Backtothekingsnest (center) ridden by Peter Townend on his way to winning the Graun Hill Mares Handicap Hurdle. Photo Sean Byrne/Déise Sport

Backtothekingsnest (center) ridden by Peter Townend on his way to winning the Graun Hill Mares Handicap Hurdle. Photo Sean Byrne/Déise Sport

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Tramore Racecourse had a most successful August festival from last Thursday through to Sunday, with the weather proving kind, and despite the economic gloom, there was great local support.

Racecourse Manager Sue Phelan was really delighted when she spoke to ‘The Munster Express’ this week. Over 20,000 people attended over the four days in what is one of the biggest social gatherings of the summer.

Sue put the event’s success down to great team work from ground staff, security and catering personnel.

With many local winners on the first night, punters were encouraged to bet more. The four days’ returns were €433,794 on the Government tote and the bookies took in €1,239,000.

Last year saw two days cancelled due to the inclement conditions, but three days of sunshine and one misty evening (Friday) were as much as the racecourse company could have hoped for and attendances were well up on 2008.

Local hotels, restaurants and bars all did a brisk trade, with the fabulous 15th seeing restaurant and pub doors closed early due to full capacity, and “no vacancy signs” going up on accommodation outlets for the first time this season.

Visitors including jockeys, trainers and bookies were full of praise for the organisation and atmosphere; they really enjoyed the festival and many said it was less hassle than Galway where crowds are over 40,000.

One innovation for the racing itself were the new plastic hurdles. These are safer for horses and will be standard over the country soon.

Ever-popular MC Eddie Wymberry had great repartee with the guests in the parade ring, while celebrities in attendance included, on Friday, the Fureys and Davy Arthur, who have many old friends in Tramore; tenor Dr Ronan Tynan, who had a horse running on Sunday; RTE racing commentator Ted Walsh who was among the winning owners (and had nothing but good things to say about the festival); Billy Keane, son of famous playwright John B; and Marieta Doran of RTÉ television’s ‘Off the Rails’, who judged Saturday’s Best Dressed Lady, which was won by the delightful Isabelle Moran of Dublin, who was down visiting her boyfriend in Tramore.

Waterford City Mayor John Halligan attended with his partner Elaine, while other politicians present included Cllr Cha O Neill who picked a few winners and rarely misses Tramore, nor does Cllr Davy Daniels.

Tramore and Ireland’s youngest councillor Tom Raine was there with Gemma Downey. He has just got his Leaving Cert results and is off to study business in Waterford Institute of Technology.

Glanbia/Snowcream did a major sponsorship on Thursday, while Kilmeaden hairdresser Karl Casey, Racecourse director, had a surprise birthday event on the Friday with his friends sponsoring a race.

This was also a Céilí night with Irish set dancing, and on Saturday night the predominantly young crowd were entertained by the ‘Swinging Blue Cats’ in the Deise bar.

Hurlers Ken McGrath and Tony Browne were there the same evening, signing autographs and posing for pictures.