The final festival of the season, AutumnFest took place at Killarney Races last weekend. Delivering a fun-filled programme with increased crowds, top-class racing and a superb atmosphere, here are some of the highlights;
Despite a rocky start on the weather front on Saturday, it certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of those in attendance. With no less than a dozen individual hen and stag parties raring to go at the track, the bars were full, the bookies were busy and the craic was mighty. Thankfully, the sun shone for punters for the National Hunt card on Sunday which was a fantastic day of racing action, although not without plenty of drama and media headlines too.
Over the weekend, Tote very generously sponsored 11 races and EBF sponsored 3 races, attracting a good entry with all the top yards represented. Trainer Jessica Harrington enjoyed a double on Saturday with the O’Brien brothers Donnacha and Joseph each on the winners board with Navel Force and Gamble Veloci obliging for the pair respectively.
Bang Po ridden by Donagh O’Connor and trained by Ross O’Sullivan was promoted to winner status, following the case of mistaken identity and subsequent disqualification. A handling mix up meant a stable with two horses on the card ran the wrong horse in the wrong race which in turn duly went on to win. On inspection the mix-up was identified and the horse was disqualified by the stewards. The unusual occurrence was witnessed by bumper crowds at the meeting with many guests in attendance from Ireland and the UK. The incident received plenty of media coverage and commentary.
The trainer involved, John Feane, was fined €3,000 by the stewards and held his hands up over the incident. He told Racing TV: “It’s human error. I was unfortunately delayed getting to the races. I was stuck in traffic and got here ten minutes late. I have apologised to the owners, this has cost everyone money. The wrong horse was tacked up and I noticed the error immediately when I arrived in the stable yard. It’s history now, but people study history to discover where things go wrong. At point-to-points we scan every horse before they go into the parade ring. Maybe in the future it might help trainers and stable staff if that was brought in at race meetings instead of just scanning the winner after the race. But on saying that, I’m not blaming anyone bar myself. I’ve accepted the fine. I have the right to appeal but I’m not going to. I would like to apologise as sincerely as I can to the punters and the owners. I will put this behind me and go forward.”
Sunday was a national hunt race day with seven exciting races over jumps. Dual purpose trainer Joseph O’Brien got on the board again with Goodie Two Shoes winning the first race of the day. Enda Bolger’s Solidary Man won the Tote.ie Novice Hurdle in impressive fashion with Darragh O’Keeffe on board. Much to the delight of punters, strong favourite in the market ‘Londonofficeiscalling’ obliged at 5/2 in the 4th race for father and son combination Eric and Conor McNamara, covering the expenses of the day for many in attendance. Tony Martin’s Read to Return ridden by Philip Enright took the Tote Fantacy Beginners Chase to bring down the curtain on the festival and indeed the season at Killarney Races.
Killarney Racecourse Chairman, Billy O’Sullivan commented “What a lovely meeting AutumnFest turned out to be, it was a great two-day meeting that was thoroughly enjoyed by all with some fantastic winners. I would like to thank all our patrons, supporters and sponsors and the horse-racing industry without whom racing would not be possible. We truly had a wonderful 2023 season and can’t wait to do it all again next year!”
Next year, Killarney Races will bring you four festivals to enjoy over the months of May, July, August and October. Tickets for all festivals including general admission, punters packs, dining and hospitality and memberships are available online now. An ideal gift idea for someone you love who loves racing book your tickets today at www.killarneyraces.ie.