LEOPARDSTOWN BOSS Tim Husbands may still be basking in the glow of a successful Christmas festival, when over 60,000 race-goers attended over the four days, but the focus has moved swiftly to the Dublin Racing Festival and it is clear there is much work to be done ahead of the two-day meeting.
The festival is seriously deficient in sponsorship and it is concerning that the festival, which some suggest is beginning to rival the appeal of Cheltenham in March, looks set to run four of its 15 races without a sponsor.
These are no ordinary races either, with one being a Grade 1. Indeed, the combined prize money for the four unsponsored races amounts to €½m! This is hard to fathom when considering the profile this meeting has generated since its inception and, with 20% of advance ticket sales being purchased by British racegoers, it has already become the preferred option over Cheltenham for some UK punters.
Add in the fact that both days of racing are broadcast live on RTÉ and Leopardstown is on the doorstep of a capital city where there is a fair few bob sloshing around, it suggests that racing may be becoming less attractive to certain commercial sponsors.
The profile of existing sponsors isn’t overly encouraging either, with three races sponsored by bookmaking firms, along with one each for racing industry associated entities such as Coolmore, Tattersalls Ireland, Goffs and Irish Stallion Farms. That leaves only four non-racing sponsors: Nathaniel Lacy Solicitors, Chanelle Pharma, Race & Stay and Bulmers.
To put the issue into context, Ballinrobe Racecourse had a sponsor for every race during the 2022 season, with the majority of partnerships coming from local businesses. On this basis, Tim Husbands must be overseeing a serious review taking place at Leopardstown in the run-up to the big gig.