Naas examining feasibility of building Ireland’s second all-weather track
Horse Racing Ireland hopes to have new all-weather track in place by 2021
Brian Kavanagh: he rejected suggestions of possible structural issues with the new stands at the Curragh. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Naas racecourse has confirmed it is examining the feasibility of building Ireland’s second all-weather track.
The news came after Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) confirmed on Friday it was seeking “expressions of interest” from both existing tracks and prospective new venues to have a new all-weather circuit in place by 2021.
Dundalk is Ireland’s sole all-weather track, and there have been long-standing calls from within the sport for another artificial surface in the south of the country.
Tipperary racecourse – which is owned by HRI – has been regularly proposed as a location for a new all-weather course given its Munster location.
HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said on Friday that location was likely to be one factor in deciding on where any new track would be built. However, he stressed there were “no hard and fast rules” about it, and the HRI board was eager to examine all proposals.
The chairman of Naas, Dermot Cantillon, said the prospect of building a new all-weather at the Co Kildare course was being examined.
“We’ve had a preliminary look to see if it is feasible. If we do proceed we would be looking at a complete circumference of our track and a new six furlong straight ,so we’d be adding something that isn’t there at the moment.
“But there are a lot of hurdles to be jumped, and there are two main issues. One is that we’d like it to enhance the racetrack. It’s important to us that we enhance what we already have. The second is that it makes economic sense.
“If that’s the case we would like to look at enhancing Irish racing by using a different surface to Dundalk. Tapeta would be one of the surfaces we’d consider ,” Mr Cantillon added.
Estimates at how much it might cost to install a new all-weather track at an existing course appear to range from €5 million to €10 million.
Building one from scratch could cost up to three times that. Mr Kavanagh conceded that development on a greenfield site “is a bit of a longer shot”.
The HRI boss added: “The development of any all-weather requires significant funding from HRI and any developers. But when you look at other jurisdictions – I think France has nine all-weather tracks – the board feels it is a good time to take stock of where it might go in future.”
Naas is just over 70 miles from Dundalk, and there have been long-standing calls for any new artificial racing facility to be located in the south of the country.
Asked about the Tipperary option, Mr Kavanagh said: “It may be one that comes under consideration. The board has said it will look at options. Any track which is interested should accelerate its interest because, subject to funding, we are prepared to look at such a development. So I don’t want to be too restrictive on that [southern location].”
Naas secured one positive outcome on Friday, when HRI also confirmed it would host the Curragh’s April 13th programme.
In a blow to the most expensive capital development project in Irish racing history, the new Curragh development will not be able to open next month. A first racing fixture at Irish racing’s rebuilt HQ is now set to take place three weeks late on May 6th.
It is another setback in the controversial redevelopment which was originally projected to see the Curragh reopen last year, and which has seen overruns on original €65 million cost projections outlined in 2015.
Mr Kavanagh rejected suggestions of possible structural issues with the new stands, and said on Friday: “There are no issues whatsoever. This [the delay] is purely timing. That’s all it is. It’s to allow time for contractors to finish, landscaping to be done, and for systems to tried ahead of opening.
“It’s a huge development, and a three-week delay before opening it to the public to fully test and check operations. It’s a prudent course of action.”
A trial race day will be held at the Curragh next month, and the official opening of the new facility is now due to take place on day one of the Guineas festival on Friday evening, May 24th.
In other news, the prospect of rare soft ground conditions this weekend sees Willie Mullins running 18 horses on the eve of Cheltenham.
Rapidly closing in on the €4 million prize money mark in Ireland this season, the champion trainer runs three in Sunday’s €100,000 Toalsbet Leinster National. However Joseph O’Brien’s Wishmoor could be one to reverse National Trial form with the topweight Dounikos.