After a shaky few months when there was grave concern over this year’s Dingle Races, the Irish Horse and Pony Racing Association has finally managed to secure the insurance cover that is needed to allow the event to go ahead.
Insurance has become a critical issue for Dingle Races, and all other horse and pony race meetings throughout Ireland, because Irish insurance companies are unwilling to provide cover for equestrian events. The solution has been to get insurance through British companies but the complications of doing business with post-Brexit Britain has made this much more difficult and the entire horse and pony racing industry in Ireland has been in turmoil as a result.
Colm Sayers, who is both Chairman of Dingle Race Company and Vice Chairman of the Irish Horse and Pony Racing Association, told The Kerryman that insurance cover for the meeting on August 5 – 7 was only secured last week following eight weeks of “dealings”. There has also been a significant increase in the cost of the insurance cover.
“The insurance was secured through a broker in Dublin, but it was a very complicated process because there was a change from our previous insurers, and also because the underwriters we have now are based in Great Britain,” he said.
“It seems that, at the moment, Irish companies are shy of insuring equestrian events,” he added.
Aside from local concerns about the loss of a prized tradition, the doubt that hung over Dingle Races up to this week has put a lot of pressure on accommodation providers in West Kerry who needed to know if they should continue to reserve beds for horse owners, jockeys and visiting punters. The threat to the races also sent ripples around the country.
“The horse and pony racing people see Dingle as the highlight of the year,” said Colm. “Trainers have been looking to know for definite that Dingle is happening because it’s the focus of their training schedule - they want to have their horses at peak fitness for Dingle because a win here is a big boost to their reputation and it also immediately increases the value of a horse.”
“For some of them it’s all about Dingle. I always knew that, but this left me in absolutely no doubt,” he said.
Colm added that Dingle Races is also hugely important to amateur jockeys who hope to progress to professional careers. “If you want to become an apprentice professional jockey, a background in horse and pony racing is a huge head start. But if you’re a winning jockey in Dingle you don’t even need to put it on your CV - the trainers will come looking for you.”
Now that the immediate future of Dingle Races has been secured, the voluntary Race Company faces the task of raising sponsorship for the event. The local business community has always been hugely supportive, and the Race Company greatly appreciates that, but after two years of Covid finances are tight.
“Without sponsorship the races wouldn’t be possible. We’re very aware that people have been through two years of Covid so it’s a case that we’ll welcome whatever people can contribute and after that we’ll make it work,” said Colm.
Meanwhile, Colm said the organisers of Dingle Races will be very mindful this year of dear friends who have died since the races were last held in 2019, after which they had to be cancelled because of the Covid pandemic.
These include Race Company President and former Chairman Páidí Fitzgerald “who helped the races grow since the 1980s and put his shoulder to the wheel to drive the races forward”, Timmy Kelliher, Danno O’Keeffe and Jim Greene from Lispole.
“They were four immense supporters who will be missed and who will be in our thoughts,” said Colm.