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Vivien Currie

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Vivien Currie says the priority is to ensure horseracing can work commercially

Scottish horseracing is thriving while facing changing financial pressure, the boss of one of the country’s best known racing grounds has said.

Hamilton Park Racecourse chief executive Vivien Currie said different media rights and the horserace betting levy had seen significant change.

But she told BBC Scotland the industry was doing more than ever to train and keep home-grown talent.

Hamilton Park is also diversifying by opening a hotel in the summer.

The racecourse has just been named “showcase champion” by the Racecourse Association – a hugely prestigious industry award – and has pulled in record crowds this year.

‘Considerable changes’

Elsewhere, Ayr has become one of eight racecourses around the UK to commit to a new horseracing series where teams compete in leagues.

“As a whole we are thriving,” Mrs Currie told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme, adding : “We’re now working more closely with trainers and owners in Scotland as well, to make sure everyone in the whole of Scotland is looking after each other.”

The new 118-bed hotel at Hamilton Park is the final part of a three-year expansion plan at the racecourse.

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Hamilton Park is one of five major horseracing courses in Scotland

“Diversification’s probably the right word but it’s always to be something complementary to the horseracing,” said Mrs Currie, who is also non-executive director of the British Horseracing Authority.

“Diversification has become more important now.

“The financial pressures on any sport and particularly our own – with different media rights also with our interaction with the levy which is the betting tax that comes through the government from bookmakers – the pressures on all of these have changed considerably in the last eight years.

“What we’re now having to do is make sure each sport can stand as a commercial entity.”

Gambling addiction

The issue of gambling addiction is back in the spotlight, after Britain’s biggest betting firms voluntarily agreed to stop adverts during live sports broadcasts.

Mrs Currie said betting was becoming a less important part of her industry, adding: “Gambling is a key part of the sport, but I always say to people, you can come and enjoy a day’s live racing without actually putting a bet on.

“Many bookmakers want to sponsor events at racecourses, but there’s more and more gambling on football now and many more sports so racing is becoming a much smaller percentage of the income that bookmakers take.”

As well as Hamilton and Ayr, horseracing fans can also choose to have a day out at Scottish courses in Kelso, Musselburgh and Perth.

And the industry has seen recent success further afield,

Scottish trainer Iain Jardine had a horse competing in the Melbourne Cup – one of Australia’s most high-profile sporting events.

And One for Arthur – trained by Scots trainer Lucinda Russell and her partner Peter Scudamore – won last year’s Grand National.

You can hear more from Vivien Currie on Good Morning Scotland.

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