One of Scotland’s premier racecourses could be closed down after failing to secure a new licence.
Musselburgh was hoping that a bailout offer involving the Chester Race Company would be forced through, however with momentum for that deal halting the track could be left without a licence to host meetings.
The issue is a long-standing war of attrition between representatives from the racing operation and East Lothian Council, which ultimately forced the BHA to step in.
Back in October, they gave the green light to a takeover bid from the Chester firm, which would allow them to run racing north of the border as a third-party operation.
Musselburgh has been granted a stay of execution a number of times already, and despite being handed temporary offers and licence extensions their present deal with the council will run out as of May 1 2020.
And that would mean the track would be outlawed from hosting meetings after racing resumes – even behind closed doors – until a more concrete deal can be put in place.
The reasons for Chester seemingly going cold on the idea are unknown, but the concern is that they are now ready to pull the plug on the proposed deal – a worry shared by Musselburgh councillor Stuart Currie.
“What happens if Chester pull out of the deal? Will the BHA take our racing licence away and effectively close Musselburgh racecourse? It is a very real concern,” he told the East Lothian Courier.
“The BHA is holding the sword of Damocles over the racecourse and its staff, and is acting as if nothing has changed when everything has changed.”
However, Chester’s general manager Andrew Morris has claimed that current restrictions have ultimately delayed the takeover.
“The issue of the licence is between East Lothian Council and the BHA and isn’t a matter that we would be willing to comment on, other than to say that from an industry perspective no-one wants to see a racecourse unable to operate because it doesn’t have a licence.
“We remain committed to taking the operating contract on at Musselburgh and we understand it’s frustrating that the deal has not yet been concluded….”
There are many racegoers and punters who believe that Musselburgh is the finest racecourse that Scotland has to offer.
While Ayr is the biggest and gets to host the Scottish Grand National as a consequence, there is just something of the rolling cambers at Musselburgh that harks back to a beloved bygone era. Winding along the River Esk, and with the Royal Musselburgh Golf Club also on the premises, the layout remains a visual treat more than two centuries after opening for the first time.
There is the old tale that the Royal Caledonian Hunt, so pleased with the quality of the course’s build and its aesthetics, donated 50 guineas to be distributed among Musselburgh’s poorest locals.
Despite a lavish refurbishment project back in 1995, Musselburgh was losing money annually and continues to do so to this day. The hope is that the Chester deal can revitalise this underrated gem of UK racing.