Musselburgh Racecourse

Published: 15/08/2013

Originally known as Edinburgh Racecourse, Musselburgh Racecourse is located in East Lothian near the settlement of Musselburgh, about eight miles to the east of Edinburgh, Scotland. It features a dual-purpose, seaside course measuring ten furlongs with an elongated oval shape and sharp, right-handed gradients. Hosted here is a combination of flat racing and National Hunt meetings for a total of 24 fixtures throughout the year. Standout events include the Musselburgh Gold Cup in April as well as the Edinburgh Cup Heritage Handicap and the Scottish Sprint Cup Handicap Stakes conducted in June.

Surviving and Thriving

Scotland’s national pastime is golf, of course, so it may come as no surprise that in the middle of the Musselburgh Racecourse is a nine-hole golf course. It actually predates the track with a history stretching back to at least 1672. The Royal Musselburgh Golf Club was founded on the property in 1774, and it was not until 1816 that horse racing became part of the picture, having moved to its current location from race meetings originally held on the sands at Leith.

Hungry for entertainment, crowds in excess of 15,000 were commonplace in the early days of the then “Edinburgh Racecourse.” They gathered to witness the very rich and the aristocracy race their horses against one another in non-commercial contests that were more like outdoor festivals than serious sporting events. Up through the 1950s, racing served as the public’s only legal outlet for betting, too.

When off-track betting shops were legalised 1963, attendance at the racecourse began to fall. By the 1980s, it appeared that the heyday of Edinburgh racing might be coming to an end. If not for new technology in 1987 that enabled pictures of races to be sold to betting shops, the racecourse would not be here today.

In 1991, the East Lothian Council took over the running of the course from Lothian’s Racing Syndicate Limited and renamed it “Musselburgh Racecourse.” Three years later, a partnership was formed between the two entities—the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC)—which allowed a visionary and ambitious investment programme to be put in place in 1995.

Since then, over £7.5 million has been spent on upgrading facilities at Musselburgh Racecourse. Among the results were construction of the prestigious new “Queen’s Stand,” the refurbishment of the Edwardian Grandstand and all public areas, the building of the Links Pavilion, a new weighing room, a new parade ring, new stables and ground staff facilities plus extensive landscaping and improvements to the track itself.

Attendances rocketed from 38,000 per annum in 1999 to over 70,000 today. By 2006, the course had been cited for having some of the best horse racing facilities in Scotland and was awarded “5-Star Visitor Attraction” status by Visit Scotland. Indeed, trainer Jim Goldie, whose stables are nearby in Uplawmoor, has called Musselburgh “one of his favoured tracks.”

Racing at Musselburgh Today

In addition to flat racing and National Hunt meetings held throughout the year, Musselburgh Racecourse has been known to host harness meetings during the summer months. Among featured highlights on the annual calendar are the New Years Day Jumps, John Smith’s Scottish Cheltenham Trials Raceday in February, the Easter Weekend races, Edinburgh Cup Day and Stobo Castle Ladies Day featuring the Scottish Sprint Cup in June, and the Royal Regiment of Scotland Family Day in September. There’s also Saints and Sinners Raceday as well as St. Andrew’s Day in November.

General admission starts at £16 for adults on standard racedays or £21 for seasonal highlights. Prices are slightly higher for the Edinburgh Cup and Ladies Day, costing £25 and £30, respectively. There are discounts for advance purchase and juniors under 18 years of age are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. A variety of packages are also available for £37 and up, ranging from the outdoor “Picnic Tables” and “Campers & Hampers” to Private Boxes, Epperston Restaurant Packages and Silver, Gold and Premium Suites.

Published on: 15/08/2013

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