Curragh chief says redevelopment was well received over Classic weekend
A year after the opening Classic weekend when the Curragh’s nascent €72 million revamp came into the full glare of the public spotlight , the course’s chief executive Derek McGrath reflected on a far more positive experience for racegoers.
Heavy rainfall in 2017 compounded the deficiencies of the temporary facilities in place, prompting widespread criticism of the decision to continue to carry on racing during the construction process.
However, a resoundingly positive sentiment prevailed this year as those in attendance last weekend were able to get a proper sense of what the project will look like on completion next year.
“We got lots of really useful feedback from a wide variety of people and we’re encouraging people to engage with us,” McGrath said.
“The parade ring is the centre of the design and people can begin to see the frame of the finished project, which is providing plenty of encouragement.”
While the overall reaction to the progress made by the Curragh was upbeat, a shortage of vantage points was highlighted by some racegoers and commentators.
But McGrath says he encountered positive responses to the temporary grandstand that offers up to 600 racegoers a head-on view.
He said: “Most people said it [the view of the track] is just like Newmarket and just like how Phoenix Park used to be, the fact that you’re looking straight down the track.
“A lot of people love it. For me, the experience was that more people were actually saying how they really liked the viewing and they made a few suggestions as to how we could incorporate it in the future.
“There are always two sides to everything but the majority of the feedback I got on the viewing was, surprisingly, all very positive as we thought there would have been a lot more comment on it.”
Asked about the camera angles, which have left plenty to be desired since the construction work began at the Curragh last season, McGrath said it was a concern he shares.
“That’s something we have been talking to our TV partners with for a while, to see how we can find a better contrast to give depth [to the viewer],” he says.
“The new facility will clearly help as there will be camera positions in the grandstand that will help us find that side-on contrast.
“I think, in fact, the Curragh has always suffered because of that in that it has always been a head-on [camera angle].
“It’s something we’ve been discussing with RTE, who have really looked at how they are presenting the Curragh, and I think there have been a lot of changes there. I thought their presentation at the weekend was really good and really refreshing.”
The Curragh elected not to publish attendance figures for the two-day fixture, although McGrath said the total was in excess of 7,000.
“We were delighted we entertained well over 7,000 people over the two days. The feedback was very positive but also very informative. We were particularly pleased with the performance of the bookies and caterers, who reported very positive business, and customers who enjoyed the experience.”
The Curragh has a two-day meeting beginning on Friday, June 8, with the three-day Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby festival due to begin exactly three weeks later.
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com