Fine mower leads the field without a handicap

Major Swift Roller Mower reduces operating costs and enhances turf for Ballinrobe Racecourse

Race-meetings have been recorded in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo since the 1770s but the current Ballinrobe Racecourse was founded in 1921, nearly 100 years ago. The only racecourse in Co. Mayo, it is situated in a natural amphitheatre which gives most spectators an unequalled view of the entire racing scene no matter where they stand.

Beautiful as the surroundings may be, Ballinrobe Racecourse doesn’t look after itself. Grounds-keepers pay painstaking detail to maintain the track and in-field for the nine meetings per year in addition to national hunt events. The race season generally starts early April and ends late September.

Track Manager Cathal Flannelly joined the course 15 years ago and makes the track come alive in spite of the wet weather that comes with its location in the West of Ireland.

“Maintaining a high quality racetrack like Ballinrobe needs a dedicated team of professionals who put in a lot of hard work both before and after the meetings,” commented Cathal Flannelly. “We have four full-time staff and up to 25 casual staff for race meetings. Following a race-day, we spend a lot of time going around the entire track replacing divots and repairing rails and fences. We also carry out fertilising, top-dressing, spraying, drainage and all kinds of duties that the punter doesn’t see – our main aim is to provide the very best finish for our customers so they want to come back, time and time again. There are some twenty-eight acres on the race-track alone and another forty-five acres on the in-field so it’s no easy task.”

Improvements in regular grass maintenance has reduced operating costs and enhanced the turf since Ballinrobe acquired a new Major MJ70-410T Trailed Swift Roller Mower in 2017, replacing an 11ft articulated mower. With a wide cut of 4.2mm (13ft 9in), it covers the ground quickly yet leaves a garden lawn finish.

“The articulated mower worked OK, but the Major is a vast improvement. It’s much quicker because it cuts a wider swath and therefore we are saving on wearing parts, manpower and time,” added Cathal. “It takes half the time it used to and it also leaves an excellent finish that makes me very proud of what we do. We cut down to one and a half inches on the race-track and around four inches for the in-field.  The race-track is cut every four days and the in-field every ten days, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. Time is money, that’s true, but creating the best the finish is what drives me and my team.”

Ballinrobe’s Major Swift roller mower is a shaft-driven folding mower consisting of three sections – with two, hydraulically folding wings that enable a transport width of just 2.0 metres. The outer wings flex to follow ground contours maintaining an even and precise finish. It has six contra-rotating rotors and 12 blades. Full-width rollers in front of and behind the cutting units prepare and finish the pass, ensuring avoidance of scalping and maintaining very even cutting heights.

“What I really like about the Major,” said Cathal, “is it’s made of very high-strength steel, so it’s going to give me a long-lasting return on our money. It drives so easy that we don’t use a lot of fuel and it cuts like a hot knife through butter, leaving a finish that I’d be happy on my own lawn at home. Maintenance is simple – just a couple of greasers and we also wash down every night, storing it away inside, ready for the next day.”

Despite only having the Major mower since 2017, the finish from the mower has caused quite a stir with visitors. “I get a lot of very good comments from our customers, especially those visiting from other race-courses,” enthused Cathal. “I made a recommendation to Roscommon Racecourse and they have already bought one because of the experience we have – I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a fine finish from a wide-area mower. We just love it!” he concluded.


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