IF the atmosphere at Gowran Park for Goffs Thyestes Chase day is anything to go by, the portents for the future of Irish racing are good.
In recent years we have become more attuned to fog or rain dampening the spirit of this special day a little, but for the first big raceday open again to crowds the sun came out and the Co Kilkenny venue was packed with smiling faces.
It was a joy to behold, and if I had a euro for every time I was questioned about my intention to attend next weekend’s Dublin Racing Festival, I would be able to pay for a luxury weekend in the capital.
Not being disrespectful to Eddie Scally and his team, but some of my past memories of Thyestes day have been centred on long traffic delays for both the car parks and the turnstiles, usually due to large attendances. Despite arriving at a peak time on Thursday, both operated smoothly. Great credit to all who made that happen, not an easy thing to do when your first day ‘back to normal’ is one of the biggest days on your racing calendar.
Now it is full steam ahead for one of the centrepieces of the National Hunt season at Leopardstown next weekend, and no doubt Tim Husbands and his team will be keen to ensure that the Gowran Park success story is repeated. Interest in the two days is intense with Cheltenham in the near horizon, and hopefully all the leading contenders for the Cotswolds will get through this curtain raiser in good shape.
I am penning this editorial ahead of a major webinar being staged by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, one which I hosted yesterday afternoon and which will be available online. The Association gathered together a top-class panel of speakers to tackle a number of very practical issues that breeders are dealing with, and indeed will confront in the future.
The industry has gone through a period of trauma, brought about principally by the aftershocks of Brexit and compounded by operating in a time of pandemic. There have been teething difficulties, plenty of misinformation put about, and yesterday’s webinar, and more to come hopefully, are worthwhile opportunities to arm breeders with the facts.
The statistics issued yesterday by Horse Racing Ireland are a further shot in the arm for racing and breeding, providing a timely boost for our sport and industry as we navigate our way into 2022 and beyond. An opportunity to build on this positivity must be seized by us all.