CHIEF Groundsmanager is Richie Brophy and he is responsible for maintaining what is arguably recognised as the best racing ground in Europe for thoroughbreds. All five of Ireland’s classic races are run here: the Irish 1000 Guineas, Irish 2000 Guineas, Irish Derby, Irish Oaks, Irish St Leger.

Preparation is everything:

  • The grass used is Perennial Rye Grass which is sprinkled with Creeping Red Fescue. This gives a matting effect and helps protect the ground from the hammering hooves.
  • No clover or buttercup is ever allowed, they don’t want it as it binds too much nitrogen.
  • Fertiliser – the fertilisation programme starts in March with an NPK mix of 7:6:17 and applied at 75kg per acre
  • At the end of April this is then changed and the NPK mix goes to 16:16:16 at 100kg per acre and this really kicks off the growth
  • From May onward 20 litres per hectare of seaweed extract is spread on the racing ground as well as 20 litres per hectare of magnesium nitrate and this extra feed gives the grass its rich green colour
  • Mowing – as soon as growth starts a lot of mowing takes place and principally with a regular Lelly Mower to keep the grass maintained at four inches
  • There are 100 acres of racing ground at the Curragh Racecourse to be maintained, spread through four different racectracks; the Derby Track, Plate Track, Straight Track and the Round Mile Track
  • The 30-acre Derby track receives three mows within the month before the Irish Derby and on the morning of the big race it receives a tiny clip from a Peruzzo Groundkeeper
  • Watering – there is a complete main ring around the track with a valve point at each furlong mark and the system is called a Briggs Irrigation System
  • There is a four million litre reservoir in the centre of the course from where water can be pumped anywhere onto the track
  • Going – the optimum ground that the groundstaff always try to achieve for racing is ‘good, good to yielding’
  • If there is two or three days of racing in a row the groundstaff would typically have to move two miles of rails to give fresh racing ground the next day
  • Rolling – after racing the staff use a Cambridge Roller which squeezes back any divots that have arisen from the horses hooves as they gallop. This ring roller doesn’t bruise the grass
  • Divots – in order to fill in the divots caused by the galloping horses the groundstaff fill them in with a mix made up of hay seeds, sand, topsoil and peat
  • Typically there are 16 groundstaff on duty on race day
  • A week before the big race, Richie will walk the track with clerk of the course Brendan Sheridan to check the ground. After examination they issue a notice to tell the public and racing community what the going is.
  • Richie has a direct line with Met Eireann which is massively important to them. If the weather is dry and then he has to water the ground, then that can affect the going and he then has to notify the public and trainers as that can decide whether a horse runs or not.
  • When the racing season is over Richie takes a Verti Drainer which is like a big sowing machine and puts holes into he ground which breaks any compaction that has happened. This action lets the rain in and helps the worms work away at the ground and assists with resting the soil.