WHEN most people are tucking into their turkey and sipping a glass of wine on Christmas day, staff at Limerick racecourse will be out on the track at Patrickswell ensuring that everything is ready for the annual four day festival which starts on December 26.
Over 30,000 people are expected to attend Limerick raced at Patrickswell from December 26 to 29, and good weather could help swell the numbers closer to 40,00
While the weather will dictate the decision of many, such are the facilities at Greenmount Park, that whatever the climatic conditions you can watch racing in real comfort.
The racing festival has always been a major gathering point for Limerick people who come home for Christmas and a chance for old friends to meet up in an electric atmosphere.
“This year the emphasis is on tradition. It is socially a very important day. The emphasis is very much on going back to your roots,” explained Russell Ferris, racecourse general manager.
“Those years with the bad frost had an adverse effect on our attendance, people broke a habit of going racing on St Stephen’s Day which may have stretched over 20-25 years. That trend is broken. We are trying to get people back to that,” explained Russell.
There will be a total of 28 races, a prize fund of €375,000 and up to 170 people working at Greenmount Park during the Christmas festival which helps generate around €2.5 million for the local economy.
The forecast for St Stephen’s Day is for a cold, bright day, with occasional sunny spells. Top temperatures will be just three to six degrees celsius. This would be ideal racing conditions for the time of year and hopefully the rain and winds will stay away for the following three days of racing.
But the staff at Limerick Racecourse have shown terrific resilience in the face of a testing period, despite their task being made significantly more difficult by a couple of severe cold snaps which coincided with two of the last four Christmas Festivals.
Admission prices have dropped and it will cost patrons €18 for the first two days and €15 thereafter. Races start each day at 12.30 with plenty of parking spaces, though it is advised to get there as early as possible to the course.
“We have a kid’s day on the Sunday, December 29. It is nice to have the families out here. The site is safe. The Greenmount Grotto will be a kids zone. They have the whole suite to bounce around in. We have a great racing-rugby package for €40 for December 27. That includes admission to the races, a bus back into town after and a Category B stand ticket for the Munster v Connacht RaboDirect PRO12 game that evening at Thomond Park,” Russell explained.
There will be a bus service from Colbert Bus station in the city every day from 11.20 and from 11.45 from the Augstinian Church. There will be music after the races as well.
“Our general admission prices are €18 on both December 26 and 27 and €15 on December 28 and 29. It’s €15, €15,€10 and €10 for students and senior citizens. We have a range of other packages, including a €50 for all four days admission. There is a €30 euro Christmas Cracker, and several more restaurant packages available, ranging in price from €40 euro to €95 euro option,” explained Mr Ferris.