TURF CLUB RETURNS TO RACING HEADQUARTERS

by ehistoryadmin on August 15, 2014

LEINSTER LEADER 1 JANUARY 1977 

Turf Club returns to racing’s headquarters

WHILE THERE may be some slight difference of opinion regarding some details of the change-over, there can be no doubt that the transfer of Irish turf headquarters from Dublin to the Curragh has met with the general approval of all those closely concerned with racing.

The new premises at the Curragh were officially opened by An Taoiseach, Mr. Liam Cosgrave, recently; on all sides there was praise for the new offices which now contain extensive modern accommodation in a range of rooms equipped and appointed to meet the complex needs of the staff of Irish Turf Headquarters.

  While there will be some concern regarding the advisability of utilising car park space as the site of the new building, there would be probably have been quite considerable difficulties in building the new office complex elsewhere on the Curragh.

  The Turf Club managed some years ago to rail in and gain limited control of quite a portion of the Curragh commons in the vicinity of and including the race courses proper but it must be stressed that such control is of necessity limited and the writer can visualize some major problems arising should the Turf Club ever attempt to erect permanent buildings of any worthwhile size on the grounds behind the concrete posts and rails which at present prevent sheep and other animals from encroaching on to the courses and their immediate vicinity.

  The change over also entailed a transport problem for the Club as most of the staff live in Dublin and have to be conveyed to the Curragh, quite a costly undertaking. No doubt this will solve itself in time as staff members come to live nearer the job – and future recruitment of staff will probably be confined, more or less, to people living in the area.

  Naturally, no person in Co. Kildare especially when interested in racing, will be nothing but pleased at the decision to bring the Turf Club back to Headquarters. The Turf Club started in Kildare town nearly 200 years ago and it is fitting that the control-room, as it were of a thriving sport and industry should be as close as possible to the heart of the whole affair, the principal racing and training centre.

  The new offices will certainly be of considerable advantage to the Curragh trainers (and there are more of them, and horses in training at the Curragh than ever before) while it should also be of considerable advantage to the executives of the Curragh race-course where all the classics and many of the principal races in the Irish racing calendar are run.

  And since so much of the Irish racing scene is concentrated on the Curragh and the Turf Club deals with so many of the complex problems as well as the thousands of routine matters involved in the running of Irish racing – it will be very convenient indeed to have the Turf Club offices so readily available to owners, trainers, jockeys and all concerned.

  In his address at the official opening, the Taoiseach referred the part played by the Curragh in the development of Irish racing and to the number of very complicated tasks probably never thought of by the Irish race-goer carried out by the Registry Office of the Irish Turf Club.

  Mr. Cosgrave said:

  “I am indeed very pleased to have been asked by the Stewards of the Turf Club and of the National Hunt Steeplechase Committee to perform the most pleasant task of opening their new Registry Office here at the Curragh. Horse racing has always occupied a special place in the hearts of Irish sportsmen and sportswomen right down through the ages and racing of a very high quality has been taking place across the Curragh for the past two hundred years. The Curragh to a lot of people means simply a racecourse and an Army Base, but, of course it is more, much more than that. It is the centre of the Irish bloodstock industry which gives considerable and direct and indirect employment as well as contributing significantly to our export figures. It is therefore particularly appropriate that the Registry office of the Turf Club and Irish National Hunt  Steeplechase Committee should now decide to locate itself here in this very fine building.

  “The popularity of racing among the Irish people is perhaps the best index to its success as an industry. Last year for instance, attendances at meetings topped the million mark – an extraordinary figure when one considers the size of our population. A point of particular importance in present circumstances is the valuable contribution the racing and bloodstock industries make to employment – upward of 12,000 people now work in this sphere.

  “One point seven million pounds in prize money was competed for at race meetings in 1975 by more than 3,000 runners and here we should express our thanks and appreciation to those sponsors who contributed nearly 10% of the prize money. Nor are the interests of the race-going public being forgotten. The Racing Board and Racecourse Executives have spent more than 1 million pounds in providing and improving amenities at the various tracks and courses throughout the country to ensure that patrons enjoy their racing in comfortable and congenial surroundings.

  “The contribution of the bloodstock industry to export earnings has been of considerable value for many years, for example, almost 3,000 thoroughbreds were exported, valued at 5 million pounds. Here it may be mentioned that our two modern sales centers for the industry are playing a vital role in achieving these striking results, But statistics alone do scant justice to the industry. There are many other benefits we as a nation have derived from the Irish horse, for example, through our tourist trade and in added prestige through our many racing and show jumping successes.

  “The Registry Office of the Turf Club performs a great number of very complicated tasks which are probably never thought of by the Irish racegoer. These tasks range from receiving  and recording entries for races to the distribution of prize money, payment of jockeys, recording of results and publication of the weekly calendar. All these tasks have to be and in fact are performed with almost 100% accuracy by the staff of the Registry Office whose names or faces are not known to the public, but who nevertheless play a significant role in the staging of every Irish race meeting. It is against such a background that the Stewards of the Hunt Steeplechase Committee decided to move out of Dublin to the lush green surroundings of the Curragh.

   “The challenge, therefore, presented to the designers was to provide extensive modern office accommodation containing a range of room sizes and heights within a simple building of domestic scale and character using materials and finishes traditional to the area, set in a grassy bowl behind mature trees and an existing wall. Great care was taken to achieve simple yet dignified internal spaces appropriate to the tradition of the Club. It is worth nothing that close co-operation between the design team and the builder produced the building from initial brief to completion in under fifteen months to the budget set by the Turf Club in August 1975. In the building, furnishing and decor of these offices, I am pleased to note that Irish material played a predominant role.

  “The wheel therefore has almost turned full circle, wheel being the appropriate word when I tell you that Chariot Racing is recorded as having taken place on the Curragh of Kildare as early as 100 A.D. In the year 1790, the Turf Club was formed and held its first meeting at the Coffee Shop in Kildare Town. It therefore gives me great pleasure to welcome the Turf Club, its members and staff back to the country of its origins, to praise their dedication and foresight and to wish them every success in their endeavours on behalf of Irish Racing”.

 Re-typed by Lydia Potts

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