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More than 4,000 at Downpatrick in midweek. So what are they doing differently?

Downpatrick: welcomed over 4,000 racegoers on Wednesday for their family fun day
Downpatrick: welcomed over 4,000 racegoers on Wednesday for their family fun dayCredit: Alain Barr (

Downpatrick is bucking the trend of falling attendances and the track's manager Richard Lyttle believes its secret is "exceeding expectations".

There was a carnival atmosphere at the track on Wednesday for family fun day, an initiative brought in by Lyttle immediately after his arrival in 2010, and given there was no race worth more than €11,500 in prize-money, it was quite an achievement to welcome more than 4,000 racegoers.

It was a family fun day with a difference, as Lyttle explained.

"We actually had 26 different activities for the kids," he said. "The weather was good and we had a massive crowd, over 4,000 people.

"It was wall to wall with children and each one of them had smiles on their faces. What more could you ask for? It was a fabulous occasion and one that we are all very proud of here.

"We've tried to perfect our family fun day over the years. I put on a family fun day for my first ever meeting at Downpatrick back in 2010, and I'd like to think it has got bigger and better ever since. We have been trying to improve it year on year.

'It has a ripple effect'

"We involve a lot of local companies who might not be big enough to sponsor a race but are keen to get involved. We give them tickets in return so our attendance will soar.

"It has a ripple effect and the more people who come racing, the better the atmosphere, obviously. Then it's a case of making that new audience want to come back.

"I would like to think the secret to them wanting to come again is exceeding expectations. That's what we pride ourselves on here at Downpatrick."

Lyttle does not believe his job is done once the kids are in the door, however, and emphasises how important it is to get them interested in the sport.

He said: "We try to educate all the kids when they are here. We had a pony pointing to all the different points on a horse and we were measuring all the kids in hands as well. They loved that. We had horse shoes and all sorts of different horseracing paraphernalia on display.

"We also had a hurdle and a fence on display so they could get up close and see what they look like. It's important to try and educate them as best you can and get them interested.

"It was a pleasure to witness everything that went on here on Wednesday."

The next fixture at Downpatrick is on Sunday, August 7, with the first of seven races at 2.30pm.

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David JenningsDeputy Ireland editor
Published on 15 July 2022Last updated 11:55, 15 July 2022