Dismay as Downpatrick racecourse statues are stolen... again
The theft of a pair of bronze horses from one of Northern Ireland's most popular racecourses has been branded a "huge shame" for the sport's fans.
Police are investigating the incident which took place at Downpatrick Racecourse some time between last Friday afternoon and the next morning before 8.30am.
The horses had stood on the tall columns on either side of the course's main entrance gate. While the monetary value of the statues is not known, bronze can command thousands of pounds per tonne in the scrap metal market.
Richard Lyttle, the manager of Downpatrick Racecourse, said yesterday that it is the second time the statues have been stolen.
"I think the first time was around 20 or 30 years ago, before my time," he revealed.
"Somehow they found their way to France and we got them back again.
"They depict the same horses that are on the Arc de Triomphe (in Paris) which are called Marly horses."
The manager said the latest theft had saddened everyone at the course, as the statues had been the first sight that welcomed thousands of racing fans to the attraction for many years.
"They're the first thing you see through the gates. They are their own statement piece. It's disappointing and sad that someone thought they should take them from us.
"If they made it to France and back before, we hope that on this occasion they won't get that far and they'll be back soon."
Mr Lyttle added: "Let's hope we can find them."
He said that the thieves must have come well prepared with tools and equipment.
"They were on columns at very high gates which I'd say are three to four metres high," Mr Lyttle said.
"The bronzes were cemented in and they would have been fairly heavy, so they would have had to come prepared." His comments were echoed by colleague, operations executive Patrick Grinter, who revealed that theft had come on the heels of the course hitting its biggest attendance numbers to date.
"On Sunday, March 24, we had the Ulster National and we had record numbers of over 5,000 there," he explained.
"(The bronzes) are very much a feature of the course."
Mr Grinter added that it was particularly disheartening as racing has been synonymous with the Co Down town since the mid-1700s.
"It's a huge shame for us that this has happened," he continued. Our next meeting is Friday, May 10, and we want to see them back by then obviously."
Both men are now calling for the public's help in recovering the statues.
Police are appealing to anyone who has information to contact them via the non-emergency number 101.