MINISTER Willie Penrose gave an assurance at the weekend that the Government will continue to support Irish horseracing.
The Westmeath TD, who has a seat at the cabinet table in his capacity as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, was speaking on Saturday at the annual lunch for sponsors at Kilbeggan Races.
Minister Penrose said he had been involved in racehorses himself and he pledged his backing to racing in general and the Kilbeggan course in particular.
“I will be a friend and there are ways in which we have to ensure the income for racing people is maintained,” said Minister Penrose.
“There are a number of people in cabinet who are very sympathetic to racing. It gives jobs and the good thing about it is they are not all in a single factory.”
He said the equestrian industry had 17,300 full time employees and had a gross value last year of €900 million.
Race days continued to be a feature of Kilbeggan and the decision of the Irish Farmers’ Association to host one of them underlined once again the importance of the racing industry.
Mr Dunican mentioned a number of Kilbeggan’s key sponsors, including Michael O’Leary, and he also thanked Cyril and Monica Hackett and family for their sponsorship of the feature race on Saturday evening, the €18,500 Hackett’s Bookmakers Handicap Steeplechase. It was won by the 16/1 outsider Wins Now, owned by JP McManus and trained by Niall Madden.
The trainer spoke afterwards about the horse and mentioned the significance of the prize money (€12,765) for the winner put up by sponsors Hacketts.
“We decided to pop out and see if he would enjoy himself and he jumped brilliantly today,” said Mr Madden.
“He has been disappointing for a good while even though he has been in great form and working well. He just hasn’t been doing it at the track. This was a lovely pot to win.”
The most dramatic race of the evening was the Kieran Kelly Memorial Beginners Steeplechase which was held in memory of the jockey of the same name who sadly lost his life in Kilbeggan in 2003.
Kieran Kelly was a jockey for Dessie Hughes and appropriately the Memorial Chase was won by the same trainer when Action Master (3/1) got the verdict by a short head in front of 15/8 favourite Traffic Article.
“It’s sad but I’m delighted to win Kieran’s race,” commented Dessie Hughes. “This is a race Kieran lost his life in and the first time I’ve won it.”
Action Master was ridden by Bryan Cooper who ended the day with a treble, having also steered Rockofinspiration (2/1) to victory in the opener, the Betpack Maiden Hurdle, and Eyre Apparent, 6/4 favourite in the Follow Kilbeggan On Facebook Maiden Hurdle.
Saturday evening also featured the Littlewoods Ireland Best Dressed Lady Competition which had a prize fund of €3,000.
The winner of first prize, a Littlewoods shopping voucher worth €2,000, was Tullamore resident Laura Mulligan, a woman with family in Rahugh and connections in Rochfortbridge. Her trouser suit caught the eye of the judges and she made her own hat the previous night.
The next race meeting at Kilbeggan takes place on Friday, August 19 (first race 5.05pm) and the final meeting of the year is scheduled for Friday, September 2 (first race 4.35pm).