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Steady Rainfall Challenging for Irish Racecourses

Rain has forced some changes to early-season flat racing schedule in Ireland.

Gowran Park

Gowran Park

Patrick McCann/Racing Post

The manager of Gowran Park and Wexford racecourses is hoping for a change in fortunes after a "complete and utter nightmare" period for Irish tracks with fixtures routinely canceled as a result of incessant rainfall.

After being forced to cancel its first flat fixture of the season last month eight days in advance, Gowran Park was again forced April 14 to announce the postponement of its belated campaign opener, which was scheduled for April 17, after the track was battered by 70 millimeters (2.75 inches) of rain in the past week.

"We were meant to get our season off to a start nearly four weeks ago and the track wasn't raceable," said racecourse manager Eddie Scally. "Since then it's just been nonstop rain. On the Sunday [April 7] we were thinking it might be OK but with the storm on Monday night we got 45mm (1.8 inches) and the track was waterlogged again. 

"We were getting 4-5 millimeters of rain overnight each day afterwards. There's no getting away from it. I've never seen anything like it, it's a complete and utter nightmare at the moment.

"The records say this type of weather hasn't happened since the 1950s. It's unfortunate and there will be such a backlog to catch up on for a lot of tracks."

Scally was keen to stress the importance of being proactive in calling off fixtures given the number of stakeholders adversely affected. 

He said: "From a financial point of view, it's very testing. The catering company that operates at Gowran does the same for Bellewstown and Wexford and it's very difficult for them. The valets need to work, as do the stalls handlers and the people on the Tote, which are elements that are forgotten about by many in racing. These people are all paid on a daily rate and earn a living out of racing. There's an awful lot of people relying on the fixture going ahead on its scheduled day. It's very tough on them.

"You have to be realistic. I knew on Sunday there was no scenario possible where we would be ready for racing on Wednesday, so to go through the process of trainers declaring horses, agents booking jockeys, and caterers ordering food when we know we're not going to be raceable wouldn't be fair. It's something we need to improve on rather than leaving it to the last second."

With the forecast looking slightly less ominous, Scally is hopeful of a return to normality next week as Gowran Park is scheduled to host back-to-back meetings Tuesday and Wednesday (April 23/24). Wexford is set to run its postponed fixture from April 5 the following day.

"The forecast was telling us we were getting no rain today [Monday] and we're after getting two monsoons of showers, but I'd be very confident the track will be raceable by Friday or Saturday, so I'd be optimistic about getting things underway then," Scally said.

Downpatrick is set to host its replacement fixture from April 7 the next day (Friday, April 26), but Kilbeggan's two-day fixture scheduled for April 25 and 26 will not take place following a request from Kilbeggan Racecourse Committee.