Tag Archives: Equine Photography

Tramore Racecourse: An Irish Racing Pearl

A friendly track with plenty of charm, fine facilities and stunning panoramic views of the Waterford coastline – Tramore is a place where racing feels celebrated.

It’s certainly a place steeped in history: racing at Tramore dates back to the 19th century – at least. While racing in the existing location has taken place since 1912.

History is in the air and you can feel it, smell and hear it when approaching the entrance to the track, with the spectacular coastline standing tall in the background. This isn’t the shiny new Curragh or a renovated Leopardstown. Racing at Tramore feels raw and real.

No surprise, you can sense the age of the place everywhere you go but that doesn’t distract from the fact that the facilities are well maintained. Yes, some wear and tear is visible, which only adds to the charm of the place, though.

The layout of the actual racetrack is interesting. This is a tight, roller-coaster like 7 furlong circuit. It’s up and down, ever turning and I can see how some horses love it while others won’t travel a yard.

This is perfect from a racegoers perspective because you are able watch the horses pretty much the entire race. No big screen needed. You can get a superb look of how the race develops especially once the field races down the hill on the far end of the track before turning for home.

As for filling the empty stomach or quenching the thirst: Tramore simply gets it right, There is lovely bar for pints from the tab. Enough space to sit with screens to follow the racing.

Food options are varied thanks to a fine bistro that offers a variety of fresh food options. There is also a dedicated fish and ship shop at the track. Prices are fair, taking into considerations we’re on a racecourse. It was €15 to get in, a coffee €2.50 and the food is reasonably priced.

Getting around is easy. Parade ring, stands, betting ring and all the other facilities are in close proximity. Despite the age of the racecourse everything here is clean, tidy and as well maintained as can be. Also a big shoutout to all the staff. Every single one had a smile on their face.

A highlight of Tramore’s location is the spectacular scenic view you can get from the parade ring toward the Waterford coastline. You can see the waves crashing on the beach in the background and smell the salt in the air.

The racing on the day of my visit wasn’t spectacular. Maiden Hurdles, low-grade Handicap Chases and a bumper – but it’s the atmosphere that matters. And from that perspective it was a stellar day.

A bumper crowd in attendance marveled in the victories of household names Rachel Blackmore and Paul Townend. Particularly Blackmore’s winning rides were popular with the local crowd.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was the Champions Parade of Cheltenham heroes Honeysuckle – the two-time Champion Hurdle winner, Energumene – the reigning Champion Chaser, and A Plus Tard – the 2022 Gold Cup winner.

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I wasn’t sure what to expect when heading for County Waterford. In any case: all expectations where certainly exceeded. Tramore Racecourse is a stunning place to go racing. I loved every minute. It’s pushing hard to become my favourite track in Ireland, I must admit.

The combination of coziness, rural charm and history with scenic views, fine facilities and a lovely atmosphere make this a place where the sport of horse racing feels celebrated.

All Photos © Florian Christoph

Cork 2022 Flat Opener

Balmy weather and a solid card of seven races on offer – on a quiet Sunday I used the opportunity to drive down to Cork for their flat season opener.

It’s been a while since I’ve been at the Mallow track. So, I was certainly excited for racing on a day with perfect spring weather for flat racing on ground described as good. The card had a solid look as well: a few interesting maiden races, the Listed Cork Stakes and some intriguing Handicaps.

€20 get you in. Given the recent heated discussions about ticket prices in the UK on the back of Cheltenham, thankfully here in Ireland entrance fees are generally fair – particularly for the marquee days and Festivals.

For the card on offer on this Sunday €20 isn’t necessarily cheap, though, it includes a racecard. Coffee was €2.80, a bog standard 99 ice cream €3.00. Can’t complain – that’s fair enough. Let’s not forget Covid has hit racecourses hard over the last two years.

Cork Racecourse is a lovely track. There’s a friendly vibe, short ways from parade ring to betting to the stands. Solid facilities. Good viewing of the action. A cozy place.

My focus on the day wasn’t so much on betting. It rarely is when I go racing. It’s all about the atmosphere, the horses and this time in particular: photos. I was hoping to capture some solid action shots – and left satisfied!

Crispy Cat

Race Review

The opening 7 furlong maiden was perhaps the most intriguing contest of the day. Princess Olly, a daughter of Invincible Spirit, was an expensive 220,000 gns yearling. Quite why she was an 18/1 shot I am not sure, though. She looked fine in the parade ring and won nicely for AMO racing, trainer Adrian Murray and jockey Rossa Ryan, who flew over for the ride. She should get further and looks an exciting prospect.

