Racing: Festival spirit prompts plans for sixth Scottish racecourse

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The Independent Online

A new racecourse may be established in Scotland within the next 10 years following the release yesterday of an impact study undertaken by Scottish Racing.

The study found that £125 million was generated in 2001 for the Scottish economy while £10.75m of capital investment is planned for the next five years between the five current courses north of the border – Ayr, Hamilton, Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth.

The report also stated that the sixth course should "be located with good access to resident and tourist populations and have training facilities, a racing school, an all weather track and a visitor attraction and be located within the Edinburgh/Glasgow/Stirling triangle".

Bill Farnsworth, the general manager at Musselburgh racecourse, said: "The new course is some way down the line, but it would provide a big boost for owners and trainers in Scotland and it is something being seriously considered."

In the interim, Farnsworth is hoping that there will be an increase of perhaps "15 to 20" race meetings a year in Scotland. He went on: "There are certain periods of the year when opportunities are limited for Scottish-trained horses on their home soil.

"However this is not simply a question of Musselburgh, all five courses are involved and we also intend to 'cluster meetings' and have festivals as they do very successfully in Ireland to make racing in Scotland more customer-friendly for those who have to travel long distances.

"We are working with those in the tourism industry and perhaps we could have a meeting up here on a Friday and another on a Monday it would encourage people to come up and stay longer."

There have already been discussions with the BHB and Farnsworth concluded: "Trevor Beaumont [British Horseracing Board director of racing] has been a breath of fresh air and we have been much encouraged by his reaction."

On the track at Musselburgh yesterday, the maiden auction stakes sparked controversy. The winning jockey, Martin Dwyer, who got Notty Bitz home by one and a quarter lengths from Whipasnapper, picked up a two-day suspension for careless riding.

The stewards concluded that Notty Bitz had interfered with Kieren Fallon's mount, Arran Pilot, who was beaten a short head for second – but also decided that the interference had not improved the winner's placing.

But Fallon, who will be making a trip to his native Ireland to ride at Cork on Sunday, said: "The other horse nearly had us on the floor and we would definitely have won."

In Ireland yesterday, Joe Walsh, the agriculture minister, called for an all-weather track to be built. "It is a shortcoming in Irish racing that there is no all-weather track here and in the relatively near future I'd like to see that situation rectified now that so much government money has gone into the sport," he said. Walsh referred to Ballydoyle trainer Aidan O'Brien taking his horses to Lingfield in Surrey last week to gallop on the sand surface there.

* After today's break for Good Friday, British racing resumes with six meetings tomorrow and 15 on Easter Monday.