RACECOURSE managers at the Curragh, Gowran Park and Roscommon have spoken about the challenges presented by the increasingly volatile and unpredictable weather.

Following a dry week at the Curragh, this weekend’s Guineas Festival started last night on a mix of good and good to firm but, just 70km south, Gowran Park had to cancel their midweek card due to flash flooding.

A series of heavy showers were “promised” to Roscommon just hours ahead of racing last Monday but the rain missed the track completely. Meanwhile Limerick on Thursday evening had 24 non-runners due to “unsuitable ground”.

The variation in rainfall across the country can be highlighted by statistics from Met Eireann which show their Roscommon weather station has seen 118% of rain compared to the average for May, while Dublin is running at just 17% of the monthly average.

Curragh CEO Brian Kavanagh said: “We were waterlogged a few weeks ago and had to cancel racing for the third time in a year. You’d have to go back a long way to find when that happened before, if ever.

“Our weather forecasts have actually been very accurate but what has changed is the huge volumes of rain you can get. It’s not easy for clerks of the course or track foremen to manage.”

Eddie Scally, manager of both Gowran Park and Wexford, has seen each of his tracks lose three meetings so far this year.

Describing how this week’s Gowran fixture was lost, he said: “We got downpours on Monday but the ground was only soft and we foresaw no issues. Then within an hour we got another 25mm of rain and it was ‘game over’. Some of our older directors said they had never seen flooding like it.

“Kilkenny Weather called to tell us that this has been the wettest year in the area since records began.”

Scally said the ground had dried out to ‘yielding to soft’ yesterday “but what is really frustrating is that Wexford is just a 40-minute drive from Gowran and we are considering watering there. And that track was soft to heavy five days ago. Our track foremen are at their wits’ end. I have been at Gowran Park for 13 years and I think we lost one meeting there in the first 11 years.”

Roscommon manager Michael Finneran says it’s been a “nightmare” trying to anticipate the changing weather.

“Last Monday we were promised heavy thundershowers from 4pm, an hour and a half before racing.

“My contact in Met Eireann said we could have 20mm in one shower and there might be several of them. He was right as the rain fell all around Roscommon town but it missed the racecourse. We hadn’t watered, due to the forecast, and luckily the ground only dried out to good and we had flat racing, so we were fine.”

A spokesperson for Met Eireann told The Irish Field yesterday that, in fact, it was not unusual to have localised intense rain and storms at this time of year.

“When it starts to get warmer and more humid this can provide fuel for storms to happen,” the spokesperson said. “The recent rainfall has been convective in nature, which can be associated with very high rainfalls locally. That’s why we have seen large variations in total rainfall across the country. We had a similar situation in June last year.”

Asked if climate change was responsible for the apparent change in weather patterns, Met Eireann said: “Sometimes we get extremes and it’s hard to be specific about the causes of any one event, but a warmer atmosphere has the potential to carry more moisture and lead to more rainfall.” Looking further ahead, Met Eireann say the long-term outlook is for a warmer but wetter June than usual but July and August are looking drier than on average.