The runner up Osraige, trained by Joseph O’Brien, travelled best of all for most of the race but didn’t quite get there in the end. She’s an obvious one to keep an eye on.

Princess Olly – winner of the opener

The Listed Cork Stakes over 6 furlongs looks a cracking race on paper. Half the field, at least, had a realistic shot. In the end Power Under Me for Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane got up on the line in a thrilling finish that saw Mooneista only headed in the dying strides.

The 4-year-old gelding continued where he left off, after he finished 2021 with a Listed win at the Curragh. In saying that, I thought Elliptic, back in fourth place, was the eye-catcher of the day. She looks to have trained on well and finished strongly coming from off the pace with a brave move.

Power Under Me lands the Cork Stakes

It was a double on the day for AMO Racing thanks to the Michael O’Callaghan trained Crispy Cat in the five furlong juvenile maiden. He looked ready pre-race and won a shade cozily in the end, having another interesting Ger Lyons expensive newcomer Beauty Crescent in second.

The subsequent 5 furlong Handicap for 3-year-olds was probably the one I was most interested in. Some good prospects lined up, with my money riding on Red Lacewing.

The physical difference between the horses in the parade ring was striking. Pearl Palinka, who was thought to be one of the leading contender beforehand, didn’t look particularly ready for her first outing of the year. Whereas Ernest Rutherford was a reall standout – shiny coat and fit – it was no surprise he won the best turned out award.

Ernest Rutherford

But it was Drombeg Banner who landed the spoils eventually. Well supported in the market, the Ken Condon trained gelding went off favourite, made all and wasn’t for catching.

Runner-up Red Lacewing ran an excellent race in defeat. A slow start didn’t help, and her momentum was stopped half a furlong from home by the left hanging winner. She had to switch and regather momentum but the damage was done.

I believe she is one to watch out for. She looked well physically, although, was quite unruly pre-race when walking from the parade ring to the track. Clearly temperamental, she has a big engine and was an eye-catcher on all occasions last year.

Red Lacewing

It was a rather quiet day for team O’Brien. Only Aiden – with Shark Bay in the lucky last – won a race. Although Osraige for Joseph and Elliptic for Donnacha ran promising races. There are bigger days to come for them.

All photos © Florian Christoph

A Day at the Irish National Stud

Back to normality. Somewhat, at the very least. Thanks to the recent easing of Irish lockdown restrictions open-air visitor attractions are allowed to reopen again.

Because I’m living in County Kildare I have the opportunity to visit the Irish National Stud. I haven’t been for more than a year. So it’s good to be back.

This is the best time of the year to visit the stud because the foals are born. It’s such a beautiful thing to observe: the special bond a mother and her foal have.

While the younger foals follow every step of their mum, the older ones have grown in confidence and somewhat independence. They can be seen having fun fooling around the fields.

It was a typical Irish May day with nearly all seasons present within a single hour. The foals didn’t mind, anyway.

Mums joined in the fun from time to time as well, to the bewilderment of the foals.

Royal Ascot hero Equiano – who is new to the Irish National Stud roster in 2021 – clearly has not lost any of his zest. He was flying around the paddock and enjoyed parading for the camera.

The living legends enjoyed the attention from the kids in the afternoon. Kicking King and Rite Of Passage were particularly keen on cuddles, and perhaps even more so keen on the treats they received over the fence. The almighty Hurricane Fly couldn’t be bothered and was lying far aware in the deep grass soaking up the sun.

At last. Cuddles for Hurricane Fly.

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All Photos copyright Florian Christoph, 2021.

Impressions: The New Curragh

The new Curragh opened its doors for the general public for the first time today. A new era for Irish (flat) racing. A monstrous project in the making for the last four years, associated with a price tag of around €80 million – it’s better be a success!

Whether it’s going to be a long-term success with crowds embracing the new facilities beyond this opening day remains to be seen. Judged by the attendance today the word ‘promising’ may be on the lips of many, though.

I’ve been waiting for this moment for a good few years: finally back at the Curragh! Driving down the N7, get off at exit 12 and there it is, right in front of your eyes, the imposing new grand stand!

Upon arrival my first thought was: WOW! This is spectacular! Stunningly beautiful from an architectural point of view. I didn’t expect it to be that good. No way! After all, this is Ireland where these type of projects rarely go to plan. This project had its own little issues, but the outcome is magnificent – and that is what matters most.

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What’s good? Great views from the parade ring. Plenty of space. Only short walks between parade ring, betting and the grand stand. First class elevated viewing for the regular racegoer from the stand itself. Everything is shiny, new and gives the impression of classiness.

