This week’s column is dedicated to Killarney Racecourse. Despite their best efforts in recent times to lobby for an easing of restrictions in advance of their August Festival, the ‘Limbo 500’ spectator restriction has remained in place.
The management at Killarney have voiced their disappointment at this decision. However, it is important to recognise how they have generously used the opportunity to highlight the urgent requirement for clarity for their colleagues at racecourses nationwide, especially for their friends at Listowel Races.
The tickets for the August Festival at Killarney were quickly snapped up, and that all happened without advertising or paid promotion. The town of Killarney itself is busy with staycationers, enjoying all that the tourist hotspot has to offer; apart from a day at the races that is. In a statement issued by management earlier this week, the current guidelines were described as “unjust and unfair”, a point well made by the chairman of the board, Ger Coughlan.
On Radio Kerry, and in a primetime slot on the Kerry Today Show with Jerry O’Sullivan which featured an interview with Ger Coughlan on Wednesday morning, some interesting points were made.
Among them was the fact that, under the current Covid-19 guidelines, in theory the racecourse could have opened all of its indoor restaurant facilities onsite that day, provided they seat six to a table and apply all the other hospitality guidelines such as contact tracing and social distancing.
Yet on Thursday, Friday and today, Saturday, while racing is taking place, these facilities could not be open, and a maximum of 500 patrons were restricted to only outdoor viewing, food and beverage facilities on their 90-acre site.
Since racing reconvened in June 2020, over 500 fixtures have successfully taken place in Ireland. In July, Killarney Racecourse saw their first paying customers and spectators in their stand since August 2019. Despite lobbying hard, and the obvious relaxation of restrictions in other sectors and sports, circumstances for the team at Killarney Racecourse have remained unchanged, much to their disappointment.
Coughlan said: “Whilst other sports have moved on, horse racing has endured extremely low levels of attendees. For example the All-Ireland semi-finals at 24,000 versus Killarney’s July Racing Festival on a 90-acre open site at 500. This is extremely unjust and unfair.
“Killarney is busy with staycationers, many of whom are fully vaccinated and would love a day out at Killarney races. They can dine indoors and shop in their droves in town, yet they cannot watch a race here. Surely it’s time for common sense to prevail.”
Thankfully, it looks like common sense will indeed prevail, as various news sites on Thursday say that an increase in attendances at horse racing fixtures is imminent. They say it forms part of the Government’s plan for reopening which is set to be discussed at the Cabinet next week.
Killarney Racecourse will host its final fixture of 2021 on Saturday and Sunday, October 2nd 3rd, and tickets for that meeting can be purchased online.
Speaking of the news that greater attendances and the easing of restrictions for that weekend are likely, Ger Coughlan said: “Naturally that would be great, especially for the team here who have worked very hard to ensure strict adherence to all guidelines to keep the horse racing industry going. However for the business itself, it’s very much a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted in our case.”
Let’s all hope that the lobbying groundwork done by Killarney and others will bear fruit for their neighbours in Kerry, the team at Listowel.
By Leo Powell.