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Turbulent year at Musselburgh ends on winning note

Edinburgh Gin, Musselburgh racecourse

Riding high: Musselburgh Racecourse

Musselburgh Racecourse has enjoyed one of its most successful Flat seasons with attendances on key race days this year soaring by more than 60%.

The figures top a turbulent 12 months which culminated in a change of operator at the East Lothian track. Chester Race Company, which also owns Bangor, was revealed as the winner of a bidding process for Musselburgh at a public meeting on 1 October.

Total attendance over the 17-fixture season was up by 8% from 39,920 to 42,996 while the biggest spikes were on Edinburgh Cup Day and Easter Saturday.

The Edinburgh Cup Race Day, staged on a new September date, saw attendance rise by 1230 (40%) to 4314, while Easter Saturday in April enjoyed a massive 62% boost when the crowd rose by 2138 to 5,549.

Other seasonal highlights included another capacity 10,428 crowd on Stobo Castle Ladies Day, while the new Honest Toun Community Race Day in association with The Musselburgh Festival in September, which replaced Supporting Your Services Race Day, saw a 24% increase from 2437 to 3023.

The Luca’s Ice Cream Family Day in July was another standout with attendance up by 13% to 3169 and which included just under 1000 children who were admitted free of charge.

On the turf there was also success for local owner Gerry McGladery, who claimed the Leading Owner’s championship with a winner in the last race of the season to add to his Leading Owner’s title over the jumps. It is believed the Edinburgh businessman is the first owner to win both disciplines at the same racecourse in the same year.

Sarah Montgomery, Musselburgh Racecourse’s senior operations and commercial manager, said: “Over the Flat season our advanced sales were up 9% on the previous year, actual attendances increased by 8% and prize money also increased by 6%, so all in all it was a very successful season for race goers, trainers and owners.

“The customer experience remains central to everything we do at Musselburgh and we are delighted that after a recent VisitScotland assessment we have retained our five star status. The owner’s experience score of 91%, which was independently assessed by the Racehorse Owners Association, ensured that we retained our ROA Gold Standard for a 9th successive year.”

The East Lothian track is now preparing for the first meeting of its 11-fixture National Hunt season with the first jumps meeting of 2019 on Wednesday 6 November.

The new operator takes over for an initial lease term of 10 years.

It is the second biggest racecourse in Scotland and the 14th biggest in the UK.

Chester has switched to Sky Sports Racing this year and runs its own Chester Bet on-course betting operation, but Musselburgh must fulfil its existing television and betting contracts before any change can be made.

The racecourse – which is on Common Good land – was managed until last year by Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee, which was made up of three elected East Lothian councillors and two members of Lothians Racing Syndicate, the latter representing racing interests.

However, relations between the two parties deteriorated in recent years and the British Horseracing Authority stepped in, threatening to withdraw its racing licence unless a review of the racecourse’s governance was carried out.

The council replaced the committee with a new Musselburgh Racing Associated Committee (MRAC), which has four councillors and two racing experts on it, and agreed to find a third-party operator to take over the racecourse’s management.

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