72 'l'helast li— ZS'Januaryr 1990




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Horse-racing in Scotland has caught its second wind. with meetings throughout the year and improved facilities for punters. Tom Lappin caught up with the Sport of Kings’ front-running administrators.

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eying for position

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After a long period as a poor relation ofthe English racing establishment Scottish racing is enjoying a resurgence. attracting crowds and more prestigious runners. It is due in no small part to progressive management. which is attentive to the needs ofordinary race-goers. in marked contrast to the continued elitism of English courses.

Scottish racegoers are being enticed back by the prospect of an exciting outing suitable for the whole family. with modern amenities

available at reasonable prices. An additional incentive is the increasingly high standard of racing to be seen on Scottish courses.

A major coup was the staging of the fifth English Classic. the St Leger. at Ayr in September. Drainage problems prevented it being run at its traditional venue. Doncaster. and the attention focused on Ayr served to point out the differences between English and Scottish approaches to the Sport of Kings. The Newmarket elite ofbig trainers and millionaire Middle Eastern owners dominate Classics and other rich races. and are tightening theirgrip on Classic-bred livestock. The lack ofcompetitive spirit was exemplified last season when the owners of the best three-year-old colts. Nashwan and Old Vic. wouldn‘t allow the horses to meet. The decline of true competition is compounded by the tendency to rush colts with Classic form off to stud at the end of their three-year-old career.

Happily the story in Scotland is n’iuch more encouraging. Led by David Mel larg. with the assistance of Morag Chalmers and Sam Morshead. Clerks ofCoursc at Hamilton and Musselburgh. racing has remained very much the property of the grassroots punter. retaining the unmatched excitement ofsteeplechasing and flat racing. Improved facilities. a family atmosphere and true competitiveness have ensured increasing interest and support. Hosting the St Leger was a bonus. admits Morag Chalmers.

‘It certainly helped. People who wouldn‘t normally come up to Scotland saw that we could do it. We got a lot of publicity and it helped to boost the resurgence of interest that was already there. It all went without a hitch. There were a lot of people in the business who thought the race should have been run at York or somewhere in the south. but I don‘t think any other racecourse could have had the big race atmosphere.

and still have been fun. That's the difference. Racing here is more fun.‘

The flat season is over. and attention turns to the less precious and more spectacular National Hunt game. The biggest day of the season is the Scottish National at Ayr in April. but less prestigious meetings at Musselburgh. Kelso and Perth have their fair share ofsupporters. ‘National Hunt has definitely taken off at lvlusselburgh.‘says Morag. ‘lt's very exciting to watch because the track is very close to the stands. probably tnore so than anywhere else in the country. Because it's a fast track. the horses seem to fly at the fences. You get good crowds and a great atmosphere. The Saturdays in December are very popular. The tnecting on the 23rd had that great pre-Christmas feel.‘

As yet Scottish jumps meetings. with the possible exception of the Scottish National. cannot attract chasers of Desert ()rchid's calibre. But the smaller tracks have other attractions. The toffs of Ascot or Epsom are nowhere in evidence. and family parties are commonplace. Morag Chalmers emphasises the ‘fun‘ element. look at Kelso. There was a survey in The Times of all the tracks attd Kelso came out top. It wasn‘t on prestige or anything. but on atmosphere and catering. that sort ofthing. But Kelso came out top. higher than Ayr or anywhere.’

At the other end ofthe financial scale. illustrious owner and breeder llamdan Al Maktoutn was so impressed by the set-up at Ayr that he has offered to sponsor one of the two-year-old flat races at the course. His sponsorship will bring the prize-money value up to £32.50“. an impressive stun for a Scottish track. and one that should attract top trainers from the south. It is a welcome boost for Ayr. but Morag Chalmers is still cautious: ‘There are certain instances where we don't want the big boys to come up and trick all the prize money. But they will be able to see that otir facilities are as good as any top-class track.‘


Meetings in January and l-‘ebruary. See Sports listings for dates.

All tracks offer the SIS satellite service on T\' monitors soyou can follow results at other tracks.

I Ayr \Vltitletts Road Ayr KAS ()Jli (0392) 364179. Clerk ()fCourse. David Mel larg. Scotland'sonly (lrade l track. homeof the (iold (‘up on the flat and the Scottish (irand National over fences. More prestigious races are planned for the next flat season. Admission: Club startd£ltl lipaddock £5 7. Silver Ring £l. (‘hildren under sixteen admitted lree.

I Edinburgh Musselbut'glt


Racecourse. Clerk ()f Course. Sam Morshead. Hat and National 1 lunt racing at the seaside. Admission: Stand £8. Paddock £4. Children under lo free. ()rte oftltc cheapest tracks in the

l Hamilton Park Bothw'ell Road. Hamilton Lanarkshirc ML} noz (onus) 283806 Clerk Of Course. Morag Chalmers. Flat racing is over for this year. but llamilton's evening meetings proved popular in the summer. I Kelso Kelso Racecourse. Kelso. Roxburghshire. ((1573) 2-1767. Clerk ()fCourse. David Mel larg. Very popular jumps course ideal for spectators because of the friendly

informal atmosphere attd good views of the track. Admission: Stand £ l 2. Paddock 1.6—7.


There a re two possible beneficiaries ofyour profligacy: the bookies (tlte guys in tweed overcoats and currency-packed briefcases bearing their trade names ofthe l lonest Mac type)or the 'l'ote (the pool run by the course. divided among the winners. minus a cut for the government). It isn't always possible to say who will give you the best return. but if you areof the sensible Stlp a race disposition. you will be

giv en a friendlier welcome from the Tote.

.selection of permutations

The other thing to remember is that however closely you study the form. apply logic and racing knowledge there will always be a friend who‘s never been near a racetrack in his life. bets on horses who share his star sign and leaves £200 richer.

I Special Bets Never let anyone tell you different: the only sensible way is to bet on one horse to win one race. Everyone knows this but still insists on various exotic combinations of trebles. accumulators or forecasts. Fortunately the vast


available at betting shops are not all on offer at the course. but there are enough to bewilder and

impoverish the beginner. l Dual Forecast Yott predict the first two horses home in either order. Not ' as easy as it scents but preferable to the Straight Forecast where you must predict the finishing

I Each way For the sensible and cautious. You get a return (albeit small) if you finish in the frame (ie lst 2nd 3rd or 4th. depending on the number of runners).

I Jackpot To win this Tote bet you have to choose the winners ofsix consecutive ' races (every race on the card). Should you do soof course. you and your bank manager will be able togo home very happy.

I Placepot Rather less ambitious. for this you

need to have a horse placed in all six races. (ie lst. 2nd or 3rd. sometimes even-1th counts depending on the numberof runners). Deceptiver difficult.

I Tricast Strictly for optimistsor fat wallets. You select the first three home in correct order. Sounds difficult. actually it‘s virtually impossible. I Yankee A very popular bet. especially with the bookies. You choose four horses and back them in ' combinationsofdoubles. trebles and an accumulator. This works out very expensive stakewisc and you need at least two winners to get a return. ()fcourse ifall four come in it‘s time to holidav in Bali.