Ayr Racecourse News
Ayr Racecourse

Scotland's Premier Racecourse

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NICHOLLS AND HENDERSON GO HEAD TO HEAD IN AYR SPECTACULAR

The two leading racehorse trainers in the UK will fight it out against a backdrop of a 17,000 sell-out crowd at the Coral Scottish Grand National in a bid to win the coveted British jumps trainers’ championship.


Current champ Paul Nicholls trails Nicky Henderson by around £300,000 in the race that only has two weeks to run and both men will have huge strings of horses primed to win some of the £615,000 in prize-money on offer at Scotland’s richest racing Festival which starts on Friday.

Earlier in the week Nicholls ‘conceded’ the title but many, including Henderson, saw that as a smoke screen and it’s expected the champ will give it his best shot at Ayr to secure some big wins and blast the race wide open heading to Sandown on April 29 for the final meeting of the season.

Last year’s winning horse Vicente will run again for Nicholls in the Coral Scottish Grand National and he also has Arpege D’Alene, part owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, in the field. Nicky Henderson’s best chance in the big race lies with Premier Bond.

Other horses worth noting in the £215,000 contest include Warren Greatrex’s Missed Approach second in the JT McNamara Challenge Cup at Cheltenham last month, Southfield Royale from the Neil Mulholland yard and Sue Smith’s Vintage Clouds.

The £105,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle could also behave a pivotal role to play in the championship and Nicky Henderson’s hand looks strong as he has four class horses with entries – Peace And Co, L’Ami Serge, Divin Bere and Loch Derg Spirit.

Elsewhere on Saturday’s card Politologue, incredibly unlucky in a Grade 1 Novice Chase at Aintree when stumbling after clearing the last will be Nicholls’s representative in the Jordan Electrics Ltd Future Champion Chase.

On Friday – which is Ladies Day - the highlight is the class 1 Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase, a £50,000 contest which invariably attracts a class field. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Hillhouse Quarry Group sponsoring at the meeting and its fitting their race is now the showpiece of the opening day of the Festival.

For more information on racing at Ayr go online at www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk or call 01292 264179.

Ayr Racecourse will stage 35 meetings in 2017 – one more than in 2016 and a modern day record.

There will be racing at Scotland’s premier track every month of next year and there will be 20 Flat meetings and 15 over jumps.

The 2017 Coral Scottish Grand National Festival will be held on Friday April 21 and Saturday April 22 with the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival running from Thursday September 21 until Saturday September 23.

The flat season for 2017 at Ayr kicks off slightly later on Monday May 8 and runs through until Thursday October 12.

There are four evening meetings – May 31, June 5, June 23 and August 12 while there is one solitary Sunday fixture – the family day on July 9.

The full list of Ayr fixtures for 2017 reads Monday January 2 (J), Monday January 16 (J), Tuesday January 17 (J), Monday January 30 (J), Tuesday February 14 (J), Monday February 27 (J), Friday March 10 (J), Saturday March 11 (J), Friday April 21 (J), Saturday April 22 (J), Monday May 8 (F), Tuesday May 9 (F), Wednesday May 24 (F), Wednesday May 31 (F), Monday June 5 (F), Monday June 12 (F), Friday June 23 (F), Saturday June 24 (F), Sunday July 9 (F), Monday July 10 (F), Monday July 17 (F), Monday July 24 (F), Monday July 31 (F), Saturday August 12 (F), Monday August 14 (F), Thursday September 21, (F), Friday September 22 (F), Saturday September 23 (F), Tuesday October 3 (F), Thursday October 12 (F), Monday October 30 (J), Saturday November 4 (J), Wednesday November 15 (J), Monday November 27 (J), Tuesday December 12 (J).

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Brilliant sunshine, a sell-out Saturday crowd, top class racing and fantastic entertainment combined to make the 2015 Coral Scottish Grand National Festival at Ayr Racecourse a huge success.

