Wexford Racecourse loses its flat appeal

By David tucker

Published 11/06/2016 | 00:00

Michael Murphy at Wexford Racecourse in Bettyville.
Michael Murphy at Wexford Racecourse in Bettyville.

two busy summer racing fixtures at Wexford Racecourse have been moved to Gowran and Navan after Horse Racing Ireland ruled that Newtown Road course is to become a National Hunt-only course.

The surprise decision to move the two summer fixtures, and to switch Wexford to a National Hunt course, was made at a meeting of the Board of Horse Racing Ireland last week.

'We're going National Hunt because that's what the people of the South East and Wexford want,' said Wexford Racecourse managing director Michael Murphy.

He said more than €100,000 had been spent upgrading and improving the course as part of the change to left-handed racing in the past 12 months.

Mr Murphy said the change to Wexford being a National Hunt course had not been foisted on him by HRI and he hadn't been surprised when the announcement was made.

He said Wexford Racecourse would lose money as a result of the two summer fixtures being moved, but he had not yet worked out how much.

Since Wexford switched from being a right-handed to a left-handed course in April 2015, the consensus is that the racecourse has been much improved for staging National Hunt racing, HRI said in a statement. It said going left-handed, the racecourse now has an uphill finish and the obstacles are better positioned than when it was a right-handed course.

The final two fences and hurdles are very well located in front of the stands, providing an exciting spectacle for racegoers, who are able to view the finish on a large screen directly opposite.

Although the National Hunt fixtures at Wexford have been successful, a much lower runner limit (of 10) has been in place for the Flat meetings held at Wexford (two last year and one in May this year).

HRI said that despite remedial work including improved cambering of the bends, which was undertaken over the last winter, it has become clear, following discussions with the Turf Club, Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and Irish Jockeys Association, that the course will not be suitable for larger field sizes on the Flat.

'The Board of HRI has therefore decided that Flat racing should be discontinued at Wexford, with the Flat race opportunities being provided at alternative racecourses which are able to accommodate higher numbers of runners.'

It said the two remaining Flat fixtures scheduled for Wexford this year will be transferred to Gowran Park (Saturday, July 23) and Navan (Saturday, August 27).

HRI said that as a National Hunt-only venue, Wexford will continue to stage its existing annual allocation of 11 fixtures in 2017. The three current Flat fixtures will become National Hunt fixtures, which will require some changes of code to meetings at other racecourses, while Wexford's racing calendar may also need to be altered slightly.

The body said Wexford racecourse management have been fully consulted in the decision making process and are supportive of the change to become a National Hunt only venue, believing that the improved, left-handed circuit will enable them to upgrade the quality of their jumps programme over time.

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