Vast majority of trainers have lost confidence in Dundalk track

Irish Racehorse Trainers Association comment after track received ‘highly satisfactory’ report

Trainers have expressed concern over the track at Dundalk Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Trainers have expressed concern over the track at Dundalk Stadium. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

The body representing Ireland’s racehorse trainers says the “vast majority” of its members have lost confidence in the controversial all-weather circuit at Dundalk.

Michael Grassick, chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, commented after the beleaguered racecourse issued a statement outlining how the much-criticised Polytrack surface received a “high satisfactory” report after a recent inspection.

Dundalk officials also reported that resurfacing at Ireland’s sole all-weather facility won’t take place until next summer. The contract for resurfacing is out to tender with a decision expected by the middle of next month.

In recent months there has been widespread criticism of the surface at Dundalk which is made up of synthetic fibres, rubber, sand and wax.

Trainers and jockeys have warned the track is riding too fast with horses returning jarred up after racing. One trainer, Sheila Lavery, has boycotted it over safety worries. The number of overall runners there has slipped.

The Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s licensing committee has said it has no current concerns about Dundalk although Horse Racing Ireland has stated it would like resurfacing to take place as soon as possible.

The cost of resurfacing has been estimated at €2.5 million but confirmation that installation won’t be complete until May/June of 2020 will be a blow to many racing professionals.

“I suppose as long as the track is open some trainers will continue to race there. But the vast majority of trainers have completely lost confidence in Dundalk,” Michael Grassick said on Friday.

Dundalk has one more programme next week before a summer break until its next meeting in late September. It’s manager Jim Martin said on Friday that fibre will be added to the surface as part of its annual maintenance.

Martin added that an inspection of the course last week by Martin Collins Enterprises, who installed the Polytrack, resulted in a “highly satisfactory” report.

It concluded the track in its present condition is “both safe and consistent” and despite being 12 year old still has “elasticity”.

‘Awful venue’

HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh said the issue will be addressed at this Monday’s board meeting of racing’s ruling body and that he didn’t want to comment further until after that.

However one leading trainer, Ger Lyons, tweeted “At its best Dundalk was the best. At its worse, now, it’s just another awful venue. It can be great again.”

The trainers’ body said its more immediate concerns revolve around organising more turf fixtures to provide opportunities for horses. Michael Grassick also expressed surprise at plans to add to the current surface at Dundalk.

“About two years ago there was a meeting of a lot of people there where the general consensus was that the surface at the time was tired and needed fibre.

“They [Dundalk] agreed to do it if Martin Collins said it needed it. Martin Collins came and said there was nothing wrong with the track. Now two years later we’re in the same situation and he says it needs fibre.

“But why spend a couple of hundred grand putting in fibre now when you’re replacing it next year; it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he said.

It is a busy weekend in Ireland and ahead of the Punchestown festival Willie Mullins could add to his already sparkling National Hunt campaign by reaching the 200 winner mark, and breaching the €4 million prizemoney mark, this season.

Egality Mans, who races in the Al Boum Photo colours of Joe Donnelly, looks the most interesting of the champion jump trainer’s weekend runners at Sligo.

The flat focus will be at Navan on Sunday where the 2017 Irish Derby and St Leger hero Capri returns to action in the Group Three Vintage Crop Stakes.

Ryan Moore travels to ride the grey and also teams up with Pink Dogwood in the Listed Salsabil Stakes. Latrobe’s full sister should relish an ease in the ground judged by her wide-margin maiden win last year.

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