HRI hope Leopardstown vacant sites register appeal will be heard shortly

Trainer Ger Lyons confirms his split with Sheikh Fahad’s Qatar operation

Horse Racing Ireland anticipates an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against land it owns at Leopardstown racecourse being put on a vacant sites register will be heard either next month or in July.

Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has included two HRI owned sites totalling almost 57 acres on a register developed as part of 2015 legislation to stop property owners "hoarding" land suitable for development.

The land adjacent to the racecourse has been valued at €79 million and there have been calls for up to 1,000 units of social and affordable housing to be built there.

The legislation allows for levies on property owners who don’t develop prime development land. Next year HRI, the semi-state body which administers Irish racing and includes Leopardstown as part of its racecourse portfolio, could be charged a levy of three per cent of the value of the land if the two sites remain on the vacant sites register.


"I believe the appeal [to An Bord Pleanála] is due to be heard either in June or July," HRI's chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Tuesday. He added it would be "premature" to consider the issue of potential charges until after that appeal is heard.

Kavanagh said racing’s ruling body has a master-plan for the development of Leopardstown which could include housing and a school and that it is in discussions with various local bodies on the issue.

New sprint course

He stressed however that the development of Dublin’s sole remaining racecourse is HRI’s priority and that both sites are vital to the body’s plans for the track.

“The key issue from our point of view is the protection, securing and enhancement of Leopardstown in the long term,” he said. He added that the provision of a new sprint course at Leopardstown may be part of those future plans.

“Once the Curragh project is finished the long term standing of how Leopardstown will look in the next 20 to 30 years will be our minds. That will take a degree of time and consideration and we’re in the middle of that process at the moment,” he added.

HRI’s boss said the land, which has been described as the state’s most valuable vacant site, is vital for overall plans and ambitions for Leopardstown.

“Racing is our number one priority. That said there may be opportunities to address other concerns. Leopardstown is part of the local community and it is conscious of its responsibility in relation to that community. They have on-going dialogue with the local council,” Kavanagh said.

In other news leading trainer Ger Lyons has said eight horses owned by Qatar Racing have left his Co Meath yard. Lyons confirmed on Tuesday he has split with Sheikh Fahad's Qatar operation.

The Irish man provided the Sheikh with his first ever winner in Wade Giles who won at the Curragh in 2010 under the Pearl Bloodstock banner. A year later Lightening Pearl won the Group One Cheveley Park Stakes at Newmarket in the same colours.

Just last week her daughter, Lightening Quick, won the Group Three Athasi Stakes at Naas for Lyons in the Qatar Racing silks.

“I wish her, Sheikh Fahad and the Qatar Racing team all the very best in the future and thank them for their fantastic support over the years,” Lyons said.

French Gold Cup

Willie Mullins is set to be heavily represented on French racing's richest jumps card at Auteuil this Sunday.

Djakadam is among 15 entries left in the €850,000 Grand Steeple-Chase De Paris, the French Gold Cup.

Mullins has never won that race but been successful four times already in France’s version of the Champion Hurdle, the €350,000 Grande Course De Haies D’Auteuil. The last of them was when Thousand Stars completed back-to-back wins in 2012.

This time Ireland's champion National Hunt trainer has half a dozen potential starters including the mercurial Yorkhill, Bacardys and Killultagh Vic. On Saturday Mr Adjudicator is among three Mullins entries for the Prix Alain Du Breil, France's version of the Triumph Hurdle.

Mullins has seven runners on Wednesday's Punchestown card where his great rival Gordon Elliott is once again not represented.

Elliott hasn’t had a runner in the last 11 days and said last week he was giving his huge team a short rest after some of his horses hadn’t scoped right following the Punchestown festival last month.

In contrast Mullins has continued his festival hot-streak to the start of the new season and the trio of Robin Des Foret, Come To Me and Castle North can maintain it.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

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