Naas grateful for support as end to Irish racing's 11-week hiatus is in sight
Naas racecourse chairman Dermot Cantillon has applauded the manner in which industry sponsors are stepping up to fill the commercial drop-off ahead of Irish racing's resumption at the Kildare venue on Monday.
After an 11-week suspension, the sport will return with enhanced Covid-19 protocols that include prior health screening and the taking of temperatures on arrival at a track. Monday’s card, which will likely see one contest divided to form an eight-race spread, has attracted 236 entries at the five-day stage.
The Anglesey Lodge Equine Woodlands Stakes, a 5½f Listed race, could mark the turf debut of the Denis Hogan-trained Sceptical, a £2,800 Godolphin castoff who has clocked up a Dundalk hat-trick with consummate ease since being beaten there on his track debut last October.
Hogan has the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot in mind for the exciting four-year-old, who will face a maximum of 13 rivals should he turn up on Monday.
The card could also see a first start for two-year-old War Front colt Battleground, the first produce of the 2016 Arc heroine Found. He could make his debut for Aidan O'Brien in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden over 6f.
In all, three of the seven races on the card boast an independent backer affiliated to the racing and breeding industries (Compas Stallions and Clinton Higgins Accountants being the other two), while the other four contests are sponsored by Irish Stallion Farms, which recently announced it was increasing its annual sponsorship budget by €300,000 to €2.5 million for 2020.
Bookmaker Paddy Power also revealed on Wednesday that they will sponsor five prestigious handicaps in 2020 at the Curragh – the Lincoln, Rockingham, Scurry, Cambridgeshire and the Cesarewitch – along with the Group 2 Minstrel Stakes.
Cantillon admitted the more commercial relationships would be hard to sustain, but he was upbeat about the situation given the behind-closed-doors reality.
"We're delighted with the support we are getting from our sponsors," he said on Wednesday. "They are all businesses involved in the industry in one form or another, and it's great to see them committing to Naas racecourse and to racing in these difficult times.
"Commercial sponsors come into racing to give a profile to something – they are doing it specifically for that. It might be a challenge to hold on to them, but I think a lot of the industry sponsors are seeing the need to commit now that we really need them."
Mindful of the fact that owners will not be able to attend a race meeting under the current rules, Cantillon revealed that the team at Naas is hoping to launch a digital storybook that will provide an interactive memory of the occasion for winning connections.
Naas also had the distinction of hosting the season's only turf meeting in Ireland on March 23.
Of the prospect of now facilitating its return, Cantillon insisted management at the track are conscious of the responsibility to ensure operations run smoothly.
"There is a great sense of anticipation amongst the whole team here," he said. "Everyone has put in a huge effort to get everything right. We have to fulfil the protocols and at the same time have top-class racing on ground that is in the best order we can possibly have it.
"The protocols must be adhered to – it's not something you give lip service to. We're on show, we are the first meeting that will implement the enhanced measures in Ireland and we want to do it right."
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