Navan racecourse manager Aidan McGarry (left) and local trainer Noel Meade are looking forward to the two-day Navan Racing Festival.

McGarry looking forward to Navan Racing Festival

HORSE RACING Two-day bonanza of top class racing ahead

This coming weekend sees Navan Racecourse host their first-ever racing festival, writes Tom Gannon.

The feature on the weekend will be the historic Troytown Chase. It is one of the first opportunities for horses who have high ambitions for the season ahead to claim a very valuable handicap chase.

Last year the race was won by the popular ‘The Big Dog’ who was trained by Peter Fahy and ridden by Dunshaughlin native Keith Donoghue.

Navan racecourse manager Aidan McGarry is happy with how preparations are going and is looking forward to a great weekend of racing.

“It’s the first festival we have had in the history of Navan racecourse. It's bringing together the Bar One Fortria Chase and the Bar One Troytown Chase. The early indications seem positive. We are sold out hospitality-wise. The presales are up on last year on both days. So yes, we are very excited now,” said McGarry.

The racecourse manager was happy to see some of the bigger trainers enter some of their strongest talents but does say that the Troytown can allow a smaller trainer to claim a big prize.

“It is a race that every year attracts a high-class field and high-class runners. Just looking at the entries for this year. It looks to be no different. It is great to see strong representation from Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins but the Troytown can give the smaller trainer a big win too. Peter Fahy won the race last year with The Big Dog. It’s a great race and we are looking forward to it.”

There are some fantastic horses among the early declarations. Racegoers will be excited to see Irish Grand National winner I Am Maximus, should he line up in the Troytown.

Like every other racegoer, McGarry is looking forward to seeing some of these top-class horses in action.

“It is great to see the Irish Grand National winner, I Am Maximus, topping the weights for the Troytown. Then we will probably see Home by the Lee returning to defend his Lismullen hurdle crown.”

Even though there has been a lot of rain over the last couple of weeks, McGarry is confident that it has not impacted the ground at the track too badly. He has no concerns at the moment regarding the suitability of the ground for racing.

“Thankfully we are starting from a really good point ground-wise. When the rain was very bad two weeks ago, we would have had no issue racing. On Monday of last week we had horses in galloping as well, no issues. Over a hundred horses were galloping on the track that morning. We are blessed with the track here, it is built to take the rain. I imagine the official going description will be on the soft side for sure but at the moment we have no cause for concern. This time of year, National Hunt horses want that bit of a cut in the ground so the rain that we have had is probably no harm.”

Outside of racing. McGarry has promised that the weekend will provide a fantastic social opportunity for all who attend. The racecourse manager is hoping that the festival can provide the local hospitality trade a boost over the weekend.

“We are really trying to make this a fun weekend. It's going to be a great social weekend where people can come along racing with friends and family. We will have a racing preview with Kevin O’Ryan and a panel of jockeys and trainers. Throughout the weekend we have live music. We have a DJ playing on the Saturday and local band Pilgrim Street playing on Sunday. We are also working closely with the local bars and pubs in the area. There is going to be live music each evening in 10 of the bars in Navan town. We want this to be impactful for Navan town as well. So hopefully a lot of the racegoers will head into Navan town after racing and enjoy what should be a great weekend for racing and socialising."

Local trainer Noel Meade will run last year’s ante post Irish Grand National favourite Thedevilscoachman in the feature race, The Bar One Troytown Chase.

Meade is hopeful of a good run from the JP McManus-owned seven-year-old.

“Ah look it he seems in good shape. It is going to be his first run of the season. I was hoping to get a run into him before this but it wasn’t to be. He does run well fresh and he is in good enough nick so hopefully he will go well.”

Meade is delighted that his local track is putting on a festival of big racing and wishes them all the best for the weekend.

“Of course. I hope it’s a success. It certainly looks like it's going to be a great two days of racing and I wish Navan Racecourse all the best with it."