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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
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
During the jumps season pride of place goes to the Coral Scottish Grand National, which boasts £210,000 in prize-money and regularly attracts fields of 30 runners vying to land the second biggest Saturday prize in the entire UK national hunt season.
This race is also the fifth biggest in terms of betting turnover in the whole of the UK.
The main supporting race on Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday is the £101,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle now one of the top five handicap hurdle races of its type in Britain which saw a great finish in 2015 between two horses from leading yards. The Philip Hobbs trained Cheltenian just held on to beat Nicky Henderson’s Sign Of A Victory.
The highlight of the flat season is the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup in September Europe’s richest sprint handicap and Scotland’s most 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 the very best sprint handicappers in the UK and Ireland.
Throughout the season there are many highlights including the William Hill Firth Of Clyde Stakes, Scotland’s only Group race, the William Hill Doonside Cup and the Shadwell Stud Harry Rosebery 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
Coral Scottish Grand National
The richest jumps contest in Scotland, the second richest run on a Saturday during the national hunt season and the fourth biggest in turnover this undoubtedly is a race with serious credentials. First raced at Ayr in 1966 the most famous former winner is the legendary Red Rum in 1974. Sir Anthony McCoy rode Belmont King to win for trainer Paul Nicholls in 1997 and 19 years later in 2016 the same trainer saddled Vicente, ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies to win. Run over four miles.
Merigo winner of the 2010 and 2012 Coral Scottish Grand National
Ch’itebello, trained by Dan Skelton and ridden by Harry Skelton, winner of the 2016 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle
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 hurling 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
QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle
Worth £105,000 in prize-money this race is now among the top two mile handicap hurdles in the UK and attracts quality runners from top yards in the UK and Ireland. My Tent Or Yours contested in 2014 while in 2016 Ch’itebello won for trainer – jockey brothers Dan and Harry Skelton seeing off the fast finishing Cloudy Dream and Clondaw Warrior the first runner in the QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle for Irish training legend Willie Mullins.
Jordan Electrics Future Champion Chase
A race that is rich in history and which boasts former winners of the calibre of Sparky Gale (1997), Grey Abbey (2001), Monet’s Garden (2004) and French Opera in 2010. The 2016 renewal ended in triumph for the Paul Nicholls trained Le Mercurey, the mount of Sam Twiston-Davies who prevailed by seven lengths from odds on favourite Bristol de Mai. Always a popular contest which is tun on Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday.
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)
This five furlong fillies sprint is over in less than a minute and is one of the summer highlights at Ayr. Won in 2008 by Alan Berry’s prolific Look Busy famous trainers including Michael Bell, Charles Hills and Ireland’s Tommy Stack have all saddled winners of this valuable Listed contest.
The 2016 renewal in front of a record crowd of almost 7,500 went to Marsha, from the Sir Mark Prescott stable at Newmarket. Showing a fine turn of foot this filly, given a confident ride from Paul Mulrennan looks destined for the top.
The Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
Hillhouse Quarry have sponsored this race for 24 years which makes it one of the longest running sponsorships in racing. In 2015 it was elevated to Listed Status and is run for £45,000 in prize-money. This is the principal event on the Friday of the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival and is run over two miles four furlongs. The 2016 running was won by Definite Red trained by Brian Ellison who also saddled the winner in 2013 when Bocciani won. A real quality race
The Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Listed Race)
Run immediately before the Coral Scottish Grand National this two mile chase is always a competitive affair and in 2013 was elevated to Listed status. In 2016 Evan Williams sent De Faoithesdream on the long journey from his Vale of Glamorgan base to land the prize for Wales. The previous year also saw a worthy victor in the Nicky Richards trained Duke Of Navan.
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 attracted a strong field.
The Keith Dalgleish trained Maleficent Queen went into the race having won four of her five starts including a handicap here last September on the opening day of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival and duly made it five from six winning by two and three quarter lengths from More Mischief with Namroodah back in third.
Run over one mile two furlongs this race is very much seen now as one of the early season highlights on the Flat.
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