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Ayr Racecourse is not only home to Scotland’s two biggest Festivals – the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival and the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival – but also hosts all of Scotland’s top races including its only Group race and several Listed races.
There are many quality races throughout the year at Ayr both over jumps and on the Flat.
The highlight of the jumps season is the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival with the feature the Coral Scottish Grand National.
The latest renewal of this iconic race saw a victory for the north when the Nicky Richards trained Takingrisks, ridden by Sean Quinlan, recovered from a first fence mistake to hit the front coming into the home straight and win by four lengths from Crosspark.
This is the fourth biggest race in terms of betting turnover in the country and was watched by a television audience of 1.2 million on ITV 1 in 2019.
Also on the Scottish Grand National Saturday card is the CPMS Scottish Champion Hurdle and this contest in 2019 was won decisively by Nicky Henderson’s Verdana Blue, given an excellent ride by 17 year-old Connor Brace.
Scotland’s richest and biggest Flat race meeting is the Ayr Gold Cup Festival held every year in September with the feature The QTS Ayr Gold Cup.
The latest renewal of the great race saw a huge gamble on the William Haggas trained Nahaarr pay off. The horse was a short priced 7-2 favourite for the 24 runner handicap and produced a great performance to swoop late to win under a fine ride from Tom Marquand.
Other Flat highlights at the track include Scotland’s only Group race, the Class 1 Group 3 Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Stakes.
Here is a full list of our top races with a little bit of their history.
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 in 2016 and 2017.
Taking Risks ridden by Sean Quinlan taking the lead to win the 2019 Coral Scottish Grand National
THE TOP RACES AT AYR
Coral Scottish Grand National (Class 1) (Grade 3)
The most prestigious race of the Scottish jumps calendar and one that is without doubt one of the very best long distance chases in the world.
This is the fourth biggest race in terms of betting turnover in the UK and when last raced in 2019 was watched by more than 1.2 million viewers on ITV 1.
The trip is just more than four miles with up to 30 runners negotiating 27 fences and invariably this race is contested by horses from top stables and features most of the leading jockeys in the UK and Ireland.
Takingrisks won the last running of the race in 2019. Trained by Nicky Richards in Cumbria and ridden by Sean Quinlan his victory was a huge boost for racing in the north.
The Scottish Grand national was famously won in 1974 by Red Rum whose victory came just two weeks after he had won the Grand National at Aintree. He remains the only horse to complete the Aintree-Ayr double in the same season.
Taking Risks, trained by Nicky Richards came back from a mistake to win the 2018 Coral Scottish Grand National
CPMS Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase (Class 2)
This race first introduced in 2018 is now eagerly anticipated by owners, trainers and jockeys and when run in 2019 it was won by the Dan Skelton trained, Harry Skelton ridden Molly The Dolly who crossed the line three lengths in front of Dandy Dan.
The previous year highly thought of Irish raider Crosshue Boy was an impressive winner in the hands of jockey Harley Dunne.
Molly the Dolly, winner of the Novices’ Championship Handicap Chase
Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle (Class 1) (Grade 2)
Another great highlight of Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday this is one of the top handicap hurdles in the UK and always attracts a field rich in quality.
In the last 10 runnings of this contest the winning trainers have included such doyens of the game as Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Alan King, Donald McCain, Dan Skelton, Philip Hobbs and Sue Smith.
In 2019 Verdana Blue, ridden by teenager Connor Brace and trained by Nicky Henderson, ran out an emphatic winner by seven lengths from Dino Velvet. We very much look forward to the 2021 renewal of the Coral Scottish Champion Hurdle.
Verdana Blue and 17year old jockey Connor Brace repel all challengers to win the 2019 Scottish Champion Hurdle
Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase (Class 1) (Grade 2)
This race is synonymous with Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday and has produced some excellent winners down the years including legends like Sparky Gayle (1997), Grey Abbey (2001) and Monet’s Garden (2004).
The latest winner was the Paul Nicholls trained Secret Investor who scored a notable three and three quarter length victory from Louis’ Vac Pouch. Since that victory in April 2019 the horse has continued to impress and now boasts a BHA rating of 162.
Secret Investor out in front to win the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase
Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase (Class 1) (Listed Race)
Hillhouse Quarry are the longest running sponsors at Ayr Racecourse with their support of the track going back almost 30 years.
In recent times this Listed contest which is the feature of the Friday has proved a happy haunting ground for trainer Dan Skelton who has won the last three runnings with Two Taffs (2017), Value At Rick (2018) and Born Survivor in 2019.
The field in this race invariably oozes quality and such luminaries of the chasing game as Definitly Red (2016) and The Knoxs (2012) are past winners.
Dan Skelton and Harry Skelton win the 2019 Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase for the third year in a row with Born Survivor
Scotty Brand Handicap Chase (Class 1) (Listed Race)
Scotty Brand are another longstanding sponsor at Ayr and company owner Ronnie Bartlett is a great supporter of the sport having owned some great horses over the years.
The last running of this race saw Azzuri give a fine display of jumping to make all and win by a massive nine lengths from Vosne Romanee.
Previous winners of the race include Theinval (2018), Duke Of Navan (2015), Raya Star (2012) and Noble Request (2010).
