Badly need break from the big freeze
We made the decision here at Fairyhouse yesterday to give our Grade One winter festival a last chance next Wednesday. The track was under eight inches of snow when we walked it in the morning, so calling off tomorrow's rescheduled meeting -- the fourth time we've had to do so in two weeks -- was not a difficult decision to make.
If the forecast is right -- and we are using three different websites, as well as being in constant contact with the met office -- a gradual thaw should set in now. At this stage, with so much snow on the track, a gradual thaw is probably preferable, because if eight inches of snow suddenly melts it could leave the ground in a right mess.
The encouraging thing through all this has been the support we've had from trainers. Yesterday I spoke to Paul Nolan, Willie Mullins, Noel Meade, John 'Shark' Hanlon and Charles Byrnes, who all told me that they'd be here if we elected to race next week.
Obviously our meeting is closer to the big Christmas festivals now, but the trainers aren't worried about that. As Shark pointed out, who knows if those meetings will even happen? I don't mean to be a pessimist, but this weather has put a doubt in people's minds, so I'd expect all the stars to turn out if we get the go-ahead.
I'm only the acting manager at Fairyhouse as Caroline Gray is on maternity leave, and my heart really goes out to all the full-time staff here. They've had a rough time.
Three years ago a hurricane intervened to disrupt the same meeting, last year they had to postpone it because of an overnight downpour, and now this. In this year alone, the New Year's Day fixture was frozen off, the big Easter festival only barely survived waterlogging, and then we had problems with the track in November.
There's a huge amount of work that goes on behind the scenes to get a race meeting to this point, so it's a nightmare for everyone involved. Be it the girls in the office or the marketing department, the caterers or the sponsors, it is hugely frustrating for all.
And the weather has affected every aspect of people's lives. My full-time position is at Tipperary racecourse, and last Friday night our Supporters' Club had planned a 25th anniversary dinner dance. Needless to say, that got shelved too.
The only ones happy to see the snow are the kids. My wife Alison is at home with our three, Robert, Isabelle and Charlotte.
Robert, the eldest, is in national school, which I happen to be chairman of, so he has been at pains to point out that it would best to postpone school as well. All he wants is more snow, and I'm blue in the face from trying to get rid of the stuff!
Because my position at Fairyhouse is only temporary, relocating wasn't an option, so I've also had my fair share of entertainment on the motorway as I commute to and from our home in Roscrea. Thankfully, I've managed to avoid any incidents, but all the coming and going in this weather is no good for family life.
Our youngest, Charlotte, who is just 18 months, has really taken off walking over the past couple of days, and I've never seen less of her. She had been very sick during the summer and spent a couple of weeks in Temple Street Children's Hospital, so for her to be galloping around the kitchen is a big deal.
We've all been waiting anxiously for it to happen and when it finally does, I'm stuck up here in the snow! It's wonderful to hear about it, though, and everything that she has been through has refocused that racing is just racing. Your family's health is everything.
That said, it would be nice to get this meeting on next week, and we are exploring all the options to that end. Only yesterday morning I was asking our consultants about whether there's a chemical that we could use to dissolve the snow quicker, but there is no easy solution.
The fact that the ground isn't frozen underneath is a huge positive, but the problem is that you run the risk of damaging the grass if you apply chemicals, so our hands are tied. We just need to catch a break.
For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out www.goracing.ie