The huge crowd of 16,500 on Saturday witnessed a memorable running of the £210,000 Coral Scottish Grand National with Wayward Prince, a 25/1 shot holding on gamely to win by three quarters of a length from the fast finishing Irish raider Goonyella.

Wayward Prince
© Grossick Racing Photography
Wayward Prince

A delighted owner and trainer Hilary Parrott had decided last year to move the horse from trainer Ian Williams to her own small yard and admitted : "The change of scenery did him good. He loved the ground and was always travelling well."

And winning jockey Robert Dunne commented : "I thought when they came to me before the last I was going to get beaten but he kept sticking out his neck and battled all the way to the line.

"It's a huge day for me and my biggest ever win. I had to lose nine pounds to make the weight so feel a bit weak at the moment but it was all worthwhile."

Earlier in the afternoon Cheltenian won the £100,000 QTS Scottish Champion Hurdle for trainer Philip Hobbs and jockey Richard Johnson in what was a high quality race.

After the last flight it looked as if the Nicky Henderson horse Sign Of A Victory would win but a fighting display by Cheltenian saw him hold on by a neck.

Duke Of Navan won the Scotty Brand Handicap Chase under an ultra-confident Brian Harding ride confirming the jockey as the leading rider at the track for the 2014-2015 jumps season with Lucinda Russell top trainer and Paul and Clare Rooney top owners.

Friday's highlight was the Listed Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase and this was won by course specialists Presenting Junior winning at Ayr for the fourth time this season for owners Mr and Mrs Wilson Garnet, trainer Martin Todhunter and jockey Wilson Renwick.

Reflection on a highly successful Festival Ayr Racecourse Managing Director David Brown commented : "The two days saw some excellent racing with some exciting finishes and we were blessed with some fantastic weather.

"The atmosphere was good with everyone enjoying themselves and joining in the occasion. I thank everyone for their support."

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Sep 23 Jockey James Doyle was the star of the show at the 2014 William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival, winning both the Gold and Silver Cups.

James Doyle and Louis The Pious
© Grossick Racing Photography
James Doyle and Louis The Pious

The southern based rider steered last year's big race runner up Louis The Pious to land gold around an hour after he tasted silver success on the Roger Charlton trained Huntsmans Close.

He wrote his name into the record books when Louis The Pious won as no jockey has achieved the double before and he showed his delight as the David O'Meara 10/1 chance crossed the line.

James also captured the opening race, the QTS Handicap on Power Play for Richard Hannon making it a treble on his first visit to the track in seven years.

Graham Lee was another jockey at the top of his game riding Dark Reckoning to win the William Hill Firth of Clyde Stakes for trainer Ann Duffield at odds of 25/1 and then partnering the Saeed bin Suroor trained Sky Hunter, the 9/4 favourite, to land the William Hill 80th Anniversary Book Launch Doonside Cup.

And Graham was also among the winners earlier in the week winning the Nursery Handicap on Roosey for Willie Haggas on Friday and landing the Wallace McDowall Handicap on Orient Class on Thursday.

Keith Dalgleish was the only Scottish trainer on the scoresheet -Harrison's Cave, ridden by Joe Fanning, won the Grants Fruit Merchants Prestwick Handicap on Thursday and Beautiful Stranger took the Enterprise Screen 10 Years of Video Handicap on Friday.

Thursday's prestigious William Hill Handicap for the Kilkerran Cup was won by Fire Fighting, trained by Mark Johnston and ridden by Joe Fanning.

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Johnnie Delta Land Owners Championship
12/04/14

Johnnie Delta Racing captured the Owners Championship for the 2013-2014 jumps season at Ayr by a point from Mrs S Russell and Mr M Russell in a dramatic finish to the season on April 12.

It was a superb achievement for the Johnnie Delta team as they also won the 2013 Flat Owners title at the track and all their points in the jumps title chase were earned by one horse - Too Cool To Fool who won the Porcelanosa Scotland Novices' Limited Handicap Chase on Friday.

That left the Russells needing their horse Final Assault to win the opening race on Friday to tie the title but it could only finish second to Silsol.

