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Ayr Racecourse hosts not only Scotland’s two biggest Festivals – the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival and the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival – but all of Scotland’s top races including its only Group race and several Listed Races.
Quality is in abundance throughout the season with Ayr staging the most prestigious races under both codes – jumps and flat.
Ayr featured in Britain’s Most Valuable Jumps Handicaps in season 2015-2016
To underline the level of racing held at Ayr in a recently published table of Britain’s Most Valuable Jumps Handicaps in season 2015-2016 two of our races featured in the top 12 – the Coral Scottish Grand National at number 2 and the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle at number 12.
The full table reads
1. Crabbie’s Grand National (Aintree) £1,000,000
2. Coral Scottish Grand National (Ayr) £210,000 (£215,00 in 2017)
3. Hennessy Gold Cup (Newbury) £200,000
4. Paddy Power Gold Cup (Cheltenham) £160,000
5. Betfair Hurdle (Newbury) £155,000
6. The Ladbroke (Ascot) £150,000
7. Bet365 Gold Cup (Sandown) £150,000
8. Betfred Becher Chase (Aintree) £140,000
9. Betfred Midlands Grand National (Uttoxeter) £130,000
10. Coral Welsh Grand National (Chepstow) £120,000
11. Crabbie’s Topham Chase (Aintree) £120,000
12. QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle (Ayr) £101,000 (£105,000 in 2017)
During the jumps season pride of place goes to the Coral Scottish Grand National which boasts £215,000 in prizemoney and regularly attracts fields of 30 runners - the maximum for the race – vying to land the second biggest Saturday prize of the British national hunt season.
In 2017 Vicente, trained by Paul Nicholls and ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies, became the first horse since Androma in 1985, to win back to back Scottish Grand Nationals.
This race is the fourth biggest in terms of betting turnover in the whole of the UK.
The main supporting race on Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday is the £105,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle, one of the top five handicap hurdle races of its type in Britain. In 2017 this produced a nail biting finish with Chesterfield, trained by Seamus Mullins and ridden by Daniel Sansom winning by a short head from Zubayr.
The highlight of the flat season is the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup in September, Scotland's most valuable and famous flat race. The William Hill Ayr Silver Cup and William Hill Ayr Bronze Cup are consolation races for horses that miss the cut for the Gold Cup, which features some of the highest rated sprinters in the land.
Throughout the season there are many highlights including the Class 1 Group 3 William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes, Scotland’s only Group race, the Class 1 Listed William Hill Doonside Cup, the Class 1 Listed Shadwell Stud Harry Rosebery Stakes, the Class 1 listed Scottish Sun/British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies Land O'Burns Stakes, the Class 1 Listed British Stallion Studs EBF Tennent's Rothesay Stakes and, the brand new for 2017, Class 1 Listed Arran Scottish Fillies Sprint Stakes.
Ayr is Scotland’s premier racecourse and only Grade One track here are some of the races that underpin the high quality of racing at the course.
THE TOP RACES AT AYR
Class 1 Grade 3 Coral Scottish Grand National
This historic race run over four miles has some serious claims to fame. It is the richest jumps contest in Scotland, the second richest run on a Saturday during the national hunt season and the fourth biggest race of the year in betting turnover in the UK.
First raced at Ayr in 1966, Vicente became the first horse since Androma in 1984-1985 to win back to back Coral Scottish Grand National when beating Cogry by a neck to win to win the 2017 running following up his 2016 win for trainer Paul Nicholls. Running in the famous yellow and green colours of owner Trevor Hemmings, Vicente gave Paul Nicholls his third winner in the race having been successful with Belmont King in 1997.
Other notable winners of the race include Red Rum in 1974 who won at Ayr two weeks after winning the Grand National at Aintree.
Merigo winner of the 2010 and 2012 Coral Scottish Grand National
A spectacular leap from Vicente en route to winning the 2017 Coral Scottish Grand National with Sam Twiston-Davies riding.
Chesterfield and jockey Daniel Sansom get up in the shadow of the post to catch Zubayr and capture the Class 1 Grade 2 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle by a short head.
Le Mercurey, trianed by Paul Nicholls and riden by Sam Twiston-Davies, winner of the 2016 Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase.
William Hill Ayr Gold Cup
The richest flat race in Scotland with a total prize fund of £200,000 in 2016. One of the truly exciting races of the flat season in the UK with 25 horses hurtling down the home straight and the winner crossing the line around 70 second after leaving the stalls.
Past winners include Lochsong in 1992, a horse that twice won the Cartier Award as top European sprinter and in 1993 was voted European Horse of the Year.
In 2016 Brando, running off a mark of 110, became the highest rated horse ever to win the Gold Cup ridden by Tom Eaves and giving trainer Kevin Ryan his fourth success in the race following Advanced (2007), Our Jonathan (2011) and captain Ramius (2012)
Brando landed the 2016 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup
Class 1 Grade 2 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle
With £105,000 in prize-money this race is now established as one of the top two mile handicap hurdles in British racing.
This was underlined with the 2017 renewal attracting 16 runners including many highly rated horses.
The winner was Chesterfield, trained by Seamus Mullins and ridden by Daniel Sansom, who battled up the run in to beat Zubayr from the Paul Nicholls stable by a short head. The victor had won a hurdle race at Aintree a fortnight earlier and is clearly an improving horse .
Class 1 Grade 2 Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase
A race that almost always produces a high calibre of winner. The roll of honour includes Sparky Gale (1997), Grey Abbey (2001), Monet’s Garden (2004) and French Opera in 2010.
