Ayr Racecourse has announced that Virgin Bet will be extending its sponsorship of the prestigious Ayr Gold Cup for the third consecutive year.

The Virgin Bet Ayr Gold Cup, now valued at £180,000, has gained recognition as one of the most thrilling sprint handicap races in the country, with Summerghand claiming victory in 2022 and Bielsa in 2021.

The increased prize money for the main event is expected to be welcomed throughout the industry and intensify competition for places in the final field on Saturday, September 23. 

Ayr Racecourse is the only British racing venue to host not only the Gold Cup but also the Silver Cup and the Bronze Cup, providing an opportunity for horses that haven't made the cut for the main race to compete over the same course and distance.

Virgin Bet will sponsor the entire three-day festival, which gets under way on Thursday, September 21, with the feature race on the opening day being the Virgin Bet Kilkerran Cup, won last year by Joanna Mason on the Mick and David Easterby trained Yorkshire Lady.

Friday's Ladies' Day feature will be the Virgin Bet Bronze Cup and the sports betting provider will also sponsor the three main supporting races on Gold Cup day itself, Saturday, September 23.

The Virgin Bet Firth of Clyde Stakes for two-year-old fillies is Scotland's only Group 3 race, and the Virgin Bet name will also be on the Listed Doonside Cup and the second biggest sprint handicap of the meeting, the Ayr Silver Cup.

Last year's Doonside Cup was won by the Roger Varian trained Royal Champion which went on to win last month's Listed Wolferton Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Ayr managing director David Brown said: "We're delighted to be renewing our Ayr Gold Cup partnership with Virgin Bet for a third year and owners and trainers will be excited to hear that the prize money for the race is being increased by £30,000 to £180,000.

“The Virgin Bet name will be associated with the entire three-day Festival once again and, as well as the Ayr Gold Cup itself, another eight key contests over the three days will be sponsored by Virgin Bet, including the prestigious Firth Of Clyde Stakes for two-year-olds and the mile-and-a-quarter Doonside Cup.

“Ayr's Gold Cup Festival is the biggest Flat meeting of the year in Scotland and everyone at Ayr is looking forward to working with the Virgin Bet team to make 2023 yet another memorable three days of top-class racing."

Virgin Bet marketing director Ric Leask added: "We are delighted to be sponsoring the esteemed Ayr Gold Cup for the third successive year.

"This thrilling event showcases some of the finest horses and jockeys, and we are proud to be a part of such top-quality racing.

“Virgin Bet remains committed to being a leading player in the world of horse racing, and sponsoring this prestigious race demonstrates this.

"The Ayr Gold Cup is a highlight in both the Scottish and UK racing calendars, and we are excited to contribute to its success.”