Fears for future of iconic Irish race track after afternoon's developments 7 months ago

Fears for future of iconic Irish race track after afternoon's developments

Down Royal's future is uncertain.

Wednesday has been a day of swings and roundabouts for Down Royal Racecourse.

The iconic Down racecourse, situated in Maize, near Lisburn hit the headlines in the afternoon when the Down Royal racecourse management issued a statement to claim that 2018 would be its last, and that they were seeking a new site in the environs to continue its card.

However, shortly after the word broke that the Down Royal races would be a thing of the past, the owners of the track, Merrion Property Group, disputed that it was nearing its last race. Instead, they claimed that they were just taking over the management of and the day to day running of the track, something that was always their ambition.

"The withdrawal of the Down Royal Corporation of Horse Breeders from the Lands Tribunal process brings forward that outcome and we will continue our preparation to deliver horse racing from the beginning of 2019. We are looking forward to a new era at Down Royal and to enhancing the experience of race goers and other stakeholders while contributing to the local and wider community," read their statement to the Irish Field.

This was contrary to the statement issued minutes earlier, by the Down Royal corporation of Horse Breeders, who insinuated that racing would cease at the track, as they searched for a new site to continue their card, which would include 12 meetings in 2019.

The wonder and indeed the worry among racegoers and racing fans all over Ireland on the back of this afternoon's pair of bombshells, is that the care and knowledge with which the previous owners treated the track, would be lost.

That the expertise they brought and the experiences they fostered would be lost.

Let's not forget, Down Royal has been at its peak under current management.

It has played host to some huge staple races of the Irish national hunt calendar over the years and it has been growing and improving rapidly in recent years. In 2017, it was the Irish track of the year.

Its blue riband race, most recently has been the JNwine Nicholson chase, which is the first big chase of the Irish National Hunt year. Irish horses like the legendary Don Cossack used the Down Royal showpiece as one of his big prep runs before going onto win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2016.

English trainers would also send horses across the water for this big race, with Paul Nicholls saddling Silviniaco Conti to victory there three years ago, before he would go on to finish fourth in the Gold Cup in 2017.

Next month's renewal, however, will certainly be an eagerly anticipated one. News broke on Wednesday afternoon that Down Royal racecourse would be forced to close down at the end of 2018 as a result of a dispute over ownership.

Fans of the sport of kings in Ireland aren't best pleased about what the future may hold.