Horse Racing Ireland confident over Down Royal’s future

Meeting on Wednesday worked through detail of transition of management at track

A view of racing at Down Royal from May 2017. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Inpho/Presseye/

A view of racing at Down Royal from May 2017. Photograph: Kelvin Boyes/Inpho/Presseye/

 

A meeting on Wednesday between Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and the owners of Down Royal has left the sport’s ruling body confident racing will continue at the track next year.

The future of racing at Down Royal was thrown into some doubt last week when the group managing the course confirmed they will no longer be in charge when their lease runs out on January 1st.

The Down Royal Corporation of Horse Breeders said they were preparing for the track to close after failure to reach agreement on a new deal with the course owners, Merrion Property Group.

However the Dublin based Merrion Group insisted they are committed to maintaining Down Royal as a racecourse. Its boss, Michael Roden, met HRI officials on Wednesday to work on details of how best to transition management of the track for 2019.

The first of Down Royal’s dozen fixtures next year is scheduled for January 29th.

“It was a positive meeting. They reiterated their commitment to racing in the North and they indicated a commitment to invest in the facility, and to racing itself,” said HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh.

“Subject to achieving a licence and stuff like that I’d be confident they will race on January 29. Now there’s still a lot of detail to be worked out but I would describe it as transitioning detail.

“They haven’t taken up their position there yet but they indicated clearly they are committed to racing in the long term and investing in the facility. I found it encouraging and it was a positive meeting,” he added.

One of the major details to be worked out is the maintenance of prizemoney levels.

Prizemoney at Northern Ireland’s two racecourses includes money from a special racing fund in the north that operates independently from the Horse & Greyhound fund in the Republic.

Some confusion still appears to exist about whether a management changeover at Down Royal could meet problems relating to any state contribution to prizmoney in the light of the suspension of the Northern Ireland assembly.

The immediate focus at Down Royal however will be on next week’s Grade One JNwine Champion Chase festival which is the track’s most prestigious fixture of the year.

With one eye already on 2019 however, Kavanagh added: “We are committed to working together over the coming weeks and months. Whatever assistance we can give we will give in terms of transitioning.”

In other news Dundalk’s Halloween fixture next Wednesday has been moved from an evening fixture to an afternoon date in the interests of safety.

The move was made by the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board in order to avoid possible problems with Halloween celebrations involving the use of fireworks in the vicinity of the racecourse.

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