Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Tuesday 23 October 2018

All hands on deck at Fairyhouse ahead of the €1.55m Irish Grand National festival

Jockey Robbie Power celebrates as he enters the parade ring after winning the Boylesports Irish Grand National Steeplechase on Our Duke during the Fairyhouse Easter Festival in 2017
Jockey Robbie Power celebrates as he enters the parade ring after winning the Boylesports Irish Grand National Steeplechase on Our Duke during the Fairyhouse Easter Festival in 2017

Siobhán English

Storm Ophelia, Storm Emma and recent heavy snowfalls have been a real headache for Peter Roe in recent months.

As general manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse he keeps a very close eye on the weather forecast but most especially at this time of year as the Easter Racing Festival fast approaches.

With snow still on the ground and further rain forecast for early next week, the Tipperary native says it will be all hands on deck now to ensure the track is in peak condition ahead of what will be an exciting three days of racing between April 1-3.

Boasting a prize-fund of €1.55 million, the highlight of the Festival will undoubtedly be the Boylesports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday. Won last year by the Irish-trained Our Duke, the 2018 renewal is expected to attract another stellar line-up, with the hope also of some high-class overseas rivals making the trip.

Fairyhouse Racecourse Manager PETER ROE. Photo HEALY RACING.
Fairyhouse Racecourse Manager PETER ROE. Photo HEALY RACING.

“If you consider the year we’ve had with all the storms and snow falls, it has been particularly tough on racing in Ireland,” Mr Roe said.

In recent months some of the other planned race meetings at the Co Meath track had to be postponed or re-scheduled due to bad weather, and Mr Roe strongly hopes that the Easter Festival can survive the next few days.

“There was still snow on the track up to the middle of last week, and we’re expecting more rain again this week but hopefully it won’t be significant to affect the ground which is currently heavy.”

Storm Ophelia was one of the first to disrupt the 2017/2018 National Hunt season at the track.

Also Read


“We were due to race on October 21,” he says. “The track was very much race-able but we were told the storm would hit between 12 noon and 1pm so we had no choice but to cancel.”

Maintenance

Also hit by the weather was the January 17 meeting which was pushed back a month due to snow fall.

“On top of that we’ve had some serious amount of rain. Since October 1 we’ve had 17 inches of rain, with four inches of that falling in January.”

Over the years, management at the racecourse has invested a lot of time and money into maintenance and this will really come into play next week.

The racecourse itself covers 100 acres and this space allows fresh ground to be used regularly over the course of the three days.

“We have a dedicated team here, in particular our track foreman Noel Fanning and assistant James O’Donoghue who work tirelessly to keep everything in peak condition.

“The grass on the track is usually cut at least once or twice by now but as it’s been too wet we hope to get it done sometime this week.”

“The drainage system is also complicated. Too little drainage will result in heavy ground and too much will result in the ground drying out too much which does not suit National Hunt racing.”

In recent years the Boylesports Irish Grand National has been won by some of the smaller local trainers and Peter Roe says that this is what racing is really all about. “It’s great to see the bigger guys win, but when the smaller trainers have success at the meeting, that can keep them going for years.”

The Easter Festival of Racing generates some €4m to the local economy, with overall business at Fairyhouse worth over €14.5m during the year.

In addition to Easter Monday’s feature race which carries a purse of €500,000, Sunday’s card includes the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup which boasts a prize-fund of €100,000.

Tuesday, April 3 is Family Day and it will also see the second running of the Ladies’ Irish National won in 2017 by Aine O’Connor on Coldstonesober.

Online Editors

Get the latest news from the FarmIreland team 3 times a week.





More in Rural Life