That Friday feeling!
Friday evening fixtures are to be reduced at The Curragh next year after a string of very poor attendances at the venue which had an €81m revamp completed and opened in the spring.
Perhaps this might open the door for Wexford to have some of their very popular Friday evening fixtures restored.
It would be ideal to replace the two 'graveyard shift' Wednesday afternoon meetings staged in May and June, when the attendance was minimal, with a couple of Friday nights. It makes common sense at every level.
The final race meeting of the 'summer' season takes place at Bettyville Park on Saturday with an attractive, fully sponsored card of four hurdles and three chases and prize money of more than €90,000 on offer.
Managing Director, Michael Murphy, has appealed to the Wexford racing public to turn out in force to support the meeting; given decent weather it promises to be a good afternoon's racing. He has also thanked the sponsors which have generously supported the fixture, and racing right through the summer. This is the final meeting until the two-day Opera Festival meeting on October 27 and bank holiday Monday, 28.
Racing on Saturday commences at 2 p.m. with the Adare Manor Maiden Hurdle of €13,500, over two miles. At 2.35 the Garry Flood Landscaping Handicap Hurdle of €12,500 will be run, followed at 3.10 by the Menapia Motors Renault Handicap Hurdle of €10,500, both over 2m 4f.
At 3.45 p.m. the M2 Construction Mares Maiden Hurdle of €11,500 will be run over three miles. The first of three chases goes to post at 4.20, the featured €20,000 Audrey McGrath Memorial Novice race over 2m. 4f., followed at 4.55 by the by Brendan Cullimore Electrical Contractor Handicap over 2m, and finally the Dan Byrne Memorial Handicap of €11,500 over just over three miles.
New Curragh racecourse manager, Pat Keogh, who is just finishing a successful stint at Leopardstown, has admitted that he is not happy with attendances at the seven Friday night meetings at HQ this year.
He says the four August Friday evening meetings will be cut back to two next season, and no Group 1 races will be staged on that evening after just over 3,600 people turned up for the Pretty Polly Stakes on the Derby weekend, and the Phoenix Stakes meeting did not even reach 3,000.
Friday evenings have for many years been the best attended Wexford meetings and this was confirmed last July 5 and 26 when the venue was thronged.
The people at Bettyville will have to be on the ball immediately if they are to press their case for those Curragh Friday dates as the 2020 National Fixtures list will be released in early September, but it is worth a try anyway.
Out of curiosity, I went back to the fixtures list for five years ago, in 2014, and found Wexford staged 11 meetings, the same as this year. However, there were no Wednesday afternoon meetings, though there was one Wednesday evening fixture.
There was a two-day fixture at the end of July on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, a sensible idea in the heart of the tourism season. The Opera Festival October bank holiday meeting was split, on Saturday and Monday afternoons, which did not seem sensible at all.
There was also a meeting on Tuesday afternoon, November 18, in 2014 and I would say that one will not be missed from this year's schedule!
New Ross Standard