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'We're just glad to get racing back' - Trainer Ken Condon says prize fund cuts and no fans a small price to pay


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Trainer Ken Condon. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Trainer Ken Condon. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Trainer Ken Condon. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Significant prize money cuts and big race meetings being held behind closed doors are a small price to pay to get Irish racing up and running again from June 8 onwards, according to Classic-winning trainer Ken Condon.

Tiered prize money reductions across all grades will see the Irish Derby and the Irish Champion Stakes both cut to €750,000 (from €1.5 million and €1.25m respectively) but Condon views such measures as acceptable in unprecedented times.

The Curragh trainer, who landed the Irish 2,000 Guineas with Romanised two years ago, is delighted to be on the verge of a return and believes there is a glorious opportunity for racing to capitalise during a fallow period.

"It has impacted everybody," Condon said of the coronavirus pandemic affecting prize money.

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"It's understandable and they're doing their best to underpin it by taking it from the top (level) and that's fair enough. We're just glad to get racing back, it's a huge contributor to the economy and it supports a lot of jobs. Racing is the shop window and if we don't have racing then all of these other things suffer.

"It can go ahead in a safe manner and everybody is looking forward to getting it back. People are starved of sport, you can't be there but you can be part of it and it might be an opportunity for racing to widen its audience."

"It'll take away from the atmosphere but all the stakeholders are just happy that their horses will get to run and it'll be a small sacrifice not to be there in person for the short term but to have horses back racing is what everyone wants."

While 11 weeks of Irish racing will have been lost before its resumption on Monday June 8 with a Flat card at Naas, Condon insists that trainers are ready to press the button while his 45-strong Osborne Lodge string has avoided cutbacks.

"Everyone has been ticking over because nobody was quite sure when it would return. There was an information vacuum there and when you have that rumours swirl about and no one is quite sure how long we'd be waiting," he said.

"Horses have been ready but it's good that we're finally getting a definite date for resuming and it gives people something to aim for."

Flat racing dominates the first two weeks back with the Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas rescheduled for Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 13 by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI).

Revised The revised schedule sees the Irish Derby retains its traditional date on June 27, as does the Irish Oaks on July 18, while Irish Champions Weekend is on September 12 and 13.

Racing will be restricted to nine centrally located racecourses for the first three weeks to minimise travel and have higher stable capacities with the requirement for one stable per horse. Eight-race cards (with a maximum of 18 runners) will increase opportunities for trainers, while 48-hour declarations will be in place to assist screening.

Jumps racing resumes on June 22 at Limerick, while Cork racecourse will not be in use during that month as the Mallow track will continue to serve as a HSE Covid-19 Test Centre.

A full programme of races for June's fixtures will be published over the coming days while international participation will be restricted to Group One and Group Two races only next month with Government policy on the movement of people in and out of the country to be strictly policed.

JUNE RACING FIXTURES (Flat unless otherwise stated)

June 8: Naas. June 9: Leopardstown. June 10: Navan. June 11: Gowran Park. June 12: Curragh. June 13: Curragh. June 14: Leopardstown. June 15: Fairyhouse, Roscommon. June 17: Gowran Park, Limerick. June 18: Fairyhouse. June 19: Tipperary, Gowran Park. June 20: Naas. June 21: Leopardstown. June 22: Roscommon, Limerick (NH). June 23: Navan. June 24: Naas, Roscommon (NH). June 25: Fairyhouse. June 26: Curragh, Tipperary (NH). June 27: Curragh. June 28: Curragh. June 29: Limerick, Kilbeggan (NH).

Irish Independent