Opportunity for improvement? Getting your hands on a coffee is a tricky adventure. Long ques for food and drink wherever you go. Maybe I missed them, but there were no mobile coffee vans like they used to exist at the old Curragh.

Food prices are not for the fainthearted. But that’s nothing new. Regular ticket prices are €20. A season ticket is €265 – that’s a whopping €90 more than when I bought one the last time in 2015, the year before construction began. This isn’t a cheap place.

I didn’t go racing at the Curragh during the construction years. I was – quite frankly – pissed off. Holding a season ticket for a number of years, I would have expected some concessions to existing members while racing continued at what was effectively a building site – a decision in itself I didn’t like. It showed a lack of regard for the general racegoer.

Whether the new Curragh will be able to attract on regular basis the sort of crowd that came through the turnstiles today for the more low profile days is a question the future will tell. I’m not so sure, unfortunately.

I hope it does, I really do. This new Curragh deserves it. It’s an amazing place to watch horse racing. It’s the perfect stadium for our equine heroes. Having been to many racecourses around the world I can honestly say the Curragh is right up there with the best.

Now they have to work on service for the general public, think about pricing and any further enhancements that could be made to the raceday experience in order to lure punters to the track more often.

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This Is Turf Paradise

I am over in Phoenix, Arizona right now, so I took the opportunity to pay the local race track – Turf Paradise – a visit!

Now, this is the fourth track I have been able to see here in the United States: Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos the others. In comparison with those three, Turf Parade is small. In fact, much smaller. Why? No casino!

Turf Parade is quite a compact race track, located on the outskirts of Phoenix, easy to get to because of its proximity to Interstate Highway 17.

In saying that, at the other tracks I felt lost… and the day became dull after the first few races. Well, mid-week racing, few people are keen to come racing on a Wednesday – it can be lonely onsite. Casino-race-tracks are often huge places: wide and open spaces add to the feeling of emptiness.

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Turf Paradise is different: smaller, compact, short ways from parade ring to betting to food, drink and good viewing options. I was greeted by a super relaxed, serene and friendly atmosphere on the day.

Sure, splendid sunshine always helps; nonetheless, this place has loads of charme: you’re close to the action, entry is free and fair food & drink prices make it a truly wonderful day out.

There were only a few hundred or so people attending this mid-week race day. But as this is such a compact place, it didn’t feel lonely as it did at bigger tracks I’ve been to.

The racing was nothing to shout about. Low-grade claimers and maiden races. In saying that, most horses turned out looked fantastically well presented. Nice in their coat, clean and fit!

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Unlike recent controversy accompanying the Breeders Cup and a certain French jockey (and something I certainly notice turning in for a bit of US racing in the evening on At The Races), there was no excessive whip use to be seen here – in fact, I felt the whip was used pretty sparingly and a lot of hands and heels riding was going on – to my surprise.

Unlike Aqueduct, Golden Gate Fields and Los Alamitos, If I ever have the chance again I’ll definitely go racing at Turf Paradise – I absolutely loved the day, where a card packed with 8 raced didn’t feel dull at any moment!

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2018 ITM Stallion Trail – Photos & Report

4th October 2009. A day ingrained in memory. For ever. The day perfection in equine form became real. The day Sea The Stars wrote history.

I was still living in Germany. Following the 2009 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on my computer with the help of an almost colourless 240p internet stream. It didn’t matter. What mattered was the race. And the horse with the guy in the yellow silks riding.

It was my first full season following the sport of horse racing. Couldn’t have been a better year to get into it, right? Following Sea The Stars’ progress throughout the year, slowly but steadily understanding the historical importance of his achievements – what a wonderful, thrilling and emotional six months it were to witness. Horse racing at its best!

A Star Too Early

Sea The Stars came too early – or I came too late to party – I never saw him in flesh. It was only a couple of years later that I should eventually end up Ireland, though. I missed him by two years.

Ever since my love for the sport has grown into a passion that saw me creating this website and going racing near and far – from the Curragh in Kildare to Hanshin in Japan.

Still, there was the elusive dream: ever since this magical autumn day in 2009 all I wanted was to see the almighty Sea The Stars with my own eyes.

Trail of Greatness

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An elusive dream no longer. Thanks to the Irish Thoroughbred Trail! An initiative by the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), running for a fourth consecutive  year now – though in earlier years I never made it for various reasons such as work- & travel commitments as well as a simple lack of awareness.

This time ITM made a huge effort to put the word out and make sure the message gets through to everyone: breeders and racing fans alike, come and join us for the Irish Thoroughbred Trail; 29 stud farms have taken part on Friday- and Saturday 12th/13th January 2018.

