Wednesday 13 November 2019

It's a dogsbody's life as we gear up for Festival

My official title is public relations manager at Punchestown racecourse, but that doesn't cover the half of it. This day last week, for example, I was in the office doing all the mundane things that you'd expect a PR manager to be doing, such as updating our website and Facebook page, but in the afternoon I was out making sure we had enough bedding for the overseas runners at next week's Festival.

General dogsbody might be a more appropriate title, and that's part of what I love about the job. We only have a small team here and anyone could end up doing anything, which is nice.

The good thing about Good Friday was that the phone didn't ring quite as much. That gave me the opportunity to catch up on a backlog of stuff that needed doing, and it also meant that I was able to get finished a bit earlier.

I was back in situ first thing Saturday morning, finalising plans for next week's Shopping Village. We have about 60 units -- booked up for the past two months -- but every one of them has its own requirements, so organising it all takes a bit of doing.

We have stalls for everything from Dubarry clothing, to tree houses, to a guy with a Formula One car. That all has to be incorporated into the temporary build of the Village, and I'm the one tasked with that particular job -- a logistical nightmare!

Because I don't have a social life at this time of the year, I was back at the track early on Sunday morning. I walked both the main course and the cross-country course, where I met Sean Ryan, our groundsman, and his team.

They had a fleet of tractors out watering, while fences were being readied at the same time. When you factor it all in, the span of the course is massive, as are the fences.

Once upon a time I would've been mad keen to have a go at riding over them, but no more. I don't know whether that's to do with advancing years or diminishing bottle!

Anyway, the track was in excellent shape. With rain forecast for this weekend, the watering has ceased for the time being.

Ideally, we'd love showers overnight and sunshine during the day. We reckon that walk-in business can be boosted by between 30pc and 40pc when the weather is good.

And when the sun shines in the run- up to the event, we see it directly reflected in advance bookings. Our hospitality section is already fully subscribed, and ticket bookings are up 12pc on 2010.

There is generally a better vibe this year, something that was also evident at Fairyhouse earlier in the week. Our counterparts did a wonderful job over there, and you couldn't buy the publicity that Nina Carberry generated with her Ladbrokes Irish Grand National triumph on her uncle Arthur Moore's Organisedconfusion.

It was a great story, front-page news, and I thing it has reignited the public's imagination for the game. Nina is a real poster girl for racing, so it was brilliant to see her flying the flag again.


Once Fairyhouse concluded on Tuesday, we had our Festival launch at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel in Dublin that night. I'm a great woman for coming up with ideas without considering the work or budget involved, and this was a fine example of that.

We turned the function room into a mini racecourse, complete with a parade ring, weigh room and pavilion. That took some organising, but it was worth it in the end, as we had a super evening.

Philip Hobbs and his wife Sarah, who won the Guinness Gold Cup with Planet Of Sound last year, came over for the night, and they will be back again next week. Menorah, Captain Chris and Wishfull Thinking are all due to run, as is Kauto Star.

That's all ahead of us, but there'll be a few more hectic management meetings, late nights in the office and takeaway dinners from Naas before we get started on Tuesday. I'm sure it will all be worth it!

For more information on upcoming racing in Ireland check out

Irish Independent

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