The contrasting fortunes of two British racecourses were revealed by almost simultaneous announcements on Tuesday, when one deal was done to secure the future of Musselburgh while another has almost certainly ended racing at Towcester. There was little surprise at the news that Towcester’s final 10 fixtures had been sold off – no white knight having emerged to save the business since it went into administration more than a year ago – but there was much dismay.
The Northamptonshire track was well known for its stiff, uphill finish and its stamina-sapping surface, which produced some of the most thrilling and prolonged finishes in jump racing. The Gold Cup and Grand National-winning trainer Kim Bailey tweeted the news was “a huge disaster for slow horses” and suggested the land might now be sold for housing.
Towcester’s management had sold off its better fixtures while the track was still in business, so the action there rarely generated headline news. An exception was the day that Sir Anthony McCoy rode his 4,000th winner in front of a crowd of rare size and enthusiasm.
ARC revealed that it had bought Towcester’s fixtures and will now distribute them among its 16 tracks. The British Horseracing Authority expressed sadness at the news and insisted that the fixtures would still have to be used for jump racing.
At Musselburgh, however, things are looking up after the contract to run the track east of Edinburgh was awarded to the company that runs Chester and Bangor. A successful track after many years of profits being reinvested, Musselburgh had become the subject of a power struggle between the local authority and those appointed to oversee the business, which is now hoped to be a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, the field for Sunday’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is likely to be the smallest for at least a dozen years, following four withdrawals on Wednesday. Mehdaayih, Musis Amica, Silverwave and Matchwinner were taken out, leaving just 12 in the race, although the French-trained Soft Light is expected to be a supplementary entry on Wednesday at a cost of €120,000. Bookmakers introduced him as a 66-1 shot.