Belfast-based solicitor and Down Royal Committee member Joe Rice may be more familiar with a court than a race course, but his association with Down Royal goes back decades. Horses played a big part in his life growing up near Armagh, and his Turf Accountant father Teddy Rice regularly took him along to the race meetings at the County Down venue.
"My formative years are full of wonderful memories of accompanying my father to Down Royal. He was steeped in the horse racing tradition, and my cousins were very much into point-to-point so it was all around me. I’ve always been very comfortable in equine company!”
"My early memories of Down Royal, even though it was some 40 years ago, are vivid and I can remember with great clarity City Grand being disqualified and causing huge consternation at the venue.”
Fast forward to the 21st Century and Joe now sits on the Committee of Northern Ireland’s prestige racing venue. He was drawn by the work done by Chairman Jim Nicholson and General Manager Mike Todd in reinvigorating what he describes as the Jewel in the Crown of the Northern Ireland sports scene.
"I’m honoured to be part of the committee, and there’s no doubt this is a labour of love for me. The races are a great equalizer and from the rich to the poor, the young to the old – they’re all there.”
"The appearance of the venue may have changed greatly over the years, but Down Royal is the same great day out for me and my family as it’s always been and I know the old guard, the men who were among the very first to attend race meetings here, would be happy that it’s still providing so much enjoyment to so many people here.”