Open Letter to DARD’s Public Consultation

Realta racing club logoWe are writing on behalf of Realta Horse Racing Club and club membership to explain our abject disappointment at the news that our two local courses lie in jeopardy due to the backwards steps DARD may make in regards to the future funding of Down Royal and Downpatrick. Our club and its members are race goers who attend racecourses in the UK and Ireland and we feel it necessary to give a bottom up perspective on this matter. Realta is steadfast in its support for our local tracks to receive fair funding from off-course bookmakers. As a Club we are full in the knowledge of how vital it is to have prize money levels maintained as we are both racehorse owners and patrons of the tracks.

Ireland as a whole is the third largest producer of thoroughbreds in the world and brings tourism and investment into both the northern and southern economies. The racing that falls under the jurisdiction of Horse Racing Ireland under both codes of flat racing and National Hunt bring people to our shores who come specifically to enjoy the sport year on year. Our northern racecourses create employment, support rural businesses and economies and also bring the best trainers from the south and from across the water to enjoy some of the highest levels of racing including the JN Wine Grade 1 race and the Ulster National. Both these races amongst others are highlights of the racing calendar on the European stage. From our perspective it is inconceivable to allow the sport locally to diminish by weakening horse racing at its strongest points.

The equation for us is a simple one. Better prize money means better races attracting better quality horses leading to more tourism and investment in the local economy. Realta understand that online betting markets have changed the way the gambling industry operates and that bookmakers shops have seen a change in turnovers and betting. That however is a matter for those who make their business in that sector to change with the times and the growth of the internet. Realta Horse Racing Club urge that funding levels from off-course bookmakers are at the very least maintained at the £2k level. It is only fair that those taking out of the racing industry should be required to moderately put in and create a virtuous circle keeping our region of the world firmly on the equine and sports map.

The reduction of fees to off-course bookmakers would be a regressive step in our view as it would detrimentally impact what both tracks can offer to trainers and owners, locally and at the pinnacle of the sport who may send horses elsewhere in pursuit of better prize monies. This in turn would decrease attendance and interest at a local level. It would be our view that businesses that make their profits from the racing industry are biting the hand that feeds them. As a club, owners and race goers we ask that our voices are listened to and the previous level is continued to ensure a fair return for all involved.

Sean (Club Manager)

Thomas (Club Secretary)

Realta Horse Racing Club