By Lynsey Dreaper
Fairyhouse racecourse has been polishing the silver and dusting the banisters in anticipation of its upcoming Premier Jump Racing and Family weekend. This is where Ireland's national hunt season really kicks off with one of the biggest fixtures on the winter calendar and all eyes turn to Ratoath.
As the name suggests the focus of these two days is top class jumping and family fun, and Fairyhouse has got both covered. Sales and marketing manager at Fairyhouse, Ted Walsh, is quick to point out that although Fairyhouse attracts the biggest names in racing and is home to Ireland's Grand National meeting, it is fundamentally a local track and is a fantastic day out for everyone, from the most ardent punter to the racing fans of the future.
"Every day I see forty or fifty people coming to the track to enjoy a walk in their local facility. We have a huge space and a great venue and it should be enjoyed by people in the area," Ted explains. "Where a meeting can be sold on the back of backing horses, looking for winners, studying the form, getting dressed up in hats and heels, and sipping champagne, that's not what it's all about at all. We have all that and more for anyone who wants it, but we also have activities for the entire family and a guaranteed great day out."
Putting his money where his mouth is, Ted goes on to explain that entry is free to under-18s on both days. A brand new, state of the art playground has also been built, and face-painting and balloon modelling are just two of the activities on offer and to top it all off, everything except the playground is indoors. Thought of everything, haven't they?
Following last year's success the falconry display will take place again this year. Not fully appreciated until seen in person, this provides racegoers with the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Ireland's most stunning wild birds. Last year the handlers thrilled the children by involving them in the live show, as the birds swooped over their heads and between their outstretched hands before landing lighting on the handler's arm again.
The Premier Jump Racing and Family weekend takes place on December 1st and 2nd, features the €80,000 Grade 1 Hatton's Grace Hurdle and has once again drawn the biggest names in racing with Hurricane Fly, Voler La Vedette, Thousand Stars and Go Native just some of the stars entered over the two days. It is also a highly anticipated outing for the young racegoers club, the Front Runners Club. It's never too early to appreciate the excitement of the racecourse.
Sunday sees the Meath Hunt parade their hounds on the track in front of the grand stand. This ties in with the launch of the DVD chronicling the 2011 / 2012 hunting season. Anyone who follows the Meath Hunt on Facebook will have seen the stunning photos that follow each meet and the DVD promises to be just as impressive. The parade of the hounds is also a treat, providing a hands-on demonstration of the great relationship this area enjoys with the countryside. The Meath Hunt have lined up a special day for Friends of the Meath Hunt and further details are available on the Facebook page or by contacting Meath Hunt secretary Janet Williamson on firstname.lastname@example.org.
With four restaurants and three bars there is always somewhere warm and comfortable to sit and enjoy the racing on any one of the many TV screens. Special hospitality packages are available for both days (€45 pp Saturday and €55 pp Sunday) that include admission, a table reserved in the restaurant for the whole day, a three course meal, live music, and a guest tipster. You won't even have to leave you seat!
For further information visit www.fairyhouse.ie or call 01 8256167.