Final cost of Curragh redevelopment expected to be over €80m

Budget overrun at Kildare track will not involve extra funding from the State

The final cost of the Curragh racecourse redevelopment is expected to come in just under €81 million. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The final cost of the Curragh racecourse redevelopment is expected to come in just under €81 million. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The final cost of the redeveloped Curragh racecourse is expected to come to just over €80 million.

Irish racing’s biggest ever capital development project will open to the public this Bank Holiday Monday with an eight-race programme that attracted 225 entries at Wednesday’s latest forfeit stage.

They include last year’s Irish Derby hero Latrobe, who could line up alongside the 2018 Irish Leger winner Flag Of Honour and Magical in the Group Two Coolmore Mooresbridge Stakes.

Significant public interest in the acclaimed new grandstand, and other revamped facilities, is anticipated as the new Curragh gets its first race-day test.

The price tag for Irish racing’s radical new flagship facility has been speculated on ever since the project was unveiled in 2015, with an estimated budget cost of €65 million. In 2017 that estimate rose to €72 million.

Since then the newly formed Curragh Ltd, which comprises of one third shares between private investors, the State through Horse Racing Ireland, and the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB), has declined to comment on any extra costs.

They included the need for an expanded parade ring after IHRB officials declared the original one to be too small to cope with large fields of runners.

The Curragh’s chief executive, Derek McGrath, said recently a total cost for the redevelopment isn’t likely to be revealed until the Guineas festival later this month.

However, ahead of its first public unveiling, The Irish Times understands the final figure is close to €81 million. Sources have also said that the budget overrun won’t involve extra funding by the State.

In 2015 five private investors put in €5 million each into the new Curragh. They were John Magnier’s Coolmore Stud, Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin operation, the Aga Khan, Moyglare Stud and JP McManus.

They were subsequently joined by Sheikh Hamdan’s Derrinstown Stud. Juddmonte Farms and David Power, co-founder of Paddy Power bookmakers, have also contributed.

The Curragh was run for over 200 years by the Turf Club – now operating under the banner of the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board – and its providing of the original facility entitles it to a one third voting share on the Curragh board.

However, the financial cost of the project is divided between private investment and HRI, with reports indicating the semi-State body originally directed €30 million towards it.

In other news HRI officials are set to meet the boss of Dundalk racecourse Jim Martin on Thursday over plans to resurface its all-weather track in May-June of next year.

In recent months the Polytrack has received widespread criticism from trainers about being too fast with horses finishing sore after racing on it.

Field sizes have slid as a result, although 90 entries have been left in for Friday’s fixture, the final one held at Ireland’s sole all-weather racecourse until September.

Last week Dundalk’s management issued a statement revealing plans to resurface the track with a completion date in the summer of 2020. Prior to that HRI declared it wanted resurfacing done as soon as possible.

HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh has said racing’s ruling body plans to “challenge” Dundalk on its timeframe.

“It’s much further away than we would like,” Kavanagh said on Wednesday. “That’s what we want to sit down about, and go through the details with them, and challenge it.”

Dundalk has said it plans to add material to the all-weather surface during the summer in order to help restore some ‘elasticity’. Last week it also said an inspection report by the firm that installed the Polytrack a dozen years ago was highly satisfactory.

However, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association has said the vast majority of its members have lost confidence in Dundalk, something that could generate uncertainty when racing begins again in September.

Kavanagh added on Wednesday: “If you have a situation where field sizes are dwindling it’s an issue. If the entries at Dundalk are diminishing, and we have no alternatives, then we need to sit down and address it.”

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