Irish pony racing saved from extinction and set to resume next month
The Irish pony racing circuit has finally secured an insurance quote to help save one of the industry's most important grassroots sectors.
Organisers had been in limbo since their insurance extension ended on June 4, but the circuit looks set to resume as normal with the marquee Dingle Derby fixture pencilled in as the first official meeting since racing was discontinued.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) provided the sector with a grant of €12,500 last year and have agreed to meet with pony racing officials to discuss a fresh contribution, with the insurance figure expected to be approximately €60,000, while organisers hope the rest of the funds can be obtained through sponsorship and fundraising.
Antoinette Gallagher of the Midlands Pony and Racing Club said: "We’re absolutely thrilled. We understand people’s frustration and we’re extremely frustrated ourselves, but it’s not as simple as we thought so we just have to make sure everything is right.
Irish pony racing hopeful of securing pivotal insurance quote to resume racing
"I know it’s taking longer than usual, but we have it now for 12 months, so there’s nothing to say we can’t start earlier next year."
As they still wait for official documentation, this weekend’s fixture in Carlow has been cancelled, while the iconic Glenbeigh beach meeting, first staged on the Rossbeigh Strand in Kerry in 1924, has also been cancelled due to the ongoing insurance uncertainty.
Fixtures at Thomastown, Letterkenny and Castleisland were others to have been called off this year, but Gallagher is hopeful they can find a date later in the year to stage them.
"Bar the weather, there’s nothing to stop us carrying on until early November. We’re delighted and hope most meetings will get back on track, while we also hope meetings that have been cancelled can be rescheduled," Gallagher added.
The stars of the pony racing circuit competed at the Curragh last October for the concluding race of the day and plans are in place for a similar event to take place at the track on August 20, with a future date at Listowel also booked in.
With many new jockeys joining the circuit this year, Gallagher is glad they can continue to race and this new talent will not be lost to other sports.
She said: "There are kids from the ages of six to 16 who only want to be jockeys, and they put all their effort into it. Early mornings before school, afternoons after school, weekends and so on.
"If they didn’t have this, they would have to wait until they were 16 to go to the RACE academy. They’re missing out on a huge amount of skill and tactical awareness they can pick up from pony racing."
The fixture at Dingle, branded as the Cheltenham of pony racing, is scheduled to get under way on August 5 and officials cannot wait.
"Dingle is still going ahead and everything else after that. It’s taken a long time to get here so we need to just get passed that finish line now. We can’t wait to get back at it," Gallagher said.
Read this next:
The seven wonders of Galway - including the 25-1 shot who'll be all the rage
Irish pony racing praying for progress with future hanging in the balance
Sign up to receive On The Nose, our essential daily newsletter, from the Racing Post. Your unmissable morning feed, direct to your email inbox every morning.