Head scratching at the Curragh
These scribblings have never been much enamoured with The Curragh’s decision to continue to race whilst the track’s two-year reconstruction took place. But the lure of the second day of Irish racing’s Champions Weekend, with four Group 1 races, was too strong to resist. So a trip to County Kildare was undertaken.
And, for what it was, it was quite an enjoyable day, albeit with some caveats.
Whilst there was a good buzz about the place, limited facilities meant numbers were restricted, as was viewing of the racing. If you elected to watch the racing by the winning post, you distanced yourself from the big screen. If you could get a seat in the temporary stand, you were looking directly down the straight.
But other problems were evident. First, the flagship Irish course has a big problem with it’s new parade ring. It is nicely situated in a landscaped area overlooked by the iconic Queen’s Stand, removed from its old site and rebuilt brick-by-brick.
But, as has already been reported, the parade ring is too small to accommodate large fields and is going to have to be reconstructed.
As a temporary measure, the fields for big runner races were divided between the main parade ring and the adjoining pre-parade ring.
And here’s the problem. The new parade ring is boxed in by the pre-parade ring, the Queen’s Stand and a new complex comprising a restaurant and media centre. There seems very little room for manoeuvre.
Heads will be being scratched to fathom out how such a mess could have happened and what to do about it.
There are also questions to be asked about the upgrade of the Derrinstown Flying Five Stake to Group 1 standing. In its first incarnation it did not attract a field worthy of its top level status and hard work is going to be needed to attract runners of the a suitable calibre if Ireland is to keep its only Group 1 sprint.
On a more mundane matter, the Curragh needs to up its game for getting people from Kildare Station to the course. It’s not difficult to synchronise a shuttle bus to be waiting for the arrival of trains and also to provide a vehicle that can accommodate all the passengers in one journey,
And thought should be given to where the taxi rank is situated. It’s a bit of a walk over undulating terrain and far from easy for those with mobility difficulties.
But what was said most frequently was why can’t the old Curragh Halt be reopened to bring the racecourse within walking distance of the railway. As my taxi driver said ‘They think that all they hve to do is spend millions and people will just turn up’.
Food for thought as the County Kildare course closes until next April when the redevelopment work is scheduled to be finished.
Betting shop improvements needed
It’s been a couple of months now since William Hill took over a number of racecourse betting shops from Betfred after Fred Done’s exit from the tracks when racing decided to set up its own pool betting operation through Britbet.
It was a hastily done thing, particularly during Newmarket’s July Cup meeting with the shop trading as Betfred one day and William Hill the next.
But if Newbury is any example, the change is not meeting with customer satisfaction.
Whereas the Betfred shop in the premier enclosure had four screens showing the action, William Hill have just the one screen, often taken up with its pundits spouting forth.
And last Saturday, when there was a lot going on, punters were less than well served. The single screen meant that races were joined after the off, a notice appeared on the screen obscuring the action advising the manager to reboot the system and the commentary was barely audible.
Ironically, it was during the William Hill sponsored Ayr Gold Cup that matters reached their nadir. The call could not be heard so as Barton Bold and Son Of Rest flashed past the post in unison, onlookers were none the wiser if a gamble had been landed or if an outsider had struck.
Before the result was known, the screen switched to a race at Chelmsford City which was already underway.
Improvements are hoped for.
Go west young man
Ping. An email arrives from Jockey Club Racecourses promoting the return of jump racing at its tracks in the south west.
Exeter, yep. Wincanton, yep. Warwick. Warwick?
Is a Cheltenham sponsorship at risk?
Newbury’s chairman Dominic Burke also has a day job as chief executive of insurance giant Jardine Lloyd Thompson, known as JLT for short.
In the past week JLT has accepted a £4.3 billion cash takeover bid by US pensions colossus Marsh and McLennan.
Burke can look forward to a very substantial pay out when the deal is completed next year.
But Cheltenham may not be so sanguine as it remains to be seen if the new US owners are as keen on racing as Burke, because JLT are the sponsors of the opening race on the Thursday of the Festival, the Novices’ Chase.
There are signs that Britbet, the racecourse run pool betting operation, has agreed to join forces with the Tote in forming a single pool.
Britbet was due to launch in July but that was put on hold whilst talks took place to see if a partnership could be possible with the Fred Done owned Tote in which an investment group Alizeti has a 25% stake and is planning to become the outright owners.
Good news for racing if agreement has been reached.