By Gordon Brown
MUSSELBURGH is the location this weekend for the opening leg of the valuable Sky Bet Sunday Series, which also sees similar ‘twilight’ cards staged at Haydock Park and Sandown Park in August.
Initiatives for the series include 25 minute gaps between some of the seven races, a £100,000 bonus for any jockey who rides seven winners across the three fixtures and a £100,000 prize for the owner of a horse who bags a race at each meeting. Stable staff are rewarded too with £250 up for grabs as a best turned-out award in every race.
The launch to set to get underway at 3.55pm with almost £200,000 in prize money on offer and Musselburgh general manager and clerk of the course Bill Farnsworth said: “The aim of this new meeting, and the shorter intervals, is to offer sports fans - and racing fans - an afternoon of short, sharp action with very competitive racing and fantastic prize money. As you would expect with the races worth between £20,000 and £30,000, there is plenty of interest and it should be pretty exciting.”
Two Musselburgh regulars that have been attracted by the boosted cash incentive are Iain Jardine and Jim Goldie.
The pair have all saddled winners at the East Lothian circuit this year on the Flat and are set to have plenty of runners between them on Sunday.
Jardine is already a big fan and the Dumfriesshire handler said: “The prize money is amazing and we were quick to cotton on to it. Bill and his team, and the sponsors Sky Bet, have done really well to get it to such high levels. The £100,000 for a horse winning a race at all three meetings is tempting and we’ll certainly be having a pop at that as well.”
Jardine’s meeting starts with £14,000 purchase Dajarus (3.55) and Monica in the opening event over five-furlongs for unraced juveniles and he added: “Dajarus is a breeze up horse and we’ve been taking our time with her. We worked her the other day and I was pleased enough. She maybe wants a wee bit further - she seems sharp and gives that impression - but this is good place to start her off.
“Hi Meh Darling (4.45) goes for the nursery and she’s been running consistently well in all her races. She’s coming back a furlong in trip but she does show a bit of speed so, fingers crossed, she could be competitive and she has a nice weight for her first handicap.
“Never Dark (5.15) is a really quick horse and he came from Andrew Balding. His three runs for us have been really good and he just got beat half a length at Musselburgh on his first run for the yard in early June. He’s pretty talented and it’s just a case of finding the key to him in a race in which we also run Glory Fighter.”
Goldie, who has eight runners, added: “It’s a brilliant idea and it will be interesting to see what betting turnover it produces. Time-wise, and being on a Sunday, it will be a logistical problem for the longer travellers but I’d like to think we have a little bit of home advantage!
“The whole point is we want a product that people enjoy watching; that television viewers tune into and create betting turnover. We are all in the same, entertainment game - we don’t have a right to get an income, we have to produce the goods and I’ve got a few of my local stars on parade.”
Those ‘stars’ from his Uplawmoor yard include four speedsters in the £25,600 Sky Bet Sunday Series Sprint Handicap (5.15) and Goldie quipped: “I had the first four home at Ayr almost exactly four years ago so another 1-2-3-4 would be nice in this class of race! They are certainly all contenders and none of them are that badly drawn either.
“Primo’s Comet won recently over course and distance under a terrific ride from Paul Mulrennan; Tanasoq loves the place and produced his highest figures in 2019 when winning at the track before he came to us; it might be a bit sharp for Global Humor, who has been running over 6f, 7f and a mile but he was only pipped by a one the other day while Sound Of Iona has definitely been knocking at the door in her two recent runs in class 4 sprints.
“We also have Tommy G (4.20) in the apprentice race to give young Gianluca Sanna a spin. It’s his first go at 1m 1f but he’s won over a mile at Musselburgh so he could interesting. He’s quite well drawn and he was a good second at Ayr on Monday so he’s basically running without a penalty.
“And Sarvi (6.40) isn’t without a chance and she won over hurdles for the first time at Musselburgh. She’s been running over hurdles and on the Flat this summer and was third in a tactical race over course and distance last month.”
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