Wednesday 20 November 2019

All-weather storm

Despite cancellations across the country Dundalk's €20m polytrack facility remains closed for business

A group of horses galloping up a harrowed section of Dundalk's all-weather track yesterday
A group of horses galloping up a harrowed section of Dundalk's all-weather track yesterday

Damien McElroy

The imminent prospect of about 10 days with no racing here on turf surely demands some invention on the part of the racing authorities who might profitably review the mid-winter closure of Dundalk Stadium.

Probably the only all-weather surface worldwide that's not utilised when the weather is at its worst, the €20m-plus polytrack surface and first-class, modern facilities have not been in use since the last Friday in November. The next fixture at a course that was constructed virtually alongside the Dublin-Belfast motorway, and allows relatively easy access to the main training centre on the Curragh, is not until Friday, February 26.

However, racetrack chief executive Jim Martin says they would only require two to three days notice to have the course fully operational for a meeting similar to that organised by the British Horseracing Authority for Lingfield tomorrow.

Three flat races and three bumpers will be run off there both to help keep the show on the road and afford punters their daily diet of a sport that has been suffering badly for the past week or so on these islands.

While jumps racing is unsafe on the all-weather, there are plenty of recent recruits to that sphere from the flat that show little signs of making the grade and their connections would welcome the prospect of a return to the level.

In addition, many prospective National Hunt horses ready to be launched on their careers in bumpers would be better off in the long-term competing on a safe surface rather than backing up in the system and then having to cope with the mud.

Apparently, the reasoning fixtures-wise for abandoning Dundalk for two months was that it was believed there would not be sufficient flat horses remaining in competitive mode to fill their cards on a 12-month basis.

Cue the mini-exodus from the start of December of quite a few Irish-trained runners heading off to all-weather venues in Britain despite the poor prize-money which hardly entices people to undertake such costly ventures.

What's more the Dundalk surface has been playing host on a daily basis to a regular stream of jumpers, most notably those of Noel Meade who went on to prosper since Christmas, for their faster work.

"We would welcome the chance to help the industry out during the present bad weather by putting on extra meetings. There's only a little snow lying on the course and it's not a problem harrowing it in," Martin commented.

Irish Independent

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