End of era as Dublin group to take reins at Down Royal
Northern Ireland's top horseracing venue, Down Royal, is facing a fight for survival in its present form amid fears for the future of the sport after 333 years there.
Shocked racecourse chiefs have been told they face eviction by the Dublin-based landowners of the course near Lisburn, and that they could be out by the end of this year.
Racing has been staged by the Down Royal Corporation of Horse Breeders since 1685 and at the present venue since 1789.
But the present-day Corporation management team, who run Down Royal, have been operating for the past 13 years as tenants of the landowners, Dublin company Merrion Property Group.
The company bought the course for £6.1m in 2005. The site also incorporates Down Royal Park golf course.
A lease issued to the racecourse then will expire at the end of this year and the Down Royal management have been informed legally by Merrion owner Michael Roden that he intends taking over the course and racing operation.
A spokesperson for Merrion insisted it intends to keep the land for racing and there were no plans to put it to another use, such as housing.
The spokesperson said: "Racegoers and the racing industry won't know any difference and racing will continue."