The hidden jewel of Irish Racing is the much maligned Dundalk. Half the problem is that when seen on At The Races the place always looks empty but what is not realised is that the attendance is concentrated in the area under the stands which is always out of view.
What Dundalk offers to race goers is modern facilities including a varied selection of restaurants including fast-food, Carvery and a more formal Restaurant with viewing facilities. The standard of food is good and it is very reasonably priced. On the racing side, there is a varied programme including many races of a high standard and the track allows spectators to get really close to the action at the 10 Furlong Start and finish.
My only provision which will not be appreciated by those in Dundalk is the All-Weather Floodlit Track would have been better located in Leopardstown where it would have had a large population to draw on and the Friday night racing could have been promoted and built into a major Friday night-out occasion for the capital.
For those involved professionally Dundalk has been a game-changer with the large population of horses kept in training over the winter specifically for Dundalk providing both employment and finance. The spread of winners is also very broad with no Owners or Trainers dominating matters to anywhere near the same extent as the current situation over jumps and in fact the “smaller” owners and trainers achieve success on a disproportionately positive level compared to NH or the Flat Turf Season. One initiative I would like to see is the introduction of an All-Weather Finals Day for horses that have competed in Dundalk over the Winter. Unlike the Lingfield Park Finals Day, I would model it on one of the numerous “Grass Roots Racing” series that have emerged in recent years in the UK. In these series, horses in the lower Handicap Grades qualify through a series of qualifier races to get an opportunity to race in a Final for significantly more prize money than would normally be the case. Horses would gain their place in the final by accumulating points throughout the winter season based on their finishing position in each race.
The opportunity to race for a pot of €25-30K with a realistic chance of success would provide a great incentive and boost for the many smaller Owners and Trainers who are the regulars on a Friday night in Dundalk.
So, for those of you who have never been racing at Dundalk I would recommend giving it a go some Friday night over the winter.
Article by DENIS COAKLEY