The leading trainer award was won by Lucinda Russell with Jim Goldie runner up while in the Jockeys title Brian Hughes edged out Brian Harding by three points.

Al Co Wins Coral Scottish Grand National
12/04/14

Crowds of more than 15,000 flocked to Ayr Racecourse on Saturday, April 12, for the Coral Scottish Grand National which produced a shock 40/1 winner Al Co for trainer Peter Bowen and jockey Jamie Moore.

Al Co
© www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk
Al Co

The surprise win stunned the packed stands and last year's winner Godsmejudge was a gallant second with Trustan Times third and Merry King fourth. more

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Ten in a Row for Super Ayr 07/01/14

Ayr Racecourse has been voted the Best Racecourse in Scotland and the North East for 2013 by the Racegoers' Club.

It is the tenth successive year that the track has been awarded the prestigious accolade which is voted on by a 4,500 strong membership and other winners for 2013 include York, Chester, Cheltenham and Ascot

Ayr has now won the award an astonishing 20 times in all and the course's Sales and Marketing Manager Lindsey Smith said: "It is a great honour to be once again the recipient of this award. When one considers the competition we have from other tracks in our region it makes this a particularly pleasing accolade.

"Those who vote are all regular racegoers so for them to take the time and choose Ayr proves we must be getting things right. We are all delighted."

William Hill Extend Ayr Gold Cup Sponsorship 20/11/13
William Hill have extended their sponsorship of Scotland’s richest and most prestigious flat meeting the Ayr Gold Cup Festival by three years until September 2016. more

Highland Colori Lands Ayr Gold Cup Prize 21/09/13
Highland Colori turned what looked a competitive William Hill Ayr Gold Cup into a rout, running out a convincing winner for the rising star of the weighing room Oisin Murphy. more

All Time Record Crowd for Coral Scottish Grand National 20/04/13

The sun shone and the crowds flocked to Ayr Racecourse for the 2013 Coral Scottish Grand National Festival last weekend.

Ayr Racecourse

More than 18,300 - beating the previous record of 17,200 in 2002 - enjoyed a great day on Saturday and there was a real feel good atmosphere throughout the crowd.

A Beatles tribute band played during the afternoon in the Tented Village within the Grandstand while a jazz band performed on the Champagne lawns and there was both live music and a disco after racing.

The Club Enclosure was sold out about an hour before the first race and there wasn't a space to be had either in Hospitality.

Ayr Racecourse Sales and Marketing Manager Lindsey Smith commented : "On so many levels this was our most successful day yet. Recording our biggest ever crowd was a huge boost."

Racecourse Award for Isle Of Skye Whisky 01/11/12
A leading Scotch whisky has won a coveted award at the prestigious Piper-Heidsieck National Racecourse Catering Awards. more

Captain Ramius Sails Home in Ayr Gold Cup 22/09/12
The Kevin Ryan trained Captain Ramius had already flown when a late charge from Regal Parade claimed second place in the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup, the richest sprint handicap in Europe. more

Sun Shines on Massive Scottish National Crowd 21/04/12

Celebrities from the world of sport and television mingled with one of the biggest crowds in living memory at a sun drenched Ayr Racecourse on Saturday (April 21). more

Ayr Racing 2011 Review 08/12/11

Jockeys Richard Johnson and Franny Norton grabbed the headlines at Ayr Racecourse in 2011 riding the winners of the Coral Scottish Grand National and William Hill Ayr Gold Cup respectively.

Richard Johnson hard at work on Beshabar in the 2011 Scottish Grand National
Beshabar

And for both riders it was the first time they had won the biggest races in the Scottish racing calendar.

For Johnson in particular the win was sweet. It was his 14th ride in the race and he gave the Tim Vaughan trained Beshabar, a 15/2 shot, a superb ride to hold off the 2010 winner Merigo all the way up the run in.

Merigo's owner Raymond Anderson Green was magnanimous in defeat and for Vaughan it was a defining moment in a great season.

