IHRB will provide doctors and ambulances if needed by HSE

Two doctors and two ambulances required at each meeting for racing to take place

Racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday was cancelled. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Racing at Fairyhouse on Saturday was cancelled. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Racing officials have said there has been no demand from health authorities for any of the medical services that are required to keep the sport running.

However, they stressed that they won’t stand in the way of any such requests should they occur.

With the health system under “increasing strain,” and a peak in the third wave of coronarvirus infections expected this week, there are fears of a dramatic rise in hospital admissions.

Despite huge pressure on public health resources there has been no request made to racing’s authorities to divert personnel and vehicles.

Each race meeting requires two doctors and two ambulances to be present at a racecourse. Without them racing cannot take place.

The ambulances are provided by the Order of Malta which has a long-standing contractual arrangement with Horse Racing Ireland to supply medical cover.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board said on Sunday it has not received any request for such resources to be switched.

“It is so ever-changing that we can’t say it’s not a possibility. But so far there has been inclination of that being the case. The Order of Malta are fully available to meet the requirements of racing,” said the IHRB spokesman, Niall Cronin.

In the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, racing was shut down for over two months. However, it has taken place behind closes doors since June. With infection rates reaching record levels in the last week, however, there is uncertainty about the health service’s capacity to cope.

“We will do what is right for everyone, there is no question about that. If there is a requirement we will do whatever we can do. We won’t stand in the way of any requirements. But there has been no requests from them, to say they are under pressure,” Cronin added.

He pointed to how, during the first lockdown, the IHRB’s senior medical officer, Dr Jennifer Pugh, was on duty at the Mater Hospital.

Double fixture

Racing’s prospects of continuing uninterrupted could be helped by a programme over the coming two months without a double fixture that could potentially stretch resources.

The first day with two race-meetings scheduled in Ireland is Sunday, March 14th, the weekend before Cheltenham. The meetings are at Limerick and Naas. St Patrick’s Day (March 17th) will also be a double fixture.

After a weekend wiped out by freezing conditions, racing resumes on the Dundalk all-weather on Monday.

Before it begins, however, a crucial 1.00 inspection will be carried out at Fairyhouse to see if Saturday’s cancelled programme can get run off on Tuesday.

The course was unfit for racing on Sunday due to some frozen areas but temperatures are forecast to rise.

Monday’s Dundalk action sees the racecourse debut of the €400,000 yearling purchase Star Harbour who will carry the Phoenix Thoroughbred Ltd colours in a seven furlong maiden.

The controversial operation was told by the British Horseracing Authority last autumn it is not allowed have runners in Britain.

However it has continued to race here despite it being alleged in a New York court in 2019 that Phoenix’s founder, Amer Abdulaziz Salman, was a money launderer for the fake cryptocurrency, OneCoin.

Prominent international racing figures, including the leading US trainer Bob Baffert, distanced themselves from Phoenix last year.

The Adrian McGuinness-trained Pure Nature carried the well-known Phoenix colours to success at Dundalk last month.

On Monday the well-bred Sea The Stars colt, Star Harbour, who went through the Goffs Orby Sales ring at €400,000 in 2019, is due to line up under champion apprentice Gavin Ryan.

Champion jockey Colin Keane hasn’t partnered a winner since his memorable Breeders’ Cup success on Tarnawa at Keeneland in November but can look forward to seven rides on Monday.

They include the well-bred filly Switch Around for Tarnawa’s trainer Dermot Weld in the second leg of a mile-and-a-half handicap.

She didn’t show much on her first start on the all-weather so another daughter of Galileo, Empire Street, could be a better option given first-time cheek-pieces and a first spin at Dundalk.

Leg injury

Meanwhile, Empire Street’s trainer John McConnell will have to do without his Grade 2 Cheltenham winner Make Good for the rest of the jumps campaign.

The horse was as low as 16-1 for the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival in March after winning at the track last month.

However, a leg injury means he faces six months on the sidelines.

“Unfortunately Make Good has a leg injury and will be out for at least six months. It’s very frustrating as he was the soundest horse in the yard and took his races really well.

“I think it must have happened at Cheltenham. We gave a quiet week after coming home and it seemed to have settled down but it then flared up again.

“We were aiming him at the Albert Baartlett and Streets Of Doyen is now our big hope for that race.

“He wants good ground and will probably go straight to Cheltenham. He’s progressed really and I think there is more to come from him,” McConnell reported on Sunday.

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