Dog track revamp ‘not linked to animal welfare’

IGB denies works to widen bend on track to do with collision fears

Part of the state-of-the-art new racing track in Limerick is being dug out by the Irish Greyhound Board (IGB), but it has denied this has anything to do with persistent animal welfare concerns about the facility.

Contractors arrived at the €23m Greenpark site this month to begin at least six weeks of work realigning and widening the first bend, which opened for racing in late 2010.

Last year concern was raised about the width of the first bend and the impact it was having on wide runners vying for position. At a high-profile race night last November, the St Leger semi-final, four of the 12 races saw clashes when dogs came together at the first bend.

On the semi-final night of the track’s most prominent event last March, three accidents happened at the same point. One ended the career of a leading prospect, Ashford Castle. Because of the collisions a number of dogs have never raced again, or faced long injury lay-offs.

Last October the IGB said it was aware of the issues and it was working with various bodies to improve the racing infrastructure at Limerick.

In a statement this week, the IGB confirmed it has decided to widen the first bend by the third week of March. But it said the work had not been sanctioned because of safety fears.

It said collisions and injuries were a feature of the sport, and its statistics said the injury rate at Limerick was broadly similar to other tracks. It said the decision to push the first bend onto part of its car park and import new filling material was motivated by a desire to experiment with a different design.

“The works being undertaken will facilitate middle and wide seeds to run wide, thereby improving the spectacle and fairness of middle-distance racing, and may reduce the risk of collision. What is occurring at Limerick in the coming weeks constitutes a radical redesign concept that has the potential to redefine the way tracks are configured nationally and internationally.”

The IGB did not release the price it will pay for the work. But it said all contractors had been properly procured. It expects to be able to complete the work during days when there is no racing so it is only expected to lose two nights’ of business.

The IGB said despite independent measurements, which estimated that the track at a metre narrower rounding the first bend, the circuit was a consistent and correct width throughout.

Originally the track had to be moved, during the design stage, to accommodate a large city council drainage way-leave which runs along side it.

In its recent statement the IGB said the wayleave did not affect the track design.

The drainage route was one of the a number of problems encountered during the attempt to build on the Greenpark flood basin. These included a requirement to raise the land levels significantly which was linked to a multi-million euro gentleman’s agreement that is currently under investigation by the Comptroller and Auditor General.


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