Being manager of Sligo Racecourse means a lot to me, as someone from Ballymote who worked in a variety of business and commercial roles around the world, including America and the Middle East, before coming back home, which is something I always wanted to do.
As we prepare for Sunday’s meeting, which traditionally would be a very popular one, particularly with a huge influx of tourists from Northern Ireland. Unfortunately this year, I cannot accommodate them but we have not been alone in being impacted in that way by Covid. The local hotels, bars and restaurants are all missing out on the few days people would spend in the region. So are the other tourist amenities. We
will all miss them a lot.
Geographically, the races at Sligo have a huge role as all the racing is during the summer season. And we have huge local support as well. In fact most of our sponsors are from the local hospitality sector. We would love to have them with us too but we all recognise that the pandemic isn’t over yet and we have to be careful. We look forward to the day when we can welcome everyone back.
We have done some work on the track, particularly on the bend, which had created some issues and the feedback has been positive on that.
A big highlight for us this year was the arrival of the TG4 cameras to provide live coverage. That was a great morale booster. It would have been terrific to have the public but it was a beautiful day, the sun was shining and the place looked terrific. It is a very picturesque track.
I had phone calls from people from South of Ireland who were watching it. They were absolutely amazed and thought Sligo looked fantastic. We are such a small racecourse, everything was visible. We hope they come back again.
We would have probably four big days in Sligo, starting on the May Bank Holiday weekend, when there is a real appetite for racing after the winter. Then we have our National Hunt fixture on Sunday. And after that there is the Ladies’ Day and the Students’ Day, both of which traditionally draw close to full houses.
This is my seventh season in Sligo. I wish I had come ten years earlier. It is without doubt my favourite job. There are always different challenges and a great variety. I look after more or less everything, apart from we have a track manager but I would be interested in the track as well. It is very interesting work. Then of course, dealing with the public is terrific as well.
We are waiting for that to happen again and I thank them for being so good and patient. I would just like to thank all of my own staff for being so patient, as well, especially staff that I haven’t seen all year. And I hope when the opportunity arises that they will all come back to me. Obviously, our track staff are busy, they are out there all the time, and they do a fabulous job. I have got a very good groundsman who does wonderful work around the racecourse and revamped the parade ring during lockdown.
Then I also have to thank our sponsors who are beginning to trickle back to the racecourse. We have had a number of races sponsored this year. We really appreciate their confidence in us. We realised that many of them have not been fortunate during the winter months to have their business’ up and running. Yet they are willing to come back to us and support horse racing. That is terrific. Hopefully we will get back soon to the way we want to be and welcome all of the people through the gates.
And last, but very definitely not least, I must say thanks to the board. I have a very supportive board and the directors are always at the ready to help out.