RACING returns to Cork in July, much to the delight of racecourse manager, Andrew Hogan, and his team at Mallow.
The local venue became a Covid-19 testing centre after racing was forced to a close here, back in March. Irish racing resumed earlier this week, behind closed doors, and Mallow is set to stage its first fixture since lockdown, on Sunday 5 July.
Further fixtures are scheduled for Sunday 12 July and Friday 24 July, while there are four local meetings in August. Hogan is looking forward to the action on the track resuming and is monitoring events elsewhere, in anticipation of Mallow’s return.
‘‘It’s going to be challenging. It’s challenging for everybody at the moment, especially in the hospitality sector. But we are delighted (to be getting back). The protocol went very well at Naas on Monday, and again at Leopardstown Tuesday.
"Every racecourse manager is given an opportunity to go to one other racecourse, just to view the procedure, to give everyone a trial run, and I’m going to go this week. Everything seems to be working well and everyone in the industry seems to be buying into it. I think everyone is just delighted to be back racing.
‘‘(Mallow racecourse) is still a testing centre at the moment. They’ve only been using a small area of it, so that’s enabling us to go back racing. It’s brilliant to be back, and to be watching racing on TV,’’ Hogan said.
Due to strict Covid-19 measures, only key industry personnel are allowed on-site on race day, with those attending undergoing a health screening in advance and a temperature reading upon entering the track. Racing will be without racecourse punters for some time, something which is set to add increased pressure to courses across Ireland.
Along with the financial implications of having no punters through the turnstiles, Hogan believes that racing without the public just isn’t the same.
‘‘Obviously, without punters, there’s going to be a huge drop in revenue, atmosphere, everything. We will have our media rights income. At the moment, we don’t know how much that will be – there are a lot of factors which will have implications on that. For June, it’s probably at 50% of what it would normally be. I expect it to get closer back to normal in July. We are delighted to have some income back.
"But obviously, without the public, our members and regular racegoers; the same atmosphere isn’t there. Hopefully, when it is safe to do so, (we can) welcome the public back."
Hogan’s father, Tom, is a Group One-winning trainer based in Tipperary. Earlier this week, the handler’s globetrotting stable star, Gordon Lord Byron, sadly died after a routine piece of work. The 12-year-old veteran had actually been entered to run at the Curragh, this weekend, and had reportedly been working well in recent days.
The son of Byron took his trainer and owner (Morgan Cahalan) all over the world, winning 16 races, three at the highest level. He was purchased for the mere sum of €2,000, and though he suffered a fractured pelvis on debut at Roscommon, he ran another 107 times, and accumulated over €2million in prizemoney. His is a story that reads like a fairy-tale.
Reflecting upon the life of the horse more fondly known as ‘Gordon’, Andrew Hogan said: "It’s sad to lose him. He was a once in a lifetime horse. It’s a pity, but it was great to have him while we did. I went to York with him in the beginning of his career and I went on the first trip to Hong Kong with him. I visited Qatar and Dubai with him.
"We have had great memories and great trips with him. He was a brilliant horse."
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the wonderful film by Nicholas Ryan Purcell, called ‘Against The Odds - Racing With Gordon Lord Byron’.
A fascinating documentary about one of racing’s greatest rags-to-riches tales, it has been made available to view for free online for one week only. Visit the official Facebook page of 'Against The Odds - Racing With Gordon Lord Byron' for further details.