I usually keep my articles non-political and focus on the racing, but given that it’s a quiet weekend in terms of rides — and I will get to them — it’s an opportunity to add my voice to that of the majority of the racing community regarding the threat posed to our industry by the blight of wind farms and the proposed pylon lines to carry the power that they produce.
I was shocked to learn that the government has given the green light to an additional 200 new wind farms all over the country and that EirGrid are proposing to build another 1,000 km of high voltage overhead power lines on massive pylons to carry the power that they produce.
Remember, this in a country that is only 466km long at its longest point, from Malin to Mizen.
I’m not so sure about how much power these turbines even produce as usually when I drive past one on my way to the races they are stationary.
They actually require a full back-up system of traditional gas-fired power for whenever there is no wind blowing. I’m no expert but I thought the point of wind power was to minimise carbon emissions rather than producing more!
I would hate to have to ride out a horse near to a wind turbine. Anyone who rides out has been dropped by horses spooking from some imaginary fiend in a ditch or even from some puddle on the ground that in their minds holds some monstrous beast.
Horses don’t like wind at the best of times and adding a flickering, noisy object, hundreds of feet high is not going to go down well with them.
It will be the same on a sunny day with the shadows they will create. They really do frighten horses, even if they’re just standing in a field on their own with no-one on their backs. You can’t explain to a horse it’s only a shadow.
I had no idea how big these wind turbines were until I drove past one on my way to the races and stopped to have a look. Some are now 170m high and getting larger every year. That’s almost 25 times higher than the average house, six times higher than the Rock of Cashel and even 50m higher than the Dublin Spire.
From what I’ve read and heard, we don’t even need to build these wind farms as we can already produce enough electricity to do us for at least the next 10 years. So why are we going to blight the countryside with these eyesores?
To me it makes way more sense to convert our coal-burning station at Moneypoint to biomass using wood pellets. That way we don’t need any more turbines or pylons and we can meet our EU commitments to produce 40% of our electricity by renewable means.
It will also be a lot cheaper, which is a serious issue as Irish households are acknowledged as paying well over the odds for electricity.
There is massive concern nationwide about this issue, not just in racing. Near me in Kildare there are local groups like South Kildare Against Spin and the Gridlink Action Group campaigning against wind farms and pylons. I think it’s time we called a halt to the developers’ gallop and call on the government to stop the destruction of our beautiful countryside before it’s too late.
I have three rides at Leopardstown tomorrow, starting off with Voices Of Spring (1.35pm) for Tony Martin.
He finished eighth in a maiden hurdle at this track in January, an okay run first-time out. He probably has to improve and you’d be hoping he would. Tony thinks he has and he will hopefully give a good account of himself.
Heck Thomas is the one to beat.
Felix Yonger (2.05pm) has disappointed a bit but the form of his last run when he battled well to beat Mallowney to win the Hilly Way Chase in December looks solid now.
He had a bit of a setback after that but seems in really good form again. You’d prefer this to be a chase but the conditions suit him, he doesn’t have to carry a penalty and gets in with 11 stone on his back. As long as he jumps sharp enough over the hurdles, I think he has a great chance.
Colbert Station (3.50pm) is 11 now. The last time I rode him was in this race three years ago when he was third.
He is a Paddy Power Chase winner and ran well for a long way the last day in Fairyhouse. Maybe he didn’t quite get home in the testing ground but Dad is happy with him.
Mark Walsh was supposed to have the ride but broke his arm on Thursday. It’s a terrible blow for Mark. I know these things happen in racing but it is very tough on him as he’s been having a brilliant season and has led the race to be champion jockey all season.
He would have had plenty of nice rides at Cheltenham too but is out now for six weeks. Sometimes racing can be very cruel.
The one to follow over the weekend I think is one Danny Mullins rides for Tony Martin at Navan tomorrow called Five O’Clock Tea. He got brought down at the fourth last travelling really well at Down Royal a fortnight ago and with 9-10 he’ll take a bit of beating.
If you’re going to give out you have to praise as well so well done to Thurles and Clonmel for relocating their weighing scales to a position that makes it easier for riders not to forget to weigh in.
But I’m still calling on Naas to move theirs. You need to be nearly falling over the thing on the way in after racing because while people might find it hard to believe, if you haven’t ridden the winner it’s not to the forefront of your mind.
Between talking to connections and rushing for the next race, you can forget. That will never happen if it’s there in front of you.