Musselburgh: Scottish racing may lose one of its five courses

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
Ash Park, ridden by Sam Coltherd wins at Musselburgh in March 2017
Musselburgh is scheduled to host 5 more fixtures before June 30 and a further 13 before the end of 2017

Just 10 days after winning a first Aintree Grand National in nearly 40 years with One For Arthur, Scottish racing could lose one of its five racecourses.

The track at Musselburgh is only operating on a temporary licence from the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), which has expressed dissatisfaction with the course's "governance".

The sport's regulator will not give exact details of its concerns, however sources have said it is awaiting required business and budget plans.

Although there is no suggestion forced closure is imminent, it is unclear how long the regulator is prepared to wait. It also unclear what will happen if the matter is not resolved when the temporary three-month licence - the second to be issued - expires on 30 June.

Without official endorsement from the BHA, Musselburgh, which hosts horseracing in Scotland alongside Ayr, Hamilton, Kelso and Perth, could be forced to close.

Managers, who run the course with members of East Lothian Council as the Musselburgh Joint Racing Committee (MJRC), say there has been a breakdown in relations with the councillors who hold a majority on the committee.

One For Arthur and jockey Derek Fox win the Grand National
Scotland-based One For Arthur, with jockey Derek Fox, won the Grand National at Aintree in April

John Prideaux, senior racecourse representative on the MJRC, has asked local MSP and leader of the Scottish Labour Party Kezia Dugdale to intervene. He has also called on the council to act.

He said: "Financial matters regarding both budgets and staff have not been handled in a timely way.

"Although there's a meeting of the MJRC in the diary, I've emailed the chief executive [of the council] on four occasions and he's not even responded.

"The course is common land, but they own the buildings and stables and we pay a commercial rent of £120,000 a year - we deserve better.

"At the moment, getting these issues sorted so that the BHA is happy is not even close, and I'm worried that their people will run out of patience with us. Closure can't be ruled out.

"This situation is such a tremendous pity. It's casting a cloud over Scottish racing when we should be celebrating a brilliant story at Aintree and looking forward to the Scottish Grand National at Ayr."

In response, East Lothian Council paid tribute to the racecourse's contribution to the local economy as "one of the country's top attractions".

It said it was "aware of some concerns" but "an investigation by the MJRC, under the chairmanship of Councillor John Caldwell, into these concerns is ongoing, and it would be inappropriate to comment further until the investigation is concluded".

In a statement, the British Horseracing Authority said: "While we cannot comment on the specifics of an individual racecourse licence application, more generally we can confirm that, from time-to-time, the BHA does attach conditions to the renewal of a racecourse licence to ensure that any issues it identifies as needing to be addressed are resolved satisfactorily and in a timely manner."

Musselburgh is scheduled to host five more fixtures, all of them flat racing, before 30 June and a further 13 before the end of 2017.

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