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Ayr Racecourse

Marketing itself as Scotland's premier racecourse, Ayr Racecourse is located in Craigie, to the north of the River Ayr, a half-mile (1 km) east of the town centre. Occupying a 62.7-ha (155-acre) site, the racecourse provides for both flat racing and National Hunt (over jumps), with up to 30 meetings a year. It is home to the Scottish Grand National and Ayr Gold Cup, the richest sprint handicap in Europe. The oval track extends to approximately one mile and four furlongs (2414m), with a six furlong (1207m) straight course on which the Gold Cup is run. Hospitality is centred around the Princess Royal Stand and the Rothesay Stand. The former extends over four floors and includes the Princess Royal Exhibition, Banqueting and Conference Centre, private boxes to watch the racing, two fine dining restaurants, and the Ayrshire Suite that opened in 2008 at a cost of 4.5 million. The Rothesay Stand was previously known as the Paddock Stand, but refurbished and renamed by the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in 2012.

Horse racing in Ayr dates back to the 16th century but the first formal meeting was held in 1771 and the first Ayr Gold Cup was run in 1804. By 1838, this race offered a prize of 2000. Racing in Ayr was patronised by the local landed gentry, such as the Duke of Portland, the Earl of Eglinton, the Boswells of Auchinleck and Oswalds of Auchincruive, who all bred successful horses and were noted for appointing trainers who used the latest methods. At this time the racecourse was located in the Seafield area of the town, 1½ miles (2.5 km) southeast of the current site, an area now occupied by Belleisle Park and Seafield Golf Course.

The course moved to its present location in 1907, gaining additional space for a longer course. In 1913, an unidentified suffragette burned down the grandstand late one night. The course was taken over by the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and used as a training airfield. One of the heavily-modified aircraft hangars survived until 2004 as the Craigie Stand. The course was requisitioned once again during World War II. National Hunt racing being introduced in 1950 and the Scottish Grand National moved here in 1966. The racecourse also now hosts the Ayr County Show.

Until 2003, the course was run by the Western Meeting Club which was established in 1824. It was then sold to local businessmen who promised the necessary investment to return it to being a sustainable business. Built in 1920, the fine headquarters of the Western Meeting Club was transformed into the Western House Hotel in 2005.


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