Race day proves popular

Musselburgh reaps reward for New Year gamble

Musselburgh races

A gamble to bring in the New Year by launching Scotland’s only horse racing meeting has paid off handsomely for Musselburgh Racecourse.

Attendances have risen steadily since the New Year’s Day race meeting was first held in 2011, and the East Lothian track last weekend broke through 5,000 for the first time, with crowds up by 30% on last year.

The six card meeting, which carried prize money of more than £120,000, also features the world’s oldest professional athletics race, the New Year Sprint, and 2016 saw a 147 year old record smashed with the first female sprinter claiming the coveted title.

More than 5,400 horseracing and athletics fans were on their feet to roar home 18-year-old Jedburgh sprinter Jazmine Tomlinson (pictured below) as she triumphed in the handicap race to win the £4,000 prize and crystal trophy.

Bill Farnsworth, general manager at the course, said he was delighted years of hard work by his staff had paid off in establishing New Year’s Day as a premier sporting event.

Winner of Musselburgh sprintHe said: “It was quite a gamble to launch the New Year’s Day meeting back in 2011 and we got off to the worst possible start when in the first two years we had to abandon the meetings because of poor weather.

“It was not a great start and attendances after this in 2013 and 2014 were pretty disappointing, which left us wondering if we’d made the correct decision, but with hindsight the slow start was understandable.”

Mr Farnsworth said a spike in attendance in 2015 finally showed the New Year’s Day meeting might fulfil its potential and laid the foundation for this week’s record attendance on 1 January.

He added: “This year we were blessed with good weather again and the day truly came of age. The racing was high class, the track looked fantastic, and the production on CCTV/Racing UK/Ch4 was top class and professional.

“The marquees, bars and restaurants coped very well under a lot of pressure, the New Year Sprint was dramatic and we watched history in the making as the race welcomed its first female winner in 147 years.

“It was all carried out in a great atmosphere and just the perfect day to showcase the excitement of jump racing. It was a great team effort and I am very proud of the entire team for a very well executed raceday.”

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