TRALEE greyhound track battled the recession with a very satisfactory degree of success in 2012 and the man at the heart of things at the Oakview venue, Declan Dowling, is very positive about the outlook for 2013.
The big highlight of 2012 for Dowling, who holds the title of Sales and Operations Manager, was the coup that saw Sky Sports provide live coverage of a night's racing at Tralee on June 30 for a huge national and international audience.
"It was a massive undertaking and it turned out to be an absolutely wonderful success for us, even better than we could have hoped for," said Dowling. "Special thanks must go to all the silent sponsors who came on board and without whom the night just could not have happened. Sky told us that it was one of the best outside broadcasts they ever did and it was very gratifying to hear that. Our own track staff did a brilliant job and, essentially, it was a great community effort. Special mention must, of course, must go to Liam Lynch, for his vital role in the whole thing."
Dowling revealed that Sky Sports might be coming back to Tralee track in 2013. "Nothing is definite at this stage, but it is a possibility," he said.
Attendances at Tralee track during 2012 were slightly ahead of 2011 and, remarkably, 10,000 German tourists contributed to this state of affairs. The German tourists use a Tralee hotel, the Earl of Desmond on the outskirts of the town, as a base from April to September and 180 of them, or three busloads, attended on a regular nightly basis.
"They have become a very important aspect of our gate receipts and we are delighted that they will be back in similar numbers in 2013," said Dowling. "We are also getting additional French tourists, which is brilliant as well."
Dowling did reveal, however, that spending per head, with the tote and on food and beverage, was down on 2011, but he says that he continues to be amazed by the amount of people who turn up for benefit meetings and for party nights.
"Those who see our facilities for the first time can scarcely believe that they are so good and you know that word of mouth from these people is probably the best advertising of all," he said. "That is very positive for us, looking forward, and it's great to be able to say that we have quite a few benefit meetings already booked for February, March and April.
"Without question, we are one of the leading tracks in the country when it comes to fund-raising nights and we take justifiable pride in that. I might add that we also have two big family gatherings already booked for 2013 and we will certainly be playing our part in the Year of the Gathering.
"Looking at the overall situation, from a financial point of view, it's all about attaining the level of success we enjoyed in 2012. If we can manage that in such a time of recession, it will be a very acceptable achievement."
Dowling added that it was crucially important to have the continued support of sponsors. "They have been absolutely fantastic to us and I just hope that all of them will stay on board with us into the future."
Dowling referred to the untimely death of Shane McEntee, Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture and the man with responsibility for greyhound racing, and said that he would be a very big loss. "He was with us here on our Sky night and there was no mistaking his commitment to the greyhound industry and his interest in it," he said.
Very importantly, prizemoney for greyhound racing at all IGB tracks is to increase by 20 per cent from January 7. As well, 5 per cent of prizemoney up to €1,999 will go to the breeders, with 10 per cent continuing to apply for breeders to prizemoney above €1,999. There is a deduction of 2 per cent for the Retired Greyhound Trust.
The biggest purse on Sky Sports night at Tralee, of course, was claimed by the Micheal Ó Muircheartaigh-owned Razldazl Rioga, while the track's No 1 event, the unraced juvenile classic sponsored by Gallivan, Murphy, Hooper, Dolan Insurances, was won by the Owen McKennatrained Airforce Diva.
The €15,000-to-the-winner unraced juvenile classic is to start earlier this year, on February 22, to avoid a clash with a puppy event at Limerick track that has a winner's purse of €80,000 thanks to sponsorship by JP McManus.
The juvenile classic is always a huge crowd-puller, as, indeed, are other major sweepstakes and the big benefit meetings, and, of course, the year at the Oakview venue ends on a great high with the staging of the Greyhound and Petworld Kingdom Derby. Performancewise, there were many, many highlights, while, on the national scene, a Kerry man, Paddy Purtill, of Ballydonoghue, had the great distinction of breeding the winner of the Irish Derby, Skywalker Puma.
Other Kerry greyhounds greatly distinguished themselves outside the county and, at year's end, it was marvellous to see Cashen Mafuma score a pretty sensational victory in the Kerry Agribusiness Irish Leger at Limerick.
More of the same in 2013, hopefully!