Monday 16 September 2019

Up to 25,000 people set to flock to Fairyhouse for Easter racing

Peter Roe prepping the course for the National
Peter Roe prepping the course for the National
Una Healy arrives at the launch of Fairyhouse Easter Horse Racing Festival at The Hibernian Club on St Stephen's Green
Sorcha O'Connor

Sorcha O'Connor

As many as 25,000 racegoers are expected to descend onto Fairyhouse racecourse this Easter weekend.

And all eyes will be on the Boylesports Irish Grand National on Monday as Michael O’Leary’s General Principle goes for the double on Irish soil – with victory for O’Leary two years in a row with Tiger Roll at the Aintree Grand National recently. 

The BoyleSports Irish Grand National is worth €500,000 in prize money and is on average the most-watched race on TV in Ireland, with over 380,000 racing fans tuning in from home.

General Manager of the course Peter Roe has been overseeing preparations to ensure the turf is in tiptop condition ahead of the popular meet running from tomorrow until Tuesday. 

He told how there is a fine balance to be struck prepping the course, keeping the ground soft but also hoping the rain stays off to attract punters. 

“We gear up from 5am on Easter Monday for the Grand National. We work for optimum conditions, running a light programme and water programme on a continuous basis, and we have 55 lads walking back the divets each day.” 

 “It's like in Augusta, when they’re preparing for the Masters,” he added.

“We had rain Monday and Tuesday so that has been a great help too.” 

With the Grand National a mainstay of Easter weekend for 149 years now, the festival generates around €4m to the local economy. Shop fronts have been getting into the spirit of things with a competition for the best window also taking place.

A family day out, with an Easter Bonnet competition on Sunday and pony rides also on-site for the aspiring young jockeys in the family, the races are also always a hit with some famous faces.

Love Island star Chris Hughes is expected to arrive from the UK tomorrow as he is part-owner of horse Annie Mc.

President Michael D Higgins will also be on hand on Monday to present the cup to whoever wins the Grand National.

Meanwhile, Una Healy will be leading the charge when it comes to the style stakes as a judge for Ladies' Day on Monday in partnership with Dunboyne Castle.

Una Healy arrives at the launch of Fairyhouse Easter Horse Racing Festival at The Hibernian Club on St Stephen's Green

She is hoping someone will turn her head with bold colours and embrace the theme of country-chic.

“It doesn’t mean you have to turn up in country music cowboy boots,” she said.

“Something that is unique and people feel comfortable in. I always think some colour is nice too to get the attention of the judges – I always turn my head if someone is in a bright colour.”

However, there will be plenty of action from the women in the saddle too, as Rachael Blackmore, Aine O’Connor and Katie O’Farrell all make a bid from Grand National glory here.

It is the Ryanair Gold Cup that is the feature race on the opening day of the renowned Easter festival tomorrow as gates open at 12pm and racing kicks off at 2.05pm.

There will be coaches departing from Custom House Quay for Fairyhouse at 12.00noon and 12.30pm on both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday for €20 return or €18 online, while a shuttle bus will run from 10.50am, 11.50am and 12.50pm from Connolly Station with a pick-up on the M3 too on all days of the festival.

  • Admission is €25, check out the festival website for more.

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