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Hopes high that racing could return to Mallow in July

Racecourse manager says it may be possible to run race days and Covid testing at venue


Cork Racecourse

Cork Racecourse

Cork Racecourse

The manager of Cork Racecourse has said he believes it would be possible for racing to return to Mallow in July, despite the fact that the venue is currently being used by the HSE as a COVID-19 test centre.

This week it emerged that horse racing is set to recommence behind closed doors on June 8, with a revised programme of race-days pencilled in at a number of tracks around the country over the course of the month.

Cork Racecourse was not among them as it has been agreed that it will continue to serve as a Coronavirus test centre for the foreseeable future.

While the HSE was not yet in a position to say when it will no longer need to use the venue as a test centre, it is understood that may be sooner rather than later as the number of referrals from GPs for testing has not been as high as had been initially anticipated.

However, Cork Racecourse manager Andrew Hogan this week told The Irish Examiner that it may be possible for the racing to return to Mallow while it was still being used as a Coronavirus test centre.

He said there have been positive ongoing discussions between the HSE and Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), which could see Mallow track back in action during July.

He said the tracks at the course have been maintained in pristine condition and said "we are ready to race".

Mr Hogan said that as long as the HSE needed the venue, management and the HRI were willing to work with them.

"They (the HSE) test around the back of the grandstand, at the front of the parade ring area. The parade ring itself has been cordoned off and they haven't been near the pavilion either," Mr Horgan told the newspaper.

He said the fact that if racing were to return to Cork it would be behind closed doors would be a distinct advantage, as the areas being used for testing could easily be cordoned off to prevent people going near them.

"Clearly, you couldn't have testing on the same day as racing, but the HSE has been very accommodating with HRI's fixture committee in respect to when we may be able to return. We're not on the list for June, but we could be back pretty soon afterwards," said Mr Hogan.

He said that while discussions were at an early stage, "we would be pretty hopeful we would be in a good position to get back in July".

Meanwhile, HRI has announced that Bartlemy-based outside broadcasting company IRIS, a sister company of award-winning TVM, has been awarded the contract to provide televised services to Irish horse racing.

The four-year contract, which can be extended up to 10 years, covers all of the country's 26 courses and will see the family-run company supply race coverage to Sports Information Services (SIS), Racing TV and terrestrial broadcasters.

The MD of IRIS, Batt Arnold, said the company would be introducing several new technologies including race-day tracking cameras and drone cameras.

"The new arrangements will see the introduction of best in class facilities for the race day Stewards, enhancing the integrity of Irish horse racing into the future," he said.