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Ruby Walsh fears that 'some racecourses are going to struggle' and may not reopen due to coronavirus pandemic


Legendary jockey Ruby Walsh. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Legendary jockey Ruby Walsh. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Legendary jockey Ruby Walsh. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Legendary jockey Ruby Walsh fears that the 11-week layoff of Irish racing amid the Coronavirus pandemic could see "a racecourse or two go by the wayside" and be unable to reopen.

Irish racing will recommence on June 8 at Naas after missing 87 fixtures amid the Covid-19 outbreak and the retired rider believes that some tracks will be crippled financially as a result.

The 41-year-old acknowledges that "some racecourses are going to struggle" to stay afloat during unprecedented times and that some may not race again due to the consequences of the current world health crisis.

"Racecourses have lost a lot of meetings already, which means they’ve also lost the revenue – the sponsorship, hospitality, gate receipts, and media rights," Walsh said in his Paddy Power News column.

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"Some of the tracks that didn’t chase attendances, and were happy to rely on the media income, could come under pressure. I would imagine most shareholders in small racecourses do it for the love of horse racing.

"I can’t imagine many of the tracks are run as profitable businesses, and most of them are run to reinvest in their facilities and maintain the place. The racecourses that have been spending their income could be in trouble.

"With no gate receipts and a definite reduction in media rights income, some racecourses are going to struggle. Per capita, we probably have a lot of racecourses and each one serves its own purpose for its community.

"However, I’m not sure financially that they’ll all be saved. I hate to see it happening, but the reality could be that a racecourse or two will go by the wayside."

Walsh views the return of Irish racing at Naas next month as "the best result that horse racing could’ve hoped for" given the uncertainty around its resumption having not held a meeting since Clonmel's jumps card on March 24.

The Kildare native, who retired from the saddle a year ago, reckons that mixed cards will be a regular thing from July onwards and "with so many people working in the industry", he's delighted that jumps racing returns on June 22 in Limerick.

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"Come July, I can see a lot more double meetings – a mix between flat and jumps. HRI (Horse Racing Ireland) will have to look economically at the race programme and fixtures from every racecourse’s point of view," Walsh added.

"Obviously, racing is going to be behind closed doors for a considerable period of time. It could be a long time – I can’t see any government allowing mass gatherings."

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