Racing festival extended by additional day

By Murt MurphyMr John O’Donoghue, Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism officially raised the white flag as Ballybeggan Park prepares for five days’ racing during this year’s Festival of Kerry meeting starting on Monday, August 22nd.

Mr O’Donoghue, a keen punter himself, was addressing directors, sponsors, and friends of Ballybeggan Race Company at a well organized launch at the Meadowland’s Hotel.

Mr. Paddy Barry, Chairman of the Race Company, welcomed all the guests and thanked the sponsors who have made sure that Tralee has continued to provide top class racing at the end of August each year.

He informed the gathering that Tralee had got an extra day (Friday) to make up for the day lost in June.

Mr Barry also revealed that next year there will be a meeting in May and June that will transfer to Listowel, with the Festival meeting still a permanent fixture on the racing calendar.

Mr Barry hoped that the public would show up in big numbers to sample the unique atmosphere that is the Festival Meeting at Ballybeggan Park.

Mr O’Donoghue was quick to point out the importance of Irish horse racing festivals in generating tourism revenue as well as providing entertainment for those interested in the sport of kings.

“It gives me great pleasure to be in my own county tonight to launch five days of racing here at Ballybeggan Park. Along with the thoroughly enjoyable race meet, we can also look forward to the festivities that surround the Rose of Tralee Festival which coincides with this event. These are two immensely important events not only for Tralee but for all of Co Kerry and further afield.”

“Of equal importance is the sport of horse racing in Ireland.”

“It has been very satisfying to watch the sport grow and flourish with record prize money and ongoing capital investment in our racecourses, producing an environment in which people can breed own and train racehorses here in Ireland and go on to win the top races,” he said.

“The Tralee races emphasis the point of the tradition and hard work that is evident in the Irish Horse Racing industry today. Since 1898 this beautiful site of Ballybeggan Park has been used for the Tralee Races. People from all over the world join in with the atmosphere throughout the town.”

“These five exciting days racing would not be possible if not for the hard work and dedication of the staff here at the racecourse.”

“I would like to thank all the staff through to the chairman, Paddy Barry. You should be very proud today and for the five days of racing that you have allowed for such a magnificent event to take place so successfully.

This event will attract up to 100,000 people to the area which is a great accomplishment. I wish everyone involved the best of luck.”

One of Kerry’s best loved sportsmen, Mick Galway of Currow, Kerry, Shannon, Munster, Ireland and Lions’ rugby fame was the guest of honour and he entertained the guests with some tall tales about racecourses he visited when abroad on tours.

The action starts on Monday, August 22nd with seven races starting at 2.50pm and the Brandon Hotel Handicap Hurdle worth ?37,000 will be the big race.

Tuesday is Kerryman Day with The Kerryman 4 Year- Old Handicap Hurdle being the centrepiece of a seven race card, worth ?35,000.

Wednesday is the big day with eight races, the visit of the new rose, and two ?60,000 races, The Carlsberg Ruby Stakes and the Guinness Gold Cup.

Thursday will see another eight race card and the feature race is the Denny Gold Medal Chase, worth ?45,000.

Friday will complete the week with a seven race card and a Premier Nursery Race worth ?50,000 should ensure that there will be no shortage of quality.

Racing in Tralee has a long tradition. The first recorded meeting took place in 1767 when racing took place on the lands of the ‘Gentry’ and racecourses were moveable. Racing moved to Ballybeggan Park in 1898.

The park was formerly a deer park owned by the family of Daniel O’Connell, the Liberator. Before then admission to the races was free but a fence was erected around the park to ensure that everyone paid.

Racing continued until the 1930s, when the economic recession forced the company into liquidation.

The present company bought the property in 1946. Fifty people contributed amounts of £100/200 towards its purchase from the O’Connell family. Racing resumed in October 1946 and racing has continued ever since.

The directors hit on the idea of the Rose Of Tralee Festival. In fact the original directors of the Festival were drawn from members of the Race Company.

With the success of the Festival, racing thrived and many famous horses have raced in Tralee over the years.

The most famous include Dawn Run, who won a bumper in Tralee in 1982 before going on to complete the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup double.

Captain Christy, who won the Carling Gold Cup in Tralee went on to win two King George’s and the Gold Cup.

Monty’s Pass won the Denny Gold Medal in 2001 and of course won the Aintree Grand National in 2003. Vintage Crop was another star that won the Carling Gold Cup in Tralee and then won both the Irish St. Leger before going down under and making history by winning the Melbourne Cup.

Desert King won a 2 year old Maiden before going on to win the Irish Derby and of most recent vintage was Vintage Tipple who was successful in Tralee before winning the Irish Oaks’ for Paddy Mullins in 2003.