BLANK DAY IN IRELAND: And no Irish raiders in England. Shamrock looks at the success that Dundalk has been and argues the case for an expansion of Irish all-weather racing.

It’s the calm before the storm. No Irish cards today and we are building up to Arc weekend and we’ll start looking at the weekend action from tomorrow.

The breaking news on Thursday is that Maybe was a notable withdrawal from the Total Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp on Sunday.

Aidan O’Brien’s unbeaten filly was the only absentee from the field for the Group One over a mile.

In the Arc itself John Gosden’s impressive Doncaster St Leger winner Masked Marvel has been added to the field for at a cost of €100,000.

We’ll just take a couple of minutes to time-out and look at Dundalk. Their recent resumption of racing for their winter season is good news for the industry. Bookmakers describe Dundalk Friday as the busiest night of the week – and is there demand from the racing industry – you bet there is.

There’s an eight race card tomorrow and all bar one have attracted a maximum field of 17. They could probably stage a 20 race card and it would be a similar story.

There’s a huge appetite for all-weather racing and Dundalk is flying the flag proudly. It’s transformed itself from a poorly attended turf venue to a modern arena offering punters both flat and greyhound action with a scenic mountainous backdrop.

It was never easy for Dundalk. Alternative venues at Fairyhouse, Abbotstown, Tipperary and Naas were all looked at in preference but surely the time has come for an additional all-weather track – ideally in the south?

When Dundalk was launched trainer Pat Flynn (Co Waterford) said “Dundalk is too far for me. Seven or eight years ago it would have been a four-hour trip. Now it’s six hours. It’s going to be tough on staff because they wouldn’t be home until 3am after an evening meeting.

“What amazes me is that people will spend eight or $10 million buying a yearling but they won’t put €10 million into building a racetrack.”

The Dundalk ‘experiment’ has proved all-weather racing has a big future in Ireland – the time has come for track number two.

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