HRI boss says it is “premature” to speculate on cost of any parade ring changes at Curragh

Impressive debut winner Ten Sovereigns entered for Saturday’s Round Tower Stakes

The potential impact on the overall cost of the Curragh redevelopment created by any reconstruction of the parade ring won’t be known until the project is completed.

Horse Racing Ireland's chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Tuesday it would be premature to speculate on the likely financial effect of adapting the new parade ring which has been criticised as being too small to cope with large fields of horses.

At recent Curragh fixtures Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board officials have pointed out the new parade ring isn’t big enough to cope with every horse in fields of 22 runners or more.

Last Sunday, on official advice, eight horses were kept in the pre-parade ring before the final 30-runner handicap at Irish racing’s HQ.


The feasibility of extending the parade ring through at least partial reconstruction is now being examined although no changes can take place until at least this season’s Curragh fixtures finish with day two of ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ on September 16th.

Two days after that the board of the Curragh will meet to review all matters relating to the redevelopment which is set to officially open next April.

Original estimates that the long-awaited flagship project would cost €65 million jumped to €72m last year and having to rebuild at least some of the parade ring could add to that.

However Kavanagh wouldn’t be drawn on figures and said: “You take the overall cost of a project, or any variations, at the end of the project. It’s very difficult to say until you know the final position.

“The contractors have been on-site for 11 months now and still have another five months to go. Things come out of the ground differently, both ways, to what might be expected.  So it would be premature to give a view [on cost] until you know everything that’s going to happen.

“As the project goes along you get variations and changes. And there are swings and roundabouts on that. Areas turn out to be more complicated than expected and less complicated.

“The parade ring was built as designed and it will be reviewed at the end of the year. I expect the board will get an update from professionals at its September meeting on all the variations at this point.”

Criticism both of the size of the parade ring, and viewing facilities around it, are embarrassing as it is one of the centrepieces of Irish racing’s most expensive ever redevelopment.

Three stakeholders

The new Curragh board has three stakeholders, the State through HRI, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board, and private investors including both Coolmore Stud and the Aga Khan who initially put in €5m each.

Further private investment has been raised since the project was launched in 2015 and last year Kavanagh forecast up to €40m for the Curragh’s redevelopment could ultimately be raised privately.

HRI contributed €30m while the IHRB has a one third share and voting representation on the Curragh board through goodwill and the original racecourse asset which the Turf Club ran since the 18th century.

“Developing a racecourse and continuing to race is a challenge and credit is due to the Curragh team. It’s not straightforward and they’ve fulfilled what we wanted them to do in terms of the programme, the nature of races run and field size,” Kavanagh said.

“I’m focused on the end product of the racecourse overall. This is a long term project for Irish racing and we’ve got to make sure it’s right so in 20 or 30 years time they’ll look back and say that was job well done.

“There will be issues along the way – the parade ring is one aspect of it – and we’ll deal with them,” he added.

That issue is likely to arise again when the Curragh races on Friday and Saturday this week. Saturday’s programme includes the €100,000 Irish Cambridgeshire for which 40 entries remain after Tuesday’s forfeit stage.

A trio of Group Three races will also take place on Saturday including the six-furlong Round Tower Stakes for juveniles. Last Saturday’s impressive seven-length debut winner Ten Sovereigns is among 14 still left in that.

Ground conditions at the Curragh are currently yielding which could attract the Michael Stoute-trained Desert Diamond to the Snow Fairy Stakes. The Juddmonte-owned filly was a six-length winner on soft ground in a Listed race at York last month.

On Wednesday evening Willie Mullins sends both Low Sun and Uradel to Bellewstown for a €20,000 flat handicap.

Uradel is 14lbs higher in the ratings for his success in the big amateur handicap at Galway. Although Low Sun holds a 2-0 career advantage on his stable mate over hurdles it could prove a different story this time on the level.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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