Action needed to save Irish racing
The Racing Hub’s new columnist on Irish Racing, Danny Scutchings, calls for urgent action to allow crowds back to Irish racecourses
The Ebor festival returns to York this week with hopes that the crowd will exceed the 83,000 that were present when the four-day meeting last had spectators in 2019 – 30,000 of those are expected on Ebor day on Saturday.
The other three days are headlined by some star-studded Group 1s including tomorrow’s Juddmonte International, the Darley Yorkshire Oaks on Thursday and Friday’s showpiece, the Nunthorpe.
The big crowds will see many runners from the likes of Aiden O’Brien and Willie Mullins but if these races were held in Ireland it would be a different story.
While British racecourses return to some kind of normal, at the Curragh (pictured on Derby Day 2019) there are a couple of interesting Group 2 racs this weekend, the Alpha Centauri Debutante Stakes and the Galileo Irish EBF Futurity Stakes, that only 500 spectators will see, that has been the cap due to Covid restrictions.
I know it’s still around and nothing should be lifted too quickly but surely now is the time to change and save Irish racing.
Yes some exemptions have been made this year with 1,000 allowed at both the Irish Derby meeting and at all seven days of the recent Galway festival both of which were trial events that passed off without incident but that doesn’t go far enough and the question remains why has racing been left behind?
Other Irish sports are going ahead with increased attendances with up to 40,000 being allowed to watch the GAA All-Ireland Senior Hurling and Football finals over the next few weeks, how racing would love that but the unsustainable restrictions are crippling Irish racecourses many of whom may not survive if this carries on.
The Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) are trying to do something last week requesting a formal meeting with Horse Racing Ireland and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board but meetings take time and it’s time the industry can ill afford.
Seeing near full houses at major British sporting events this summer including the Euro’s and the beginning of the Premier League season, along with the GAA plans, show it can be done.
The Irish racing authorities need to take note and let every racecourse return to full capacity sooner rather than later and hopefully in time for the Group 3 Coolmore Stud No Nay Never Fairy Bridge Stakes at Tipperary on 26 August and the Snow Fairy Fillies Stakes at The Curragh the next day.
But don’t hold your breath. Unfortunately, I can see these restrictions staying in place for a while yet and finally being lifted when it’s too late. I hope I’m wrong and I would be happy if I am. So, fingers crossed all parties get together and finally do the right thing.