Ray Ryan looks ahead to Tramore Racing Festival bringing 20,000 race fans to the sunny South-East and generate €3m for the local economy.
One of the country’s longest-established racecourses is set to renew historic links with farmers and the food they produce.
The four-day Tramore Racing Festival — beginning on August 11 — can trace its hoof prints back some 230 years to the days when the Long Strand from which the seaside holiday town takes its name was used as a track. Racegoers had the added bonus of weekly races being held on the beach for horses owned and often ridden by farmers.
However, the ongoing ravages of the sea were exacerbated by particularly bad storms during 1911, and this caused severe damage to the beach facilities.
Racing moved the following year to a purpose-build course at Graun Hill, where it continues to host 11 meetings annually including the August Festival, which combines racing, fashion, hospitality and holidays.
But the links with the farming community and the highly regarded artisan food producers of Waterford have not been lost over the years at the venue which features a right handed one mile racing circuit.
Racecoure manager Sue Phelan said visitors can choose from a variety of food outlets around the venue on race days.
“The Inside Catering team takes great pride in sourcing as many ingredients as possible from local suppliers,” said Ms Phelan. “We are fortunate to have fantastic food companies and innovative artisan producers on our doorstep, including Dawn Meats, SeaTrade Fish, Brendan Walsh Fruit and Veg, Ardkeen Stores, Pat Curran Frozen Foods, Snowcream, Ponticello Coffee, and Deise Craft Bakery to name a few.
“This year, we’re also showcasing what is best about Tramore and the surrounding hinterland at the festival on the final day, our family fun afternoon.
“We’ve commissioned a marquee which will house our artisan producers under the banner of ‘A Taste of Tramore’.
“Racegoers will enjoy demonstrations with Jeni Pim from Jen’s Kitchen and can dip in and out of Helen Byrne’s Help2Health nutrition talks,” she said.
There will also be an opportunity to meet with local producers and sample their produce while The House of Waterford Crystal will have a Master craftsman on site, cutting crystal and showcasing his art.
The festival attracts over 20,000 racegoers and generates an estimated €3m plus for the economy.
As many as 100 local people work on site during the four days.
However, the racecourse company has more to celebrate this year than 104 years of racing on the present course, situated above the town with a fine panoramic view of Tramore Strand.
The Board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) recently approved a capital development grant aid of over €400,000 to carry out major improvements to its facilities which will cost in excess of €1m.
The grant aid, through the HRI Racecourse Capital Development scheme, will go towards projects to be carried out between now and 2020 and which will provide significant improvements to racegoer and industry facilities.
All 26 Irish racecourses were eligible to apply for funding under the scheme, with HRI providing 40% of the cost of approved projects .
It is estimated that the entire Racecourse Capital Development Fund will support in the region of 1,300 direct and indirect jobs during its completion.
From a racegoer perspective, the main area of investment in Tramore will be a spacious entrance building, which will be the sole access point to the racecourse.
It will provide a canopy to the front to give visitors protection from the elements while queuing to enter and will also house the racecourse administration offices. The entrance building will be wifi-enabled to facilitate an e-ticketing system which will ultimately lead to a more efficient entry process.
Racegoers will also benefit from an extension to the parade ring, which will include a ringside seating terrace which will be recessed to create an amphitheatre-like atmosphere. The middle grandstand will be upgraded and the existing steps will be replaced.
The weigh-room, jockeys’ facilities, press room, and owners and trainers facilities will be upgraded and extended, providing much improved working conditions. The re-design will also greatly enhance the appearance of the racecourse when viewed from the approach road.
Tramore’s stable yard will undergo a major upgrade, with the existing 20 wooden stable boxes to be replaced with 30 new purpose-built ones, increasing the total capacity to 78 on completion. New toilet and canteen facilities will also be provided for stable staff.
Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh said visitors will really see the benefits of the significant improvements planned.
It was happy to provide grant aid to facilitate these worthwhile projects.
“Tramore is a very popular, well-run racetrack and it is great to see them committed to improving facilities for racegoers, jockeys, trainers, owners and stable staff,” he said.
Ms Phelan, who is facing into her 16th August racng festival, said the redevelopment works will make a huge difference to customers and to those in the racing industry.
“The extended parade ring will be the focal point of the racecourse, framed by extra terraced seating and the enhanced weigh room building,” she said.
“The attractive new entrance building and the new structure housing the jockeys’ area will create a really impressive approach to the racecourse.”
Waterford and Tramore Racecourse, as it is officially known, made world racing history on January 1, 2000.
It hosted the first horse race of the new millenium before an estimated attendance of nearly 11,000 people. There was no racing in Europe that day.
Hong Kong — where the Jockey Club oversees 700 horse races per year — had to wait another day for a meeting.
Tramore did it again on January 1, 2002, by becoming the first racecourse to hold a meeting with the euro as the medium of exchange.
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