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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Carry on Flat racing: Ballinrobe manager hails track after reprieve

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Ballinrobe manager John Flannelly feels the track has been completely exonerated after a decision was made at the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board headquarters on Monday morning for Flat racing to continue at the County Mayo venue.

The future of Flat racing at the course was brought into serious doubt after last Monday's meeting was abandoned midway through the card due to jockeys' concern over the safety of the ground, just a month after two horses had come down on the home bend in a 1m2f handicap there.

However, Flannelly has never once doubted the suitability of his track for racing on the level and revealed he and clerk of the course Lorcan Wyer could have done nothing more to prevent the abandonment.

He said: “We never doubted our track for one second and presented a beautiful, well-laid racecourse – just as we always do – on Monday.

“We’ve been completely exonerated and there’s nothing wrong with our track. What happened on Monday night was a really bad experience for my staff especially and it’s not one we’d like repeated. There was nothing more we could have done on the night.”

He added: “We’re very proud of what we do here and it’s very disappointing that something like this could happen.”

The fixture is not the only Irish Flat meeting to be called off this summer as Royal Ascot trials day at Naas on May 20 came to a premature end after a collection of senior jockeys complained about a slippery bend.

'Track serves a purpose'

It is understood some riders also voiced concerns over the slipperiness of the bend passing the stands at Sligo’s Flat fixture on August 8, but the stewards deemed the meeting safe to continue.

Speaking on behalf of the weigh room, Andrew Coonan, secretary of the Irish Jockeys Association, said not one jockey was unhappy to continue riding at Ballinrobe following Monday’s decision.

He said: “I have spoken to the riders who were at Ballinrobe last Monday, as well as a wider cross-section of jockeys, and not one has said to me there shouldn’t be Flat racing at Ballinrobe. 

“There was also a minor problem with the Flat meeting at Sligo the week before but it got resolved on the day. There’s nobody saying there shouldn’t be Flat racing in Sligo now.”

He added: “Ballinrobe is a tight and fast Flat track and absolutely suits some horses and styles of racing – that’s why it serves such a purpose.

“They have a very good clerk of the course in Lorcan Wyer and nobody can dispute they do a super job down there. I see no reason in the world why Flat racing wouldn’t continue and it’s my opinion that last week was a one-off.”

Following on from Monday’s meeting, IHRB chief Denis Egan indicated there will be a review into the procedures in which raceday stewards will apply when calling off a meeting.

He said: “We will be meeting with all relevant parties to discuss if anything can be done in these situations rather than cancelling the meeting. We will be trying to find alternatives to cancelling meetings.”

Trainers pledge support

Meanwhile, Flat trainers including Curragh-based Tracey Collins have pledged to continue supporting Ballinrobe.

She said: “We can’t afford to lose Ballinrobe as a Flat track and thankfully that has been resolved.

“Going forward, the IHRB is going to put in new measures to deal with abandonments, but the safety of jockeys has to be at the forefront of people’s minds. A jockey’s safety is paramount.”

Collins added: “A huge amount of money has been put into Ballinrobe and they have brought it to a level where owners, jockeys and trainers look forward to going there.

“It’s a unique atmosphere and it’s one of the most progressive tracks in the country. It’s one of the highlights of the summer campaign.”

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Not one rider has said to me that there shouldn’t be Flat racing at Ballinrobe
E.W. Terms
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