Horse Racing in Scotland


Got questions about Scottish horse racing? You might find some answers in this guide to horse racing in Scotland! Where can you find Scottish Grand National tips?

While horse racing in Scotland does not possess quite the same weight of cultural significance as it does in Ireland, Scotland has played a prominent role in the Sport of Kings over the years. Races such as the Scottish Grand National occupy a significant position in the sport’s calendar in the UK, and there are many other iconic Scottish horse racing festivals that take place throughout the year.

Indeed, some say that the word ‘Jockey’ may have its origins in the number of Scottish horse riders and dealers who flocked to England in the 17th century during the reign of Charles II, who was a notable lover of horse racing. Want to discover more about horse racing in Scotland? Read on!

Horse Racing Scotland

Notable Scottish Racecourses

Horse racing in Scotland has a long history. Despite this, there are currently only five racecourses in use North of the Border. These are Ayr Racecourse, Hamilton Park, Kelso Racecourse, Musselburgh Racecourse and Perth Racecourse.

Ayr is a mixed racecourse that stages both flat and National Hunt racing, as is Musselburgh, which is located in the Lothians not far from Edinburgh. Kelso Racecourse, located in the Scottish Borders region, and Perth Racecourse, which is the closest venue to the Scottish Highlands, are used for National Hunt racing. Hamilton Park, located in Lanarkshire not far from the city of Glasgow, is a  course for flat racing.

Famous Scottish Horse Races

Lanark Silver Bell

The Lanark Silver Bell was regarded as one of the oldest horse races in the world, having been established during the 12th or 13th century during the reign of King William the Lion. When Lanark Racecourse closed in 1977, the Silver Bell was the oldest continuously run horse race in the world. In 2008, the race was revived and is now run in August every year at Hamilton Racecourse.

Scottish Grand National

horse racing scotland
Credit: Sky Sports

Among the most prestigious horse races in the world is the Scottish Grand National, which is run at Ayr over a distance of almost four miles. Open to horse aged five years or younger, this National Hunt steeplechase consists of 27 fences, and is held over the two days of Ayr’s Scottish Grand National Festival Meeting. The race used to be run at the now-defunct Bogside Racecourse, near Irvine in Ayrshire.

Ayr Gold Cup

This prestigious flat race is run over a distance of six furlongs and takes place each year in September as part of the Ayr Gold Cup Festival. The maximum number of runners is 27, and those 27 horses consist of the highest-weighted horses entered for the race.

Scottish Jockeys who have found fame

While the list of famous Scottish jockeys is nowhere near as long as the list of famous Irish jockeys, there are some notable Scots who have found fame on the turf. Here are three of the most prominent names in Scottish horse racing.

Willie Carson

Willie Carson OBE became a very famous sporting presence in the UK during the 1970s and 80s. Born in Stirling in 1942, he was British Champion Jockey on five occasions between 1972 and 1983, and went on to enjoy a media career, notably as a team captain on the BBC TV show Question of Sport. His quirky laugh and high-pitched voice have often been imitated and Carson retains a warm place in the hearts of the British sporting public to this day.

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Peter Niven

Peter Niven, who was born in 1964 at Broughty Ferry near Dundee, is mainly famous for becoming, in 2001, the first Scot to ride over 1000 winners. By the time of his retirement in September 2001, he was the first jockey to have won five races on a day on more than four occasions. He is now a racehorse trainer.

Daniel Tudhope

Daniel Tudhope was born in 1985 and grew up in Irvine, in Ayrshire, which could claim to be the heartland of Scottish horse racing. In 2013, he topped 100 winners in a season for the first time and in 2014 managed to earn £1 million in prize money. Currently, he is a retained jockey for Steve Parkin. In 2021, he won 96 races out of 620.


Horse racing in Scotland is staged at just five venues these days, but its recorded history stretches right back to the 12th century. There are some iconic races staged at charming and charismatic venues such as Ayr Racecourse. Names such as Willie Carson, Peter Niven and Daniel Tudhope have brought glory to Scotland in the sport, and horse racing continues to occupy an important place in Scottish popular culture. 

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