Rabbits Force Track to Scrap Steeplechase Races

By Declan Doyle

Where is Bill Murray's character from the movie "Caddyshack" when you need him?

Rabbits have forced the abandonment of the two steeplechase races from the Jan. 15 card at Down Royal Racecourse in Northern Ireland, the Racing Post reported. The meet will still be run, with hurdle races making up the card.

Track management has taken precautions to keep the bunnies at bay in the past, A decade ago, a three-foot trench lined with sharp stones was dug around the track's perimeter, with the goal of deterring the animals from burrowing their way on to the course. Down Royal also contracts a pest control company to watch out for the four-legged saboteurs.

On Jan. 13, rabbit holes were found on a bank near the steeplechase course by the Irish Turf Club's inspector of courses Bill McLernon, clerk of the course Joe Banahan, and track manager Mike Todd.

Todd told the Racing Post: "I have organized a squad of people to come in on (Jan. 16) to start digging and investigating. There is no danger that the rabbits could have moved in on the hurdle course as that is on the inside of the chase course.

"There is a good chance that the rabbits are not even in the chase track, but the Turf Club's priority is safety, and they were not prepared to take a chance. I needed this like a hole in the head and I'm surprised it has happened. The idea is that the rabbits will hit the sharp stones if they start burrowing and then turn back."