Horse Racing Ireland ‘committed’ to new Curragh racecourse

Completion date for biggest Irish racecourse redevelopment has been pushed back

 Construction work at the Curragh racecourse near Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph:  Bryan Keane/Inpho

Construction work at the Curragh racecourse near Newbridge, Co Kildare. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Horse Racing Ireland’s (HRI) chief executive has said racing’s ruling body is committed to delivering a new Curragh racecourse, and will “commit to what needs to be done” to achieve that.

The completion date for the biggest racecourse redevelopment in Irish racing history has been pushed back to February, amid suggestions the project’s final cost could eventually approach €80 million.

When the redevelopment was launched in 2015, investment of €65 million was outlined, with shares in new Curragh Racecourse Ltd divided three ways between the then Turf Club, the State through HRI, and private investors including John Magnier’s Coolmore Stud and JP McManus.

Last year the estimated cost jumped to €72 million, with forecasts of €40 million being raised privately on top of HRI’s €30 million contribution, and hopes that more private investment could be generated.

Some reports now suggest the cost of the project could rise to almost €80 million due to issues including the possible increase in size of the parade ring. However, that was dismissed as speculation by HRI boss Brian Kavanagh on Sunday.

Kavanagh declined to comment on whether the semi-State body may have to contribute further to the Curragh redevelopment or if more private investment would be needed. It is unclear if such investments could have equity implications for Curragh Racecourse Ltd.

However, Kavanagh did stress that voting shares on the Curragh’s board remain at one third each between HRI, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) and private investors.

“The shareholders’ agreement has always been that voting shares remain at one third each. It was a strong point, from the racing authorities’ point of view, to retain two thirds of the votes.”

Final cost

Kavanagh insisted the final cost of redeveloping the Curragh would not be known until the project was completed. Original hopes for the new facility to be ready to open in time for racing this year were shelved. Plans to finish by the end of the year have had to be pushed back as well.

“The costs won’t be finalised until the job is finalised, and there’s movement in both directions with the contractor as the project evolves. We won’t know until it is finished, and then it will be a matter for the Curragh board to address. It would be wrong to speculate,” he said.

“HRI has committed to, together with the Turf Club and other investors, to delivering a facility we can all be proud of. I’m absolutely satisfied the Curragh project, when finished, will bear favourable comparison with any major European racecourse. HRI will commit to delivering the Curragh, and commit to what needs to be done.”

Racing at the Curragh is due to resume on April 13th of next year, the first of 19 fixtures at Irish racing’s HQ in 2019. There is set to be a new focus on Friday racing at the Curragh, including the Group One Tattersalls Gold Cup run on that day as part of a rejigged Guineas festival in May.

Budget decision

In other news, Kavanagh said plans by the Minister for Finance Pascal Donohoe to review his budget decision in relation to raising the rate of betting tax from 1 per cent to 2 per cent will have no impact on racing, including on HRI’s forthcoming five-year strategic plan.

“I think the Minister received some 11th-hour proposals from bookmakers to consider alternative ways of taxing betting, with one of the options being gross profit tax as opposed to turnover tax. But he clearly said the primary purpose of the tax is in revenue generation.”

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