Ayr Racecourse is the best-known and most important of Scotland’s five horse racing tracks.
Hosting both flat and jump racing, the track is known as the biggest in Scotland for both codes. Over the jumps, Ayr hosts both the Scottish Grand National and Scottish Champion Hurdle, while on the flat the Ayr Gold Cup brings in huge crowds each September.
The Ayr Gold Cup in fact is so oversubscribed that it is backed up by not one but two consolation races; the Ayr Silver Cup and Ayr Bronze Cup.
The track is hugely well supported by racegoers. Crowds on the biggest days in April and September flock from not just Ayrshire but also the Glasgow area, Northern Ireland and further afield in northern England.
- Address – Whitletts Road, Ayr, KA8 0JE.
- Owner – Richard Johnstone and Alan Macdonald.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Ayr has both a flat track and a jump track, both being left-handed turf tracks. Around one-and-a-half miles around and with a run-in of fully four furlongs, Ayr appears quite sweeping and galloping in nature rather than tight.
A fairly standard course at first glance. As the runners turn from the side of the course onto the straight, they go slightly downhill which in theory can hand those on the lead at the turn an advantage.
Ayr is a wide course. While this doesn’t affect races on the round course too much, it does mean a safety limit of 28 for major straight course races including the Ayr Gold Cup. As it is so wide, races featuring large fields often split. The general consensus as that those in higher stalls (stands side) will be favoured somewhat.
Reputationally, Ayr is fair enough on good or faster ground but particularly challenging for all when the going gets soft, especially on the uphill section of the straight around 2½ furlongs from home.
Flat Course Analysis
The analysis from those having ridden the course is that it is a good, galloping track. For whatever reason, perhaps the downhill stretch entering the straight, those ridden handily have tended to perform best especially on quickish ground as those in behind are unlikely to catch up quickly.
Much like Haydock, many don’t see Ayr as being stiff and yet a strong galloper/stayer is most definitely needed. Even if going well into the final half-mile, those not seeing out the trip very well will get swamped.
The nature of the final turn means that you don’t want a runner going too wide. Many lengths can be lost there and at a crucial stage of a race, so those drawn on the inner and those able to get up with the pace and choose their own racing lane will perform best.
There are nine fences placed around the 1¼-mile jumps course. Naturally, it matches the flat course topographically, meaning a downhill run before the straight which they enter just before taking the fourth-last fence.
On better ground it remains very fair, but the one-furlong run-in after the final fence can seem like a long way when the whether is bad as it really does take some getting.
Jumps Course Analysis
Top National Hunt jockeys past and present have agreed that the weather is the most important factor at Ayr Racecourse. At least, it is when it comes to deciding pace.
Those experienced riders exercising patience will almost always hold up their mounts on soft ground and wait for the leaders to come back, as that long straight and final four fences make for a very gruelling final part of the race.
Things change however when the going is quick. Getting too far back entering the straight and/or losing ground at one or more of the obstacles in the straight will make it very tough for horses to make up ground. The leaders can get away on quicker going, but in general a horse will need to stay every yard of the advertised trip.
Visiting Ayr Racecourse
Ayr Racecourse is right off the main road into the town, around a mile from the centre and two miles from the beach front.
How to Get to Ayr Racecourse
The track is visible from the A719, the main drag into Ayr from the A77. That road can be accessed from the A76 for those coming from the Dumfries area, or from the M77 out of Glasgow.
The course is only four miles and a 15-minute drive from Prestwick Airport and just a mile from the train station in the town centre. Accessibility is one of the key positive features of this track, though naturally traffic builds up on the main road on race days.
Where to Stay
No matter where you choose to stay, you won’t be far away from the track.
Hotels are available close to the A77 near Ayr and Prestwick, while there are plenty of rooms in and around the town centre and beach areas.
From there, taxis are readily available to take racegoers to the track in a matter of minutes.
Ayr Racecourse Fixtures
|Monday||11th Dec 2023||Afternoon||Jump / Turf|
Major Events at Ayr
While Hamilton, Musselburgh, Perth and Kelso all have very good seasonal highlights, all of the major jumps and flat races hosted by Scottish tracks are run at Ayr.
Splitting the codes up, these are the biggest races run each year at Ayr Racecourse:
Major Jumps Races
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, Listed Race||2m4½f||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
|Handicap Chase||Handicap Chase, Listed Race||2m½f||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
|Novices’ Champion Handicap Chase||Novices’ Chase, Class 2||3m||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
|Scottish Champion Hurdle||Limited Handicap Hurdle, Grade 2||2m||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
|Future Champion Novices’ Chase||Novices’ Chase, Grade 2||2m4½f||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
|Scottish Grand National||Handicap Chase, Grade 3||4m||Scottish Grand National Meeting||April|
Major Flat Races
|Kilkerran Cup||Handicap, Class 2||1m2f||Ayr Gold Cup Opening Day||September|
|Harry Rosebery Stakes||2yo Only, Listed Race||5f||Ayr Gold Cup Ladies Day||September|
|Scottish Sprint Stakes||Fillies Only, Listed Race||5½f||Ayr Gold Cup Ladies Day||September|
|Ayr Bronze Cup||Handicap, Class 2||6f||Ayr Gold Cup Ladies Day||September|
|Doonside Cup||Listed Race||1m2f||Ayr Gold Cup Day||September|
|Ayr Silver Cup||Handicap, Class 2||6f||Ayr Gold Cup Day||September|
|Ayr Gold Cup||Handicap, Class 2||6f||Ayr Gold Cup Day||September|
About Ayr Racecourse
There has been some form of horse racing at Ayr since 1576. Things escalated quickly from there too, the first proper meeting coming in 1771 and the first Ayr Gold Cup being run in 1804.
By 1824, the Western Meeting Club had been formed and begun the Western Meeting, now known as the Ayr Gold Cup Festival though still known colloquially by its old title. In 1855 the Ayr Gold Cup became a handicap for the first time.
All this took place at Ayr’s old racing site, Seafield, but moved to its current location in 1907. The move came as the old area was deemed too small for racing, featuring a one-mile oval with tight turns and no room to extend the paddock and visiting areas.
Owing to the Western Meeting Club’s travelling around Britain, the current Ayr Racecourse is actually based on another famous track; Newbury.
In 1950, the jumps course was established on the land meaning that Ayr could race all year round. In 1966, the Scottish Grand National was transferred to Ayr after Bogside Racecourse in Irvine closed.
Despite all this success, investment slowed right down and by the 90’s the facilities needed a major overhaul. A new owner was needed for Ayr to stay competitive. After a protracted process, business partners Richard Johnstone and Alan Macdonald took control.