Azzuri taking the fence first to win the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase by an impressive nine lengths
The QTS Ayr Gold Cup (Heritage Handicap)
The QTS Ayr Gold Cup is the most famous Flat race run in Scotland and a tremendous spectacle to watch with up to 25 runners speeding down the six furlong home straight at Ayr.
In 2020 Newmarket trainer William Haggas won the race for the first time with a very talented sprinter in Nahaarr.
Ridden by Tom Marquand the horse was gambled into a short priced 7-2 favourite and there was a great sense of amnticipation as the runners left the stalls.
Nahaarr was drawn in the middle of the field and after having his run checked on a few occasions was still well back in the pack with under two furlongs to run and then his class kicked. With a turbo charged run he scythed through the field hitting the front less than 20 yards from the line and winning by half a length from Spanish City.
Other recent winners of the Ayr Gold Cup include Kevin Ryan’s Brando in 2016, a horse who has gone on to win Group 1 races and the Richard Fahey trained Don’t Touch.
Nahaarr and Tom Marquand pounce late to win the QTS Ayr Gold Cup
The Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Stakes (Class 1) (Group 3)
This is Scotland’s only Group race and is run over the straight six furlongs for two year-old fillies and we are delighted that this contest regularly attracts a good field of horses from some of the leading yards in the land.
Two time champion jockey Paul Hanagan rode Umm Kulthum to victory for trainer Richard Fahey in the 2020 renewal of the Firth Of Clyde. This talented filly later was a close up third in the Group 1 Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket and holds an entry in the Irish 1,000 Guineas at the Curragh later in the year.
Previous winners of this race include Rose Of Kildare (2019), Shaden (2015), Coral Mist (2013) and Majestic Dubawi (2010).
Paul Hanagan and Umm Kulthum win the Scotty Brand Firth Of Clyde Stakes
The Jordan Electrics Doonside Cup (Class 1) (Listed Race)
This famous race enjoyed one of its finest moments in 2020 when attracting the highest rated horse ever to run at Ayr, the Willie Haggas trained Addeybb.
And the then five year-old gelding didn’t disappoint gradually letting his class tell and winning cosily under a cool Tom Marquand ride from Lord Glitters. A month after that success he picked up the Group 1 middle distance race on Champion’s Day at Ascot.
Godolphin have won this great race five times, the latest success coming with Secret Number in 2016.
Addeybb wins the 2020 running of the Doonside Cup
The Shadwell Stud/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes (Class 1) (Listed Race)
Run on the Friday of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival the Shadwell Stud/EBF Stallions Harry Rosebery Stakes is run over the minimum distance of five furlongs and is one of the most famous races of the Scottish racing calendar.
North Yorkshire trainer Tim Easterby teamed up with Ayrshire born jockey David Allan to produce the 2020 winner Winter Power running in the famous King Power Racing colours. The filly went on to win the Group 3 Cornwallis Stakes at Newmarket and further big wins are expected in 2021.
The Harry Rosebery was famously won by super filly Quiet Reflection in 2015.
Winter Power and David Allan get up to win the 2020 Shadwell Stud Harry Rosebery Stakes
The Al Maktoum Cup Arran Scottish Fillies Sprint Stakes (Class 1) (Listed Race)
First introduced in 2018, this Listed five and a half furlong sprint has quickly established itself as one of the highlights of the Friday of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival and past winners include the highly rated Karl Burke trained Lady In France.
In 2020 Paul Hanagan rode his 100th Ayr winner on the Cheveley Park Stud owned Exceptional to win the Al Maktoum Cup for trainer Richard Fahey. This race goes from strength to strength.
Exceptional lands the Al Maktoum Cup Arran Scottish Fillies Sprint Stakes to give Paul Hanagan his 100th Ayr winner
The British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies Land O’ Burns Stakes (Listed Race)
Traditionally this Listed contest is the fastest race run at Ayr and Look Busy holds the five furlong course record at the track with her 2008 win here with a time of 55.68 seconds.
The 2020 winner Que Amoro, trained by Michael Dods and ridden by Paul Mulrennan also recorded a good time on good going of 57.12 seconds and her performance on the day was right out of the top drawer. She underlined her class later in the summer by finishing a length second to the mighty Battaash in the Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes at York.
The brilliant filly Marsha won the race in 2016 before going to win two Group 1s and being sold for six million guineas.
Que Amoro and Paul Mulrennan winning the British Stallion Studs EBF Fillies Land O’Burns Stakes
Tennent’s British Stallion Studs EBF Rothesay Stakes (Class 1) (Listed Race)
This race for fillies and mares aged four years and upwards was first run in 2016.
The latest winner on May 22, 2019 was Shenanigans from the Roger Varian yard, ridden by stable jockey Andrea Atzeni. Varian also won the race with Nezwaah in 2017 before that filly went on to win the Group 1 Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh.
Keith Dalgleish has also trained two winners of the race with me with Euro Nightmare, owned by Ayr Racecourse director Stuart Morrison, in 2018 and with Maleficent Queen when the race was first run in 2016
2019 winner of the Tennent's British Stallion Studs EBF Rothesay Stakes Shenanigans for Roger Varian Yard.
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