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'We don't take chances with life and limb' - Gowran meeting off due to lightning

Racing at Gowran Park on Saturday afternoon was cancelled due to lightning, with clerk of the course Paddy Graffin citing safety concerns for horses, riders and grooms. 

The track was hit with heavy rain which began two hours before racing, accompanied by persistent thunder and lightning, prompting stewards to monitor conditions in the lead up to the first race, which was due off at 1.35pm.

Horses and jockeys were out on the track for the first race when they were recalled back to the stables due to further thunderstorms. The meeting was officially cancelled at 2pm.

The lightning was judged not only to pose a threat to horse welfare, but also to camera crews on high structures and jockeys on horses in starting stalls.

Graffin said: "There are some things in life more important than horse racing, we just don't take chances with life and limb. The issue was with the lightning.

"It started to clear which is why we sent them out for the first. We consulted with the riders and one thing we discussed was to race without stalls, but at the end of the day, as a horseman, there are things I wouldn't ask people to do that I wouldn't do myself.

"I wouldn't ride out down the road in those conditions or stand under a tree with a horse wearing steel shoes. There was more than the safety of jockeys involved, it was the lads, the horses, and camera crews in hoists. We made the decision totally in the interests of safety for everyone."

Trainer Willie McCreery, who was due to have three runners on the card, said: "It's just unfortunate. I would say if you drove five miles east or five miles west of here there's probably no lightning and when we left the Curragh this morning it was absolutely beautiful! It was great racing and the ground was fantastic, it's just very bad luck. Health and safety has to take priority."

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