THE Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) represents those who own and/or operate Ireland’s 26 racecourses nationwide. AIR would like to start this week’s column by taking a moment to congratulate everyone in Cheltenham last week; what a festival!
Massive congratulations to all the winning connections, owners, trainers and jockeys and to the team at Cheltenham Racecourse for the exhilarating festival that kept us all hanging on to the edge of our seats. Apart from the obvious highlights, well covered in The Irish Field, the ground, facilities and track management were excellent.
Media coverage was fantastic for racing across the board with horseracing making it out of the sports pages and into mainstream news and reaching new and wider audiences. The social media content during the festival was truly remarkable. Flooring Porter proved you can find a Cheltenham winner on Facebook, and Doireann Garrihy’s behind the scenes festival insights with the help of many of our industry stars throughout the week was most enjoyable and has no doubt helped encourage new audiences to come racing.
The next major event at home to look forward to is the famous, three-day Easter Festival at Fairyhouse Racecourse, featuring the BoyleSports Irish Grand National on Easter Monday, April 18th. This will be the 150th running of the Irish Grand National, so it’s a special milestone. Fairyhouse’s BoyleSports Irish Grand National is the richest chase in the Irish calendar and one of the most anticipated dates of the Irish racing year.
The race has become a truly iconic event with many legendary winners. These include the 1964 winner Arkle, trained by Tom Dreaper, Brown Lad, a three-time winner for trainer Jim Dreaper, the legendary British-trained steeplechaser Desert Orchid, Bobbyjo trained by Tommy Carberry and ridden by his son Paul, Commanche Court, which was ridden for trainer Ted Walsh by his son Ruby, and Organisedconfusion, trained by Arthur Moore and ridden by his niece, Nina Carberry, one of the greatest amateur riders Ireland has ever produced.
Peter Roe, general manager of Fairyhouse Racecourse, recently commented: “The fine tradition of the race and what it means to our neighbouring communities is what makes Easter Monday at Fairyhouse such a special occasion. It will mean so much to the team here to be able to welcome an Irish Grand National crowd back to the racecourse for the first time since 2019, and we can’t wait for Easter Monday to come around.”
Cheltenham winners are already lining up to take part so you can be sure the competition will be fierce. There are 93 entries for the latest renewal of the BoyleSports Irish Grand National including local trainer, Dermot McLoughlin’s Freewheelin Dylan, owned by Sheila Mangan, who became the longest priced winner in the history of Ireland’s greatest steeplechase with his 150/1 success under Ricky Doyle in the race last year. Freewheelin Dylan will return for this year’s race also, while his trainer has also entered Lord Lariat and Opposites Attract.
Gordon Elliott’s yard has an impressive 24 entries, including last week’s Cheltenham Festival winner, Delta Work. There are 16 entries from Willie Mullins including Stattler, one of Mullins’ record-breaking 10 Cheltenham Festival winners. Stattler is also the early 9/1 favourite with the sponsors for the BoyleSports Irish Grand National.
There are many more exciting entries from yards such as Henry de Bromhead, Joseph O’Brien, Noel Meade and Gavin Cromwell to name a few.
You can check out the full list of entries online at HRI.ie and to book tickets, hospitality or to find out more about what’s in store at the Fairyhouse Easter Festival, visit Fairyhouse.ie.