Horse Racing Features

Perth races will have you jumping for joy

Written by Gary McDaniel.

PERTH racecourse is the UK's most northerly racecourse and one of the nations most historic. Racing began at Perth, at South Inch, in 1613 and has been thrilling crowds ever since.

The course is now located within the grounds of Scone Palace Park after it relocated there in 1908. The track stages racing throughout the Spring and Summer months, when the weather is supposed to be at it's best.

Perth hosts national hunt racing with some top class action throughout it's season. The highlight is the Perth Gold Cup in June, which sees horses from across the UK and Ireland compete for a healthy prize fund. The season gets underway in April with the three day festival. Other noteworthy fixtures is the STV Appeal day in August, the track's only Saturday meeting, and the big finale which is Perth's oldest fixture.

Top Irish trainer Gordon Elliot has a fantastic strike rate at Perth and is well worth following. Local trainer Lucinda Russell also enjoys plenty of success at the track. Top jockey's such as AP McCoy, Tom Scudamore, Jason Maguire and Lucy Alexander are regularly in action at Perth.

The track is well worth a visit whether your a big racing fan or if you are just looking for somewhere to take the family for the day. There is entertainment for all on many of their race days or nights.

It may be a small track but there is plenty of room. Especially on sunny days when the centre of the course opens up for those wishing to take a picnic or visit the funfair.

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Pay a visit to Hamilton Park to ignite your spark for racing

Written by Gary McDaniel.

SCOTTISH racing is thriving at the moment and there is no better way to experience this by paying a visit to one of Scotland’s five racecourses. Over the coming weeks I will be focusing on each of the tracks and telling you why you should be going along to watch the action. In this edition we will be focusing on Hamilton Park.

The Lanarkshire track is a cracking little course, ideal for people new to the sport or those who enjoy exciting action with a party atmosphere.

The track known as the Goodwood of the north, due to its buttonhook and stiff uphill finish, is noted for its enthralling finishes. Not a meeting goes by without the judge being called to decide the outcome of a tight finish. This just adds to the excitement and tension which grips the modern and quaint surroundings of the racecourse as they wait for the result.

Hamilton Park features only flat racing and operates from May to late September or early October. It has a mixture of afternoon and evening meetings; in fact Hamilton was the first UK track to stage an evening fixture. The night meetings are very popular throughout May to August and it’s not just for those looking to enjoy a few drinks and soak up the racing but also many of the meetings are for the whole family.

The nights which stick out on the racing calendar are Braveheart night in May, Saints & Sinners Night in June, The Glasgow Friday Night Fair meeting in July and Ladies Night in early August.

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All eyes on the Grand National

Written by Gary McDaniel.

ASK anyone to name a famous horse race in Britain and the most popular answer is likely to be the Grand National.

The race sparks interest amongst a large majority of the British population. It’s an event which leads for many to have their only bet of the year. While racing fans, such as myself, mull over the form book and statistics to find a winner.

This year the great race has a spotlight shone on it like never before. There has always been criticism of the National, in some quarters, about horse welfare and those that believe the race is cruel. Changes have been made over the years to the fences to improve safety for both horse and jockey. Over the past couple of years though there has been further pressure applied for more changes. Some of this pressure has been successful as the race has been shortened and the fences have went through another change.

The last two races have seen four horses lose their lives due to injury and this has gained a lot of media attention beyond the sports pages. For the first time, I can remember, there is a question mark over the future of the Grand National. Not necessarily the running of the race but more the actual task and challenge that faces both horse and jockey.

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What impact could independence have on Scottish racing?

Written by Gary McDaniel.

AS we gear up to the independence referendum in 2014 it got me thinking of the possible consequences an independent Scotland would have on racing north of the border. I have to say I think if the sport was governed by an organisation, the likes of a Scottish Horseracing Authority, it would be a fantastic opportunity to give racing in Scotland a new dimension.

We are all aware that the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, is a massive racing fan. Making regular appearances on Channel 4's Morning Line. Surely if Scotland was to go it alone it would give the Government the chance to set up a new fairer Levy system? How the bookmakers would react to this would be interesting but it is clear the current system in Britain is flawed.

The five independent Scottish racecourses have, in the main, been very successful during recent hard times. They still attract healthy crowds and offer fantastic prize money. The problem has been that they, in my view, don't get the chance to benefit from staging meetings on lucrative days such as a Saturday.

During the summer when racing doesn't have to compete with the likes of football. I can only find three Saturday afternoon meetings on the calendar. Musselburgh, with it's hugely successful Ladies Day, when the Derby is being run at Epsom. Ayr has a card in mid June and Perth in late August, just recently added to calendar.  Ayr has also shown that on days when football is getting much of the focus they can still pull in a large crowd on Scottish National Day and when the Gold Cup is run in September.

The likes of Newmarket regularly stages meetings on a Saturday. I accept it is the headquarters for racing on the level but do the attendance figures justify this?

An independent body north of the border would allow for the creation of our own fixture list. Yes we would still need to compete with the rest of Britain and Ireland at attracting horses to said fixtures. There would also be competition for coverage in betting shops and on both satellite and terrestrial TV. This is were the likes of Scottish Television can be enticed to possibly get involved. I'm not calling for racing to be staged every Saturday but possibly at least once a month during the national hunt season and that doubling in the spring and summer. Also staging more racing on a Sunday, a much underused day.

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