Limerick's behind-closed-doors race meeting will be 'very strange experience'

Colm Kinsella

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Colm Kinsella

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ckinsella@limerickleader.ie

Limerick's behind-closed-doors race meeting will be 'very strange experience'

Limerick Racecourse general manager Patrick O'Callaghan

LIMERICK Racecourse general manager Patrick O'Callaghan admits staging Sunday's race meeting behind-closed doors at Greenmount Park is going to be a 'very strange experience.'

The board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) announced on Thursday that horse racing in Ireland will take place behind closed doors from today, March 13 until Sunday, March 29.

The HRI decision follows Government advice to help contain the spread of Covid-19, including an instruction to limit external gatherings to less than 500 people.

A number of restrictions on race meetings staged up until March 29 include recommended social distancing measures implemented on track, with access to the meeting being restricted to essential service providers and industry participants.

No catering services, on course bookmakers or Tote services will be provided, while one groom per runner declared will be admitted to the racecourse along with just one owner per runner to be admitted to the races.

Only trainers of horses running at the meeting will be admitted to the racecourse. All participants will be asked to vacate the racecourse after their horses have run. Racing will continue to be made available to broadcasters as at present.

Strict measures must be undertaken by all industry bodies and racecourses.

Signage recommended by the government must be displayed throughout the racecourse premises in strategic areas (grandstand, weighroom area, changing rooms, press room, stables etc.) Contact details for all racecourse attendees must be recorded on admission.

Bottles of antibacterial gel solutions/hand sanitising stations to be provided, while door handles, handrails of escalators, elevator buttons and any other obvious points of contact to be disinfected regularly during each race meeting.

Jockeys’ saunas must be closed and additional space between individuals must be provided within the weighroom to ensure social distancing along, with additional alternative facilities for jockeys’ changing to ensure best practice hygiene throughout.

A designated isolation room must also be provided at each racecourse for individual use in the event any person presents with virus symptoms.

Access to the racecourse will be strictly restricted to essential service providers and industry participants.

Limerick Racecourse general manager, Patrick O'Callaghan admitted it will be a very strange experience on Sunday hosting racing without any members of the public being present.

The silence in the stands as the finish to races are fought out on Sunday will be in stark contrast to their four-day Christmas Racing Festival which attracted bumper attendances.

Patrick O'Callaghan told Leader Sport: "It is going to be a very strange experience. It is only a few months ago Faugheen was coming down there the straight there and the whole place was going daft. It is going to be very, very strange, but that is just the way it is."

Limerick Racecourse would have expected to host more than 3,500 racegoers at their fixture on Sunday.

Limerick Racecourse will take a hit financially from the fact that no members of the public will be allowed attend the fixture on Sunday.

However, Patrick O'Callaghan says the racecourse's concern at the moment was to run the safest race meeting possible on Sunday.

"Look, the financial side of it, the difference between racing behind closed doors and not racing at all, is a case of half a loaf is better than no bread," Patrick O'Callaghan said.

"There is far more serious things happening out there. There will be a financial impact, but again it is no different to the small trainer who has, maybe, a couple of stable lads or that, if he goes broke, he is unemployed, his stable lads are unemployed, maybe the amateur jockey he has doesn't have money for petrol and the likes, for instance.

"We are very conscious that there would be part of the industry that might be under pressure.

"At the end of the day, from a financial point of view, racing behind closed doors is preferred to not going at all. But if HRI decide at any point that we are not going at all, then so be it.

"I am not going to start singing about financial implications over public health.

"There is an onus on everyone to follow the guidelines that have been put in place for the good of everyone. I have no doubt they will follow them."