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Saturday , 22 September 2018
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Ayr Western Meeting has long history

The Ayr Western Meeting takes place this week. The reason behind its name is interesting.

There were once three such Scottish fixtures: Ayr staged the Western Meeting, Dumfries held the Southern Meeting, and Inverness the Northern meeting. However, Inverness closed in 1830 and Dumfries closed in 1847, leaving just Ayr.

The first record of racing at Ayr was in 1771, when Sir John Douglas won a £50 race with Phillipo. However, it was 1877 before the results of the meeting first appeared in the Racing Calendar.

The Western Meeting Club was established in 1824 to promote interest in racing at Ayr. It sponsored the Harrier Stakes for hunting horses. Then, six years later, the Club added money to several races, including the Royal Guineas and the Ayr Gold Cup.

Main races at the Ayr Western Meeting

Wednesday’s highlight is the Doonside Cup, a Listed race over one mile two furlongs. The Harry Rosebery Stakes on Friday is named in honour of the Sixth Earl of Rosebery. He was a big supporter of the Ayr Western Meeting. He died in May 1974. The Group 3 Firth of Clyde Stakes on Saturday is for two-year-olds over six furlongs.

However, its most famous race is the Ayr Gold Cup. Originally, only horses bred and trained in Scotland could run in it. Chancellor won the first two runnings in 1804 and 1805. The original distance was two miles, with the race being in two heats. It became a handicap in 1855. Fred Archer won the 1872 Ayr Gold Cup on Alaric. It became a six-furlong race when it moved to the present course in 1908, following the closure of the old track at Belleisle.

The best winners in post-war times include Peter O’Sullevan’s Be Friendly, who beat 32 rivals in 1967. Furthermore, in 1992 Lochsong became the first horse to win the Stewards’ Cup, Portland Handicap and Ayr Gold Cup in the same season.

Good punting at this year’s Ayr Western Meeting.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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