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Scotland’s richest horse racing Festival, the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup 2022, is here! With three days of enthralling racing, Ayr Racecourse will offer one incredible race after the other, culminating in the highlight – the Ayr Gold Cup on Saturday.

This weekend, racegoers will get to see Scotland’s only Group race, the Virgin Bet Firth Of Clyde Stakes, as well as the Listed Virgin Bet Doonside Cup and the Virgin Bet Ayr Silver and Bronze Cups. Crowds will gather to cheer on their favourites and share the excitement of a weekend full of thrilling top-class racing and all around entertainment. Ladies Day will also be hosted on Friday, along with the fabulous Style Awards.

The Ayr Gold Cup race has produced an array of great winners over the years, with Kevin Ryan training his fifth winner of the big race in 2021, with winner Bielsa under Kevin Stott.

The History of The Ayr Gold Cup

The origins of Ayr racecourse date all the way back to 1576, with the first official meeting in 1771. In its early days, the racecourse was supported by local members of the Caledonian Hunt, such as the Earl of Eglinton and the Duke of Portland. 

The VirginBet Ayr Gold Cup, Scotland’s richest sprint race and now one of the most popular and competitive fixtures within the annual racing calendar, was actually established as a two mile contest back in 1804.

Now infamous for the large-field dash along the straight 6 furlongs during the Ayr Racecourse Western Meeting, the longer race was originally restricted to horses only bred and trained in Scotland and the racecourse was at Belleisle, it’s former site in the Seafield area of Ayr.

The Western Meeting was established in 1824, The Ayr Gold Cup became a handicap in 1855 and was then shortened to a mile in 1870. When the Belleisle track closed in 1907, the racecourse was relocated to it’s present day site and the race was cut to six furlongs.

So popular is the race that two consolation races have been created, so horses that don’t make the top 25 in the handicap to run in the Ayr Gold Cup itself could then either make the cut for the Silver Cup – also run on the Saturday of the Western Meeting –  or the Bronze Cup, which is run on the Friday.

Friday is billed as Ladies’ Day, with the popular Style Awards competition and great prizes up for grabs for Most Stylish Lady, Most Stylish Gent, Most Stylish Hat and the Most Stylish Couple.

Pre-Covid pandemic, the first day of racing, on the Thursday, used to host a live draw for the Ayr Gold Cup on the Saturday, where a representative of each runner got to choose the all important stall their charge would start from for the big race. Sadly the theatre of the draw was cancelled with racing behind closed doors during lockdown and has yet to be re-established.

Not for the lack of trying, the last Scottish horse to win the Ayr Gold Cup was Roman Warrior, back  in 1975, and the racecourse has a restaurant named in the horse’s honour.  Despite the handicap status, the race has boasted some top class winners including Longsong (1992) who was twice crowned European Sprinter of the Year in 1993 and 1994 and Horse of the Year in 1993, and Continent (2001) who became European Champion Sprinter in 2002.

Dual winners of the race are rare, with Funfair Wane regaining his crown in 2004 following his win in 2002, but we have to go back to 1930 and 1931 for the last back-to-back winner in Heronslea. This year in 2022, Bielsa for trainer Kevin Ryan is bidding to emulate his win from 2021 while Commanche Falls could become the first horse in 26 years to do the famous Stewards Cup (Goodwood) and Ayr Gold Cup sprint double.

Our work at The Ayr Gold Cup 2022

RTA Publicity are no strangers to Ayr Racecourse. As well as working on the signage for the Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup, Tricia, Alan and Graham also used to look after the branding when the race was previously sponsored by William Hill. Over time, working with the racecourse to maximise the brand visibility for their sponsors, we tweaked the siting of some signs and identified new and better locations for more signs to ensure the best possible coverage across the site. Virgin Bet’s red and white livery stands out really well and makes a big splash, even amongst a crowded raceday.