It normally takes time for change to filter through in sport. We live according to a pretty rigidly defined calendar of seasons of highlights and of points when the volume is turned up.
In the traditional sport of horse racing that is probably truer than in most, which makes the reward of success which Leopardstown has reaped for the brave move to create a brand new Dublin Racing Festival so much sweeter.
Bringing together three race days spread over five weeks into two over a single weekend was done on the basis of knowing the importance of creating atmosphere and buzz. There were comedy sets, musical concerts and food zones at Leopardstown over the weekend, there was a great buzz in the days leading up to it and there were people.
The stated target was to attract 24,000 through the turnstiles in this first year. The whispered ambition was to go one better at 25,000. The final figure, despite cold and rain, was a very satisfying 26,136.
That is a great platform to build on and with English trainers taking greater notice of the €1.5 million prizemoney on offer, this is going to grow.
Among the many stars in evidence over the two days were Darragh O’Sé from Kerry GAA, Kevin O’Brien from Irish Cricket, Tony McCoy and Paralympian Michael McKillop.
“It’s a new concept and is very exciting and we could not have been happier with the way year one has gone,” said Leopardstown chief executive Pat Keogh.
“So much thanks is due to the owners and trainers who supported the festival with the very best of their horses because the quality on the track was phenomenal.”
“The contribution of the sponsors is hugely significant because it is their support and generosity that has allowed us to build this festival and the prize fund.”
Those sponsors included William Fry, returning to racing sponsorship after a spell away and Chanelle Pharma who entertained over 40 key customers from across Europe. Unibet, Coral and BHP Insurance backed their big races in the new format and all seemed happy with the collective outcome.
“Most importantly,” concluded Keogh, “I would like to thank the thousands of people who turned up and enjoyed the Dublin Racing Festival this weekend. The support we have received from people in the locality, from all over Ireland, and from Britain, has been fantastic.”
Image Credit Donall Farmer, Inpho Photography