Ayr is Scotland’s premier racecourse and home to the Scottish Grand National and the Ayr Gold Cup. Ayr is linked to Glasgow via the M77 and the course is clearly sign-posted from all major routes approaching the town. Ayr Railway Station is only 5 minutes from the racecourse by road or 12 minutes on foot.
Ayr Racecourse is a left handed circuit of a mile and a half with a run-in of half a mile. There is a chute that provides a straight six furlong course for sprint races. It is generally regarded as a fair track but changes dramatically when the going is heavy. It then becomes a real stamina test and no place for doubtful stayers, both on the flat and over jumps.
The effect of the draw in sprint races is high on our list of Ayr tips. When the stalls are placed on the stands side, there is a clear advantage to horses drawn middle to high in five and six furlong races. This is nullified when the stalls are moved to the far side of the course. There is no discernible draw bias in races of seven furlongs or over.
Ayr Horse Racing History
The current Ayr racecourse was officially opened in 1907 but racing in the area can be traced back to 1576. Racing was held at nearby Seafield in 1771 and the western meeting was established in 1824. The Ayr Gold Cup was the feature race of a meeting that also included the most valuable two-year-old race of the season.
The Seafield site had no scope for expansion and Ayr was relocated to its current site in the Craigie area of the town in 1907. The course was designed to mirror the layout of Newbury racecourse, only with a straight six furlongs instead of a mile.
A new National Hunt course was added to the site in 1950. Ayr adopted the Scottish Grand National in 1966 when Bogside Racecourse ran into financial difficulties and was forced to close. Ayr staged the St Leger in 1989 when Doncaster was abandoned due to unsafe ground. The race was won by Michelozzo, trained by Henry Cecil and ridden by Steve Cauthen.
Ayr Gold Cup
The highlight of the flat racing year is the three-day western meeting in September. There are two listed races on the Friday and a Group 3 and Listed contest on the Saturday. The feature event is the Ayr Gold Cup which is always heavily oversubscribed. It now has a Silver Cup and Bronze Cup for those horses eliminated at the final declaration stage. There are also Listed races at the May and June meetings.
The Scottish Grand National takes place in April. The supporting card includes the Grade 2 Scottish Champion Hurdle and the Future Champion Novices’ Chase. There are 37 meetings at Ayr during the season with a mixture of flat and jumping.
The Ayr Gold Cup became a handicap race in 1855. The race was run over a mile between 1870 and 1907 and was shortened to six furlongs the following year. It is now the richest sprint handicap in Europe.
The Scottish Grand National generally takes place only a week after the Aintree Grand National. It is one of the four big Nationals during the National Hunt season. It is often a target for stayers who prefer racing on better ground. The Welsh National takes place in late December on soft or heavy ground. Aintree is the ultimate target with the Scottish and Irish Nationals offering prestigious alternatives. Red Rum (1974) remains the only horse to have won the feature races at Liverpool and Ayr in the same season.
Ayr used to host the Scottish Derby which ran from 1979 to 2005. It was originally restricted to three-year-olds but was opened to older horses in 1987. The name was changed to the Scottish Classic a year later and reached Group 2 status in 2003. Notable winners include Little Wolf (1981), Moon Madness (1986) and Scenic (1989). The race was run for the final time in 2005 with Sir Michael Stoute claiming a record sixth victory with Imperial Stride.
Ayr Famous Races and Racehorses
Red Rum’s 1974 victory was also notable for defying a big weight. He carried 11st 13lbs and no horse has managed to win under such a burden since. The popular Grey Abbey did win with 11st 12lbs on his back in 2004.
Three horses have won the Scottish National three times; Couvrefeu II (1911, 1912, 1913), Southern Hero (1934, 1936, 1939) and Queen’s Taste (1953, 1954 and 1954). One of the most popular winners of all time was Moorcroft Boy in 1996. He had suffered a horrible injury at Aintree but battled back to fitness to win this race under Mark Dwyer. Other notable Scottish National winners include Little Polveir (1987), Earth Summit (1994) and Merigo (2010 and 2012).
The Scottish Champion Hurdle is a handicap these days but used to be on the agenda for the very best hurdlers. Sea Pigeon (1977 and 1978) and Birds Nest (1979 and 1981) were both dual winners while Champion Hurdlers Comedy of Errors (1975), Night Nurse (1976), Granville Again (1992) and Alderbrook (1996) were all successful.
The record weight carrying performance in the Ayr Gold Cup is 10st by Roman Warrior in 1975. He was trained locally by Nigel Angus and remains the last winner of the race to be trained in Scotland. There are always plenty of Ayr betting tips for this competitive sprint with a maximum field of 28 runners.
High class sprinters to win the Ayr Gold Cup include Lochsong (1992), Coastal Bluff (1996), Continent (2001) and Brando (2016).
Ayr Betting Tips
Trainers Keith Dalgleish and Jim Goldie top the winners’ statistics at Ayr over the past three seasons. Neither has generated a level stakes profit and better value could be found by following local Galston trainer R Mike Smith. County Durham based Michael Dods also does well here with his runners.
Flat jockeys Phillip Makin and Daniel Tudhope both return an impressive 18% strike rate at Ayr and a level stakes profit. Grand National and Scottish National winning jockey Graham Lee also features in our Ayr horse racing tips.
Nick Alexander shows a level stakes profit with his chasers here but his strike rate is considerably lower over hurdles. Wigton-based Lisa Harrison does extremely well with her limited number of runners over fences. Trainer Stuart Coltherd is worth following over hurdles.
One of the best horse racing tips for Ayr today is to follow National Hunt jockey Brian Hughes. He tops the statistics numerically, in prize money and to a level stake. Sam Twiston-Davies is also worth noting when he makes the long journey north.