Galway set to welcome 800 spectators for Monday’s fixture

Leopardstown and the Curragh will host up to 4,000 at each day of Champions Weekend

800 spectators are expected to attend racing at Galwat on Monday. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

800 spectators are expected to attend racing at Galwat on Monday. Photograph: Caroline Norris/Inpho

 

Up to 800 spectators are expected at the first fixture run under eased government Covid-19 restrictions in Galway on Monday.

Confirmation that from Monday racecourses can host attendances of up to 50 per cent of their outdoor capacity promises the first significant racing crowds in almost 18 months.

Both Leopardstown and the Curragh will host up to 4,000 spectators at each leg of Irish Champions Weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

However Galway, which under a Government pilot scheme was allowed 1,000 spectators at each of its summer festival days, has the privilege of starting a countdown to what is hoped will be a return to full attendances on October 22nd.

Under the new regime each track has discretion to decide its own capacity over the coming weeks.

However the start of Galway’s two-day September meeting is shaping like a return to the ‘old normal’ in terms of attendance size.

“We had 500 tickets on sale and two weeks ago they were sold out. We got additional tickets on sale there on Thursday. But it’s a September meeting and it’s very late on so last time I looked we’d sold another 150 tickets.

“So it will be somewhere around the 7-800 mark. That’s probably not too far off what it would have been in 2019. Maybe there were 1,100-1,200 here in 2019.

What happens at this time of year is everyone goes indoors so it feels like we’ve a very small crowd because we’ve such a big enclosure. Because everyone will be outdoors it will be a decent atmosphere. It will probably work out better than normal,” said Galway’s manager Michael Moloney on Sunday.

Indoor dining will be available to owners of runners on Monday but it is the promise of significant crowds at bigger upcoming meetings that is being welcomed within racing.

“That’s the biggest thing for us, to see crowds back at the big festivals. That’s important for us for next year, that people get back into the habit of going racing, so we can plan with confidence. Because it takes time to get crowds going back again. You saw that in the UK,” Moloney added.

Full capacity crowds have been able to go racing in England since July.

Galway has a three-day Bank Holiday fixture on October 23rd-25th, just after the Government deadline on a projected return to full capacity.

“For our next meeting (October 5th) we will hope to have more people indoors with up 1,100-1,200 people at that meeting normally.

“On October bank holiday weekend we would hopefully move on a bit further. There are a couple of days there where we get 4-5,000 people,” the Ballybrit boss said.

Watering took place at Galway on Sunday and the situation is being monitored at both Leopardstown and the Curragh about having to water this week ahead of Irish flat racing’s showpiece event of the year.

Mennah missing

One star performer that won’t be in Group 1 action at the weekend however is Kevin Prendergast’s progressive filly Mehnah who will miss the Matron Stakes at Leopardstown due to a setback.

The half sister to Awtaad returned to action after a muscle problem with an impressive win in Killarney’s Cairn Rouge Stakes in July.

The Matron was quickly identified as a target but those plans have had to be scrapped.

“The filly has had a setback so she won’t be running,” Prendergast reported on Sunday.

“We’ve just got her back in work now but she wouldn’t have been ready. Hopefully we’ll find a race for her before the season is out. Other than that they will probably keep her in training next year.

“She’ll be more of a next year’s filly. She’s nice and unlucky not to be unbeaten,” added the veteran Curragh trainer.

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