Punchestown festival survives foul weather

MANAGEMENT at Punchestown racecourse expressed relief this week that Monsoon-like weather conditions failed to halt the five day festival, which ended on Saturday.

MANAGEMENT at Punchestown racecourse expressed relief this week that Monsoon-like weather conditions failed to halt the five day festival, which ended on Saturday.

Driving rain and wind gusts of up to 90 kph threatened not to only to make racing unsafe but to uproot temporary structures, including marquees hosting groups of visitors to the event.

The worst of the weather arrived on Wednesday when 40 millimetres of rain - almost two inches – fell on the racecourse amid fears that the most popular annual event in the county would have to be abandoned.

“We had our concerns but the Clerk of the Course decided that racing conditions were adequate. The second problem we had was about possible wind damage to temporary buildings, fences on the course and railings but these were fine too,” racing manager Richie Galway told the Leader.

The number filing through the turnstiles fell as the bad weather broke (the attendance figure for Wednesday was 11,517 – down almost 6,000 on 2011). And there was a corresponding drop in the amount of money gambled on the tote - down from over €1m in ‘11 to less than €420,000. Betting was also adversely affected as some races were called off.

The Thursday attendance was down by 2,240 to 13,300 and the amount of money gambled that day also went through the floor.

Tote turnover on the five races was €290,000 as compared with 985,400 in ‘11 and wagers with bookmakers fell from €1,544, 400 to€656,200.

Nevertheless efforts by the racecourse to attract more visitors proved successful.

On Friday some 27,300 people turned up - an increase of more than 2,000. Saturday’s attendance was also up year on year to 25,200 from 23,300. Overall the attendance was some 91,000 or just 4,000 less than the 2011 figure. A number of races – nine in all – were called off and these will be rescheduled as part of a two day meeting to go ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday May 8 and 9.

Mr. Galway said the race cancellations and will have “financial implications” for the racecourse.

“There will be a loss but thanks to the goodwill of so many people who knew what we were faced with, we got through most of the meeting and without injuries to jockeys or horses, apart from one who had a broken nose but still rode,” Mr. Galway said.

He stressed too that the decisions to proceed with racing and to allow the public in when the elements threatened temporary structures were were made independently of each other.