In 2017 there was another high class winner in Cloudy Dream. A year earlier the Trevor Hemmings owned horse had been an unlucky runner up in the QTS Champion Hurdle but this time he was given a perfect ride from Brian Hughes to lead on the run in and beat Theinval by two lengths.
Big things are expected of Cloudy Dream in the coming seasons.
The William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes( Class 1 ) (Group 3)
Scotland’s only Group race which is run on William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Saturday over six furlongs and gained Group status in 2004.
Bryan Smart trained Delectation to win the 2016 renewal in what was only her second race having won a Thirsk maiden five weeks earlier.
Ridden by Paul Mulrennan this was the trainer’s third win in 10 years in the race having previously saddled Unilateral (2007) and Distinctive (2009).
Secret Number and Danny Tudhope win the William Hill Doonside Cup in 2016
The William Hill Doonside Cup (Class 1) (Listed Race)
A Class 1 Listed Race over one mile two furlongs which attracts some top class horses from leading stables.
In 2015 we saw one of the classiest renewals of the race with Scottish, winning for trainer Andrew Balding and jockey David Probert, Willie Haggas’s Mutakayyef was second with Exosphere, trained by Sir Micahel Stoute third. These three are now all rated between 116 and 120 and have all won Group races.
We saw another high class winner in 2016 when the Saeed bin Suroor trained Secret Number, ridden by Danny Tudhope powered to victory after being out of action for almost a year.
The Shadwell Stud Harry Rosebery Stakes (Class 1) (Listed Race)
This Class 1 Listed Race over five furlongs is the feature of the middle day of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival – Ladies Day.
The best horse ever to win the race is the filly Quiet Reflection successful in 2015. Trained by Karl Burke she has gone on to win the Sprint Cup (Group 1) at Doncaster, Commonwealth Cup (Group 1 ) at Royal Ascot, the Sandy Lane Stakes (Group 2) at Haydock and two Group 3s – Newmarket’s Dubai Cornwallis Stakes and the Prix Sigy at Chantilly.
In 2016 the Harry Rosebery was won in emphatic fashion by another Filly, the Keith Dalgleish trained, Phillip Makin ridden Clem Fandango.
Will she be another Group class horse. Only time will tell.
The Scottish Sun/British Stallion Studs Ebf Fillies Land O’ Burns Stakes (Listed Race)
Traditionallyone of the fastest races run at Ayr and the five furlong course record of 55.68 seconds was set in this contest in 2008 by Alan Berry’s prolific filly Look Busy.
The most recent running of this Listed race was on June 24, 2017 when Henry Candy’s Spring Fling, ridden by Jimmy Sullivan, pounced inside the final furlong to win by a length and a quarter from Rural Celebration.
Henry Candy also trained the brilliant Airwave to win the Land O’Burns back in 2004.
In 2016 the race was won by Marsha, from the Sir Mark Prescott stable at Newmarket who later went to win the Group 1 Prix de l’Abbaye at Chantilly.
Class1 Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase
The 25th anniversary of Hillhouse Quarry sponsoring a race at the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival came in 2017 and produced a very worth winner in Two Taffs trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by Davy Russell.
Owned by Walters Plant Hire and James and Jean Potter the seven year old prevailed by three lengths from Theinval who was also second the following day in the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase.
Two Taffs also won a handicap hurdle at the meeting in 2016 and clearly likes Ayr.
The previous year the race was won by Definitly Red from the Brian Ellison yard and in 2015 the first year it had been run as a Listed race Presenting Junior, trained by Martin Todhunter, was victorious.
Two Taffs, ridden by Davy Russell, was an impressive winner of the 2017 Class 1 Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase.
Class 1 Listed Scotty Brand Handicap Chase
The race that precedes the Coral Scottish Grand National and a competitive two mile chase which was awarded Listed status in 2013.
Leading trainer Nicky Henderson saddled Vaniteux to win in 2017 with Noel Fehily riding. The eight year led before the last and was a worthy five length winner from Romain De Senam.
Previous winners include Duke of Navan in 2015, Raya Star in 2012 and Noble Request in 2010. Leading trainers to have captured this prize include Alan King, Nicky Richards and Phillip Hobbs.
The British Stallion Studs EBF Tennent’s Rothesay Stakes
The £50,000 race for fillies and mares aged four years and was first run on May 18, 2016 and won by the Keith Dalgleish trained Maleficent Queen .
Run over one mile two furlongs this race is very much seen now as one of the early season highlights on the Flat and the second running on May 24, 2017 produced a thrilling finish.
Nezwaah was sent off a hot favourite for trainer Roger Varian and jockey Andrea Atzeni , who was riding at the track for the first time.
She left the stalls smoothly and settled well and was always travelling for Andrea but got ‘boxed in’ over a furlong out and had to be switched to challenge from the outside – a move which cost her a length.
But when she hit the front there was only one winner and she eased past the post to win by three and three quarter lengths from Sophie P with last year’s winner Maleficent Queen a nose back in third place.
There is no doubt Nezwaah is a filly with a big future.
The Class 1 Listed Arran Scottish Fillies Sprint Stakes
Run over 5 and a half furlongs (a new distance for Ayr) this £50,000 Listed Race becomes the sixth Class 1 contest on the Flat to be run at the track. Sure to attract a quality field of Fillies this will be run on William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival Ladies Day on Friday September 22.
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