• Orla Byrne Leopardstown Intern

    ‘You work in a racecourse, even when there’s no racing on?’  

    This particular question has frequented in conversations since I began my HRI internship with Leopardstown Racecourse, and indeed the team here do much more than watch the grass grow until it is time to open the gates on race days. In fact, it is the polar opposite; there is an enormous amount of work that goes into executing a successful race day, achieved through the tireless work done by the dedicated team here at Leopardstown Racecourse. Although a large team works on the course and in the offices, I have been welcomed warmly, and the team allow me to explore different aspects of racecourse preparation to placate my curiosity and never ending list of questions. This fabulous attitude from the team has led my experience here to vary from client meetings to a hoover emptying out a stable in a matter of seconds- I wouldn’t mind one of those! When I first started in the office, I heard a lot about a mysterious individual called ‘Briggs’. I mused and pondered; who was this Briggs fellow? Why had I never met him, and for what sin does he get the tedious task of watering the track? Much to my amusement, Briggs is the name of the automatic watering system used on the track. Each day I learn something new and interesting.

    My first glimpse into the racing world was when my grandmother brought me racing to the Curragh, back when Dylan Thomas obtained the Derby crown. While I had always been obsessed with horses, the racing industry only returned to the forefront of my interests over a decade later when I was 17 and did a week’s work experience with the trainer Philip Rothwell. The friendliness and positivity of him and his staff caused my love for the industry to flourish. It was from then on that I was infected with the racing bug, counting down the days during the week until I could be gliding back up the gallops, or proudly leading up horses in exotic, foreign places, such as Tipperary or Ballinrobe. Never did I feel as proud as when I received Best Turned Out prize, and I now relish the opportunity to be awarding that prize, both in this internship at Leopardstown, and when I work in the parade ring at Naas. I had left the industry for a regular part-time job when I began college in Carlow, pursuing a course in animal care. However, whilst brushing a shop floor, I wished I was brushing a racehorse as I heard the radio play Go Racing’s winter advert tagline ‘Nothing else feels like this’. I received my qualification in animal care, and decided to commit myself fully to the world of racing, as I was genuinely lost without it. I applied for Equine Science in UCD, and took part-time roles in any racecourse that would take me. I also qualified as an Event Manager with CMIT, which is a huge asset to me today in my internship here. 

    The amount I have learned working in this internship might fill up the entire paper were I to type it all out, and I am immensely grateful to Horse Racing Ireland for giving me such a valuable  opportunity, and equally so to the staff at Leopardstown for guiding me so well. Every week is a whirlwind of activities and objectives leading up to racing on Thursdays, while we are simultaneously working towards the fantastic display of world class racing that is Longines Irish Champions Weekend. I was fortunate enough last year to see Almanzor pass the winning post and am honoured to be part of the process to make another magical day happen again in September. While there is always great energy in the office, there is also added excitement about the newly announced two day National Hunt Festival, taking place next February. Race days are thrilling, as my role places me in the parade ring, encircled by the equine heroes of this game. Whether I am organising presentations, awarding best turned out, or working on race day social media updates, I relish every moment. I could not recommend this internship enough, as the racecourses are at the heart of racing, and it is amazing to learn how it beats. 

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