Our Jonathan
© Racehorse Photos
Our Jonathan

Franny Norton donned the colours of owner Dr Marwan Koukash successful with Redford in 2010. This time the horse was Our Jonathan and when Norton steered the Kevin Ryan trained charge to the front entering the final furlong the result was never in doubt and favourite Eton Rifles was a well beaten horse in second place.

Dr Koukash commented afterwards : "I am so glad I came up this year, I missed last year's so it is great to be up here. Great course, great people, great result. We left at six this morning to be here and I don't think we'll go back till six o'clock tomorrow morning now."

Both Ayr's feature meetings in 2011 earned rave reviews from some of the biggest names in the sport. David Pipe heaped praise on the track following the Coral Scottish Grand National and the normally hard to please David 'Dandy' Nicholls commented : "The Clerk of the Course got it spot on" during the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival.

Ayr Racecourse had started the year celebrating two awards. First up was the Racecourse of the Year 2010 for Scotland and the North East by The Racegoers Club - the seventh consecutive year the course has won this coveted award.

And then Clerk of the Course Emma Marley and her grounds team won one of the most prestigious honours in the racing industry - the Neil Wyatt Ground Staff Award for the Best Dual Purpose Course.

This was only the second time Ayr has received this recognition - having previously been successful in 1996, the inaugural year of the award.

After a much interrupted 2010 at the track with six abandonments Ayr lost only two meetings in 2011 - one in February and one in November.

Highest attendance of the year came when more than 15,000 attended the Coral Scottish Grand National Saturday and were treated to some memorable racing particularly the aforementioned duel between Beshaber and Merigo.

Other highlights included the Isle of Skye Blended Whisky Scottish Champion Hurdle which was won by the Paul Nicholls trained, Ruby Walsh ridden Sanctuaire (9/2 jt fav). There was also a win for Gilbarry (8/1) in the Scottish Sun Future Champion Novices Chase.

And on the Friday the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase went to the Ferdy Murphy trained Watch My back (14/1) ridden by Graham Lee.

The first flat action of the 2011 season at Ayr came via a double header in May quickly followed by Saints and Sinners Racenight and the Scottish Sun Raceday in June.

The June Saturday normally provides quality racing and this year was no exception - the feature race of the afternoon, the Scottish News Of The World EBF 'Major Cadeaux' Land O'Burns Fillies' (Listed Race) was won by the favourite Margot Did in the hands of top lady jockey Hayley Turner.

And there was success for Irvine born jockey David Allan on Mariachi Man in the Scottish Sun Handicap for trainer Tim Easterby.

Champion jockey Paul Hanagan underlined his status by riding 14 winners from 61 mounts at Ayr during the flat season including several at the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival.

All in all a good year for Ayr Racecourse with many highlights and with 2012 looming there's much to look forward to.

Our Jonathan Takes Gold at Ayr 17/09/11
Our Jonathan gave owner Dr Marwan Koukash back-to-back victories in the William Hill Gold Cup at Ayr. more

Beshabar Bags Scottish Grand National Glory 16/04/11
Cheltenham Festival runner-up Beshabar went one place better with a terrific performance from the front in the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr. more

Racing Boost for Scottish Charities 08/03/11
Scottish charities received a shot in the arm from last year's busiest ever Saints and Sinners Racenight at Ayr Racecourse. more

Seven Up for Ayr Racecourse 07/12/10
Magnificent seven! Ayr Racecourse has been voted Racecourse of the Year 2010 for Scotland and the North East by The Racegoers Club for an incredible seventh consecutive year. more

Frankie Strikes Gold on Redford 18/09/10
Dandy Nicholls and Frankie Dettori teamed up for one of the most popular successes in the history of the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup as the Thirsk trainer incredibly saddled his sixth winner of the six-furlong dash. more

Iris De Balme Bags Shock Scottish National Win
19/04/08
Iris De Balme produced an extraordinary performance to land the Coral Scottish Grand National at Ayr. more