Such esteemed names as the famous Coolmore Stud, the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud, Shadwell’s Derrinstown Stud or Darley’s Kildangan Stud all opened their doors for visitors.

Come To See A Star 

Safe to say I didn’t let the chance slip this time. A moment of magic it was, indeed. Eye to eye with the champion. He musters you, a straight look into your eyes; I pick up the camera, holding the big lens right in front of his nose….

Ears pricked, relaxed, standing proud and tall surrounded by an aura of pure confidence. Sea The Stars knows. He’s got the awareness. He’s the king here and everywhere.

The now 12-year-old still looks the part. The most beautiful thoroughbred one can imagine. But it’s his aura that stands out for me – there’s something in the firm, clear, obvious, assured, yet gracious and elegant way Sea The Stars presents himself. I haven’t seen nor felt anything like it in the presence of any other horse.

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A Wonderful Experience

Gilltown Stud is doing a wonderful job. Friendly staff greeting you at every corner; handing out Sea The Stars gift bags for ever visitor; heated shelter and quality refreshments made available. Top class!

Half an hour further down the road is Darley’s Kildangan Stud. The second and final stop on my personal Stallion Trail. The weather turned grim by now. Wind and rain whipping in people’s faces. At the stud they do their upmost to make it the most enjoyable experience, regardless. I can only applaud the studs and their staff for putting in such tremendous effort.

13 stallions parade in front of eager eyes; young and old is here, braving the weather. Exceed And Excel still has the appearance of a racehorse. Beautifully defined muscles – you can see why he was such a top-class sprinter back in the day.

Ribchester has settled well in his new home it appears. He’s one of the more relaxed stallions. Takes it in his stride. The imposing Dawn Approach doesn’t cease to impress whenever I see him. Teofilo, Belardo…. it’s an esteemed list of superb racehorses enjoying their second career here at Kildangan Stud.

 

 

To open the doors, not only for breeders but also for racing fans, has to be applauded. The studs play the vital part here, without their welcoming openness the Irish Stallion Trail would not be a thing.

A Step In The Right Direction

At the same time only this welcoming openness – and I would add transparency which drives education on how the sport functions – has to be the way forward for horse racing.

Irish racing in the past has not only been accused but in fact has neglected the interest of the common racing fan. The most recent example was to continue having the major Group 1 meetings, like the Derby, at the Curragh during the time of its rebuild.

From my own experience, Irish Racing also tends to – or did so at least in the past years for as long as am going racing here (since 2011) – to cater for the casual once-a-year-event-goer rather than the racing fan who’s also there when they run a low-grade card a on a dreary January Sunday.

Thankfully this is changing. And it has to – if the sports wants more than pure survival but also wants to thrive. It is all well intended to try attract new groups of people for the sport. However, don’t forget your existing fanbase.

Initiatives like the Irish Thoroughbred Trail (or the equivalent Champion Trail during Irish Champions Weekend) provide a superb opportunity to do exactly that – exiting new potential race goers and at the same time offering value for existing racing fans alike.

Because think this way: how are you supposed to spark the interest of people who don’t know yet that they might develop an interest for the sport, if you fail to keep the fans you already have interested and excited?

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Embrace The Fans

Racing needs to embrace its fanbase. It’s their enthusiasm that fills racetracks with life on those low-key days that aren’t part of Festivals. And they do so because racing provides a unique experience that makes it so inherently different from most other sports.

Where else can you get so close to the stars, equine and human alike? Where else can fans become an actual part of the sport? Racing it is! You can’t have a chat with Jose Mourinho or pat Lionel Messi without being dragged away by some heavy security guard.

But you might be able to give Sea The Stars a pat on the head when you visit him at stud – or, as one of personal favourites – discussing with Tom Queally at Wolverhampton the Champion Stakes a day before the biggest ride of his career on Frankel.

That is what I love about horse racing. You are so close to the game – if you want. For some it is a mere betting medium with two handful of nags running around in circles. But for many others it’s so much more; passion – a sport that sets raw emotion free in us.

So, it was certainly great to see ITM making such a big effort with the Stallion Trail this year. There was a real buzz, certainly on social media – racing fans got the chance to meet their heroes but it as also a superb opportunity to engage new people and excite curiosity. This is the way to go. We need more of these initiatives that show horse racing in a different light apart from gambling and drunk ladies in short skirts.

Thank you ITM for making this possible. For giving me the chance to meet my all-time equine hero. I had some tears of joy in my eyes.

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