hRi ‘com­mit­ted’ to de­liv­er­ing new Cur­ragh race­course

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Sports - BRIAN O’CON­NOR Rac­ing cor­re­spon­dent

Horse Rac­ing Ire­land’s (HRI) chief ex­ec­u­tive has said rac­ing’s rul­ing body is com­mit­ted to de­liv­er­ing a new Cur­ragh race­course, and will “com­mit to what needs to be done” to achieve that.

The com­ple­tion date for the big­gest race­course re­de­vel­op­ment in Ir­ish rac­ing his­tory has been pushed back to Fe­bru­ary, amid sug­ges­tions the project’s fi­nal cost could even­tu­ally ap­proach ¤80 mil­lion.

When the re­de­vel­op­ment was launched in 2015, in­vest­ment of ¤65 mil­lion was out­lined, with shares in new Cur­ragh Race­course Ltd di­vided three ways be­tween the then Turf Club, the State through HRI, and pri­vate in­vestors in­clud­ing John Mag­nier’s Cool­more Stud and JP McManus.

Last year the es­ti­mated cost jumped to ¤72 mil­lion, with fore­casts of ¤40 mil­lion be­ing raised pri­vately on top of HRI’s ¤30 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion, and hopes more pri­vate in­vest­ment could be gen­er­ated. Some re­ports now sug­gest the cost of the project could rise to al­most ¤80 mil­lion due to is­sues in­clud­ing the pos­si­ble in­crease in size of the pa­rade ring. How­ever, that was dis­missed as spec­u­la­tion by HRI boss Brian Ka­vanagh yes­ter­day.

Ka­vanagh de­clined to com­ment on whether the semi-State body may have to con­trib­ute fur­ther to the Cur­ragh re­de­vel­op­ment or if more pri­vate in­vest­ment would be needed. It is un­clear if such in­vest­ments could have eq­uity im­pli­ca­tions for Cur­ragh Race­course Ltd.

How­ever, Ka­vanagh did stress that vot­ing shares on the Cur­ragh’s board re­main at one third each be­tween HRI, the Ir­ish Horserac­ing Reg­u­la­tory Board (IHRB) and pri­vate in­vestors. “The share­hold­ers’ agree­ment has al­ways been that vot­ing shares re­main at one third each. It was a strong point, from the rac­ing au­thor­i­ties’ point of view, to re­tain two thirds of the votes.” Fi­nal cost Ka­vanagh in­sisted the fi­nal cost of re­de­vel­op­ing the Cur­ragh would not be known un­til the project was com­pleted. Orig­i­nal hopes for the new fa­cil­ity to be ready to open in time for rac­ing this year were shelved. Plans to fin­ish by the end of the year have had to be pushed back as well.

“The costs won’t be fi­nalised un­til the job is fi­nalised, and there’s move­ment in both di­rec­tions with the con­trac­tor as the project evolves. We won’t know un­til it is fin­ished, and then it will be a mat­ter for the Cur­ragh board to ad­dress. It would be wrong to spec­u­late,” he said.

“HRI has com­mit­ted to, to­gether with the Turf Club and other in­vestors, to de­liv­er­ing a fa­cil­ity we can all be proud of. I’m ab­so­lutely sat­is­fied the Cur­ragh project, when fin­ished, will bear favourable com­par­i­son with any ma­jor Euro­pean race­course.”

Rac­ing at the Cur­ragh is due to re­sume on April 13th of next year, the first of 19 fix­tures at Ir­ish rac­ing’s HQ in 2019. There is set to be a new fo­cus on Fri­day rac­ing at the Cur­ragh, in­clud­ing the Group One Tat­ter­salls Gold Cup run on that day as part of a re­jigged Guineas fes­ti­val in May.

In other news, Ka­vanagh said plans by the Min­is­ter for Fi­nance Pas­cal Dono­hoe to re­view his bud­get de­ci­sion in re­la­tion to rais­ing the rate of bet­ting tax from 1 per cent to 2 per cent will have no im­pact on rac­ing, in­clud­ing on HRI’s forth­com­ing five-year plan.

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