Derek McGrath is to step down as CEO of the Curragh Racecourse at the end of the 2019 season.
The news was revealed over the Weekend in The Irish Field newspaper. It comes just two weeks after the staging of this year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby and six weeks after the official opening of the new Curragh racecourse billed as among the most impressive in the world.
McGrath came into the role three years ago and has overseen the biggest capital project undertaken in the sport.
Racing continued throughout the building work making use of temporary facilities, which enabled the continued revenue from TV deals to underpin what was a major investment from key stakeholders and racing supporters.
There have been eight meetings held at the track since the new facilities were unveiled but McGrath will now step down after the 13 remaining fixtures to be staged there this season.
They will include the Kerrygold sponsored Oaks next weekend and the second day of the Champions’ Weekend in September.
Speaking to The Irish Field McGrath said “Having overseen an ambitious redevelopment project that has established a wonderful new racecourse for the benefit of future generations, I have decided that at the end of this season I will leave the task of building the future of the Curragh to others.”
“I joined the Curragh in April 2016 and together we have delivered a complete transformation of the facility and the business. I will leave knowing we have reinvigorated the Curragh and will leave it in a better place, in readiness to build a great future.”
“I would like to thank the chairman Padraig McManus, the board and shareholders of the Curragh racecourse for their support during the creation of this magnificent facility. I am sure the Curragh racecourse will go on to have the success it deserves, and it has been a privilege to play a small part in its history.”
McGrath is a former Irish Rugby international who had served as CEO of the European Rugby Cup between 2000 and 2014.
Coming in from outside racing enabled him to cast an independent perspective over the different interests that needed to be balanced during the project.
There were inevitable issues that arose during the build and in the first fixtures to be staged and concerns over aspects of the racegoers’ experience had arisen in the past few weeks after the Derby festival.
Whether that was a factor in McGrath’s decision or whether he simply felt that it needed a new pair of hands to take the project through to the next phase is unknown but he leaves behind a fine redevelopment that will stand the test of time.