Curragh admission fee unchanged despite temporary facilities

HQ reopens this weekend amid criticism over holding races during building work

Redevelopment at the Curragh Racecourse in April: Officials believe a “curiosity factor” could result in a jump in attendances when the 2017 racing season begins. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan

Curragh officials believe a “curiosity factor” could result in a jump in attendances when the 2017 racing season begins at HQ this weekend but admission prices will remain the same despite temporary facilities being in place.

A €15 general admission on Saturday and Sunday, with €10 entry for senior citizens and under-25’s, is unchanged from 2016 even though the old stands have been demolished as part of the €70 million redevelopment of Ireland’s most famous racecourse.

The controversial decision to continue racing during a curtailed summer season in both 2017 and 2018 has attracted criticism, particularly in relation to a 6,000 crowd capacity while construction work takes place.

That limit on crowd figures is expected to impact primarily on the Irish Derby at the start of July and the Curragh’s leg of Irish Champions Weekend in September with widespread unease having been expressed at two of racing’s shop-window events effectively taking place on a building site.


The decision to keep racing has been criticised by a number of high-profile industry professionals and the Aga Khan – one of half-a-dozen private investors who each put €5 million towards the cost of the project in 2015 – favoured closing the track while building work was carried out.

Naas hosted the opening of the flat season at the end of March and also the Group 2 Mooresbridge Stakes card last week but racing resumes at the Curragh this weekend with two fixtures starting on Saturday and centre stage going to the Group 3 Blue Wind Stakes.

“It’s hard to call how many might come. Normally we would be looking at about half the capacity [3,000] for these meetings but with a curiosity factor that could go up,” said Derek McGrath, chief executive of the Curragh. He defended the decision not to drop admission prices.

“We did look at it but we are investing significantly in what we would argue are very good facilities. In fact, you could argue they’re better than what was there before. We don’t believe it will be a lesser experience and people might enjoy it more as it is more compact. I’m confident people won’t have an issue with the admission price when they see what’s here,” he added.

Guineas classics

Although the limited crowd capacity isn’t expected to be a problem either when the Guineas classics are run later this month, the 6,000 limit takes into account everyone on the ground and McGrath estimates up to 1,500 people could be working in some capacity at a fixture.

A two-storey hospitality marquee and an open viewing stand with capacity for 1,500 people will be the principal features of the temporary arrangements which will also see the main entrance building used as a weighing-room.

The entrance to the track will be to the right of that building, leading into a garden area which has been resurfaced. The parade ring and pre-parade ring are intact but the site of where the old stands were has been fenced off.

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently quick although McGrath described the weather outlook towards this weekend as “changeable”.

Switch focus

After a Newmarket Guineas double at the weekend, Aidan O’Brien is set to switch his classic focus to France this weekend. And, on the back of victories for Churchill and Winter, bookmakers are already betting on the Irishman having a record-breaking 2017.

The seemingly annual exercise in trying to predict if O’Brien can finally beat Bobby Frankel’s world record of 25 Group/Grade 1 victories in a calendar year has begun early with one firm rating the Irishman’s chances at just 3-1.

O’Brien won 22 top-flight races on the flat in 2016, two shy of his 2001 tally, but a Coral spokesman said: “With an immense team of talent at his disposal, it would be no surprise to see a new mark of 26 or more reached this time around,”

Roly Poly and Rain Goddess are among the Ballydoyle options for Saturday's French 1,000 Guineas at Deauville, the €5000,000 Poule d'Essai des Pouliches, a race O'Brien has won once with Rose Gypsy in 2001.

O’Brien has won the colts version, Sunday’s €600,000 Poule d’Essai des Poulains, on four occasions, including last year with The Gurkha.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column