Friday 23 February 2018

Bookmakers call on HRI to open Dundalk

Damien McElroy

AS the weekend jumps action on both sides of the Irish Sea faces a wipeout, Irish bookmakers yesterday called on Horse Racing Ireland to open the all-weather track at Dundalk.

Chairperson of the Irish Bookmakers Association (IBA) Sharon Byrne said the high number of meetings being cancelled is hitting the betting and racing sectors hard, adding the "common sense solution" is to schedule more race meetings at Ireland's only all-weather track.

"There are no race meetings scheduled for Dundalk until the end of next month, making it Europe's only all-weather facility that is allowed to sit empty during the winter," stated Byrne.

"I have been in contact with HRI to ask if the race meetings would be scheduled for Dundalk to make up for the number of racing meetings which have been cancelled. The response was negative, but I am again making contact with HRI to urge them to reconsider.

"It makes no sense to allow Ireland's only all-weather facility to remain closed. HRI should make better use of the facilities that have been developed with money from the taxpayer, and should begin by scheduling racing at Dundalk this month."

Already Punchestown have been forced to cancel Saturday's scheduled meeting due to a heavy covering of snow. Sunday's big meeting at Leopardstown is still in the balance, with the course still unraceable at present.

Irish Turf Club press officer Cliff Noone said of Leopardstown: "They are still unfit for racing with a covering of snow. Joe Collins (clerk of the course) will be there tomorrow and we will have an update then."

Not even yesterday's all-weather meetings at Lingfield and Kempton could escape the big freeze. Although the actual tracks would have been safe for competition, the snow rendered access from surrounding areas very difficult.

The last to go was Kempton's twilight fixture. The Sunbury venue are also due to race today, but that fixture is also under a cloud.

Clerk of the course Barney Clifford said: "The main problem is inaccessibility for officials. The forecast is for more heavy snow so we will be inspecting for Thursday's meeting."

Like Kempton, Lingfield are also due to race today, but that meeting was subject to a 6.30am precautionary inspection. Wolverhampton's meeting tomorrow is the latest fixture to come under threat due to snow with an inspection called for 2.30pm today.

There has been no jumping since Sunday at Plumpton and there will be no more until at least Saturday with Huntingdon and Ludlow today already gone, followed by Bangor and Fontwell tomorrow.

Ffos Las, due to stage a valuable card on Saturday, is the only beacon of hope. Clerk of the course Tim Long is hoping for a break in the weather. "The only thing that would give us cause for alarm is that the overnight temperatures are due to get decidedly lower by Thursday and Friday," Long said yesterday.

Both of the other National Hunt meetings on Saturday -- Sedgefield and Wincanton -- fell by the wayside too.

Irish Independent

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