€7m Races bonanza
ONLY days remain before hordes of racing punters pour into north Kerry for one of the country's great race meetings.
Worth an estimated €7 million to the economy of the region, the Listowel Races are on the verge of another massively successful year as the weather forecast currently suggests great going for the start of the week.
"The ground is good. Our National Hunt is good and our flat track is yielding," Race Company assistant secretary Brenda Daly told The Kerryman.
Running from Sunday, September 15, next until Saturday, September 21, the Races will see thousands descending on Listowel, Ballybunion, Tralee and even Killarney in a welcome boost for the county economy.
"We will have 53 races over the seven days with a total prize fund of €1,051,000 on offer. This year also marks a first evening meeting for us as Monday starts at 3.45pm until the last of the seven race card at 6.45pm," Ms Daly added.
Sunday also marks a first for the company as as a special invitation is extended to families. "Sunday is our family day with lots of exciting children's events, from face painting to bouncy castles and a petting farm in a nice start to the meeting."
As ever, racing punters are now becoming increasingly excited at the prospect of two days in particular - Wednesday's Kerry National and Friday's Ladies' Day.
€150,000 will be up for grabs in the Kerry National, marking the big race of the week and one of the busiest days on the Island. But Ladies' Day is becoming nearly as popular with up to 30,000 descending on the track in a wave of colour in recent years.
"It's becoming massively popular, sponsored by Chic Boutique for over 20 years, and we hope for a great day once again in 2013!"
Listowel seems to have weathered the worst of the recession with racing attendances only slightly down from the height of the boom. "There's a great tradition with Listowel and it enjoys an extraordinarily loyal following always. It's the farmers' meeting and so many people have been coming here since they were children accompanying their parents in turn," Ms Daly added.