A dark cloud will hang over proceedings at Thurles today following yesterday morning's news that the Tipperary venue's hugely popular owner and manager Pierce Molony had passed away overnight at the age of 65 after a long illness.
Molony had presided over the only privately owned racecourse in the country since his father Dr Paddy Molony died in 1974. His grandfather and great grandfather also managed the north Tipperary venue that has been in his family's ownership since 1911.
A clay-based track that is an indomitable staple of the National Hunt season due to its ability to race even when surrounding areas might be flooded, Thurles racecourse, which is on the outskirts of the town beyond Semple Stadium, had been the subject of some sizeable offers during the boom years.
However, Molony was a jumps fan to his fingertips, and he resisted the temptation to sell.
His insistence on maintaining a venue steeped in rural tradition, despite considerable financial restraints due its independent proprietorship, had endeared him to hard-core racing fans and locals alike.
Like the unique soil at his beloved venue, Molony absorbed everything that had been thrown at him over the past couple of years with customary good humour and grace. In the end, though, his battle with cancer proved an unequal one.
He leaves behind his wife Riona and four daughters - Patricia, Helen, Annemarie, who is married to jockey and trainer John Cullen, and Kate - as well as a legacy over which he took great pride.
Each member of Molony's immediate family is closely involved in the running of the business, and he spoke in the past of looking forward to one day seeing the track in the care of a fifth generation of his family. Sadly, that day is now imminent.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, took to Twitter yesterday to offer his condolences: "RIP Pierce Molony, Thurles racecourse, who passed away overnight. A gentleman. Deepest sympathies to Riona and family."
As ever, the show will go on at Thurles this afternoon, and Cullen is pencilled in for two rides, including his own Vole Au Vent in the mares' beginners chase. Third to the exciting Vroum Vroum Mag in a Cork Grade Three on her penultimate outing, Vole Au Vent has a chance.
Victory for her would be poignant, but a more logical case can be made for Our Katie, which finished some way in front of her at Mallow. If Our Katie, a hurdle winner here just over a year ago, runs to a similar level now, she could take some beating for the Co Cork duo of Garrett Ahern and Brian Hayes.
Their fellow Rebel county native Jonathan Burke could secure a brace aboard Venitien De Mai and Kymin's Way. The Jim Dreaper-trained Venitien De Mai tackles the longer maiden hurdle, with Colm Murphy's Ryansbrook a live threat after giving Golantilla a fright here in November.
Venitien De Mai was also last seen here, likewise finishing second when slightly one-paced behind Roi Des Francs. Unbeaten in four point-to-points previously, the Network six-year-old is a likeable individual that should keep progressing.
Kymin's Way is one of two Ronnie O'Neill runners in the handicap hurdle over the same two-mile-six-furlong trip. A staying-on third at Fairyhouse last week, she sports first-time blinkers now, and that could help her cause.
In the two-mile maiden hurdle, Liz Doyle's Cest Notre Gris warrants the nap vote to atone for an early exit at Navan on Saturday.
Sean Flanagan's mount split My Hometown and Cliff House at Limerick last month, form that should be good enough here, with Willie Mullins' unreliable Totally Dominant among the main dangers.
Earlier, Charlie Swan's final runner over jumps as a trainer might result in a win. Swan's old friend David Casey takes the reins on Drumlee in the opening novices' chase, and the recent Cork runner-up has a chance if his jumping holds up.