks of the Firth Of Forth, just six miles to the east of Edinburgh city centre, ever since.
Scottish tracks were hit hard by the legalisation of betting shops in 1960s when racecourse attendances fell across Britain. Both Lanark and Bogside were forced to close but Musselburgh weathered the storm. Despite a few bumps in the road it is now a thriving, integral part of the local community.
There is a nine-hole golf course at the site, mainly in the middle of the track, that predates the racecourse by more than 100 years. It was where the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club was founded before moving a few furlongs up the coast to its current location at Prestongrange.
The racecourse was called Edinburgh up until 1996 when it officially adopted the name it was known by among most Scottish racing fans. It is a dual purpose course. The jumps track is a right-handed circuit of around a mile and a quarter.
As it is flat and made up of two long straights with two fairly sharp bends, it often favours horses ridden near the pace. The bend going away from the stands is partly made up of an all-weather surface installed as the turf at that part of the course used to get churned up by the runners when the ground was heavy.
The Flat course has a five furlong straight, which has a slight dog-legged left-hand bend around halfway. It is one of the sharper sprint courses in Britain and the Scottish Sprint Cup attracts some of the quickest handicappers in Britain.
The Listed Queen Of Scots Stakes is the highest class of Flat race run at the track. Other significant contests are the Royal Mile and the Queen’s Cup. This weekend it is the jumpers who will be battling it out around Musselburgh.
In recent years, the likes of Frodon, Greaneteen and Mighty Thunder have triumphed at the Scottish Cheltenham Trials meeting before going on to better things.
There should be more future stars on display in what promises to be an exciting two days of racing at the coastal track.