Increase in racing-free Sundays and earlier finishing times for evening meetings
An increase in the number of blank Sundays during the summer months and an agreement on earlier finishing times for evening meetings are among the features contained in the Irish Fixture List for 2019, which was published by Horse Racing Ireland on Wednesday.
The number of racing-free Sundays has been increased to five (from three), while there will be another five Sundays during the summer with no Flat racing. The final race at evening meetings will be no later than 8.45pm for ten months of the year and 8.30pm at Dundalk during the first two months of the year.
Next year will mark the opening of the completely redeveloped Curragh with 19 meetings listed for the season, starting on Saturday April 12. The Guineas Spring Festival is being extended to three days (Friday, May 24 to Sunday, May 26) and will feature a Group 1 on each day with the Tattersalls Gold Cup being run on the Friday, the Irish 2,000 Guineas on the Saturday and the Irish 1,000 Guineas on the Sunday.
A change to the three-day Irish Derby Festival, which has been run on a Friday-to-Sunday basis, will have the meeting run from Thursday, June 27 to Saturday 29, with the Irish Derby holding its place as the main event on the Saturday. A further break with the past will see the Curragh stage its four August meetings on Friday evenings.
The total number of fixtures scheduled is 361, compared to 363 this year, and a further two summer fixtures will be allocated to Dundalk pending clarification over plans to replace its all-weather surface. No meetings are scheduled for Dundalk from May 3 until September 20.
The Flat turf season will start at Naas on Sunday, March 24 and end at the same track on Sunday, November 3 and there will an extra 15 Flat races run in the April-June period.
The two built-in breaks for jump jockeys have been retained, with the late June-early July break extended from nine to 12 days.
Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “The 2019 fixture list has been developed with the needs of both the customer and those working in the industry in mind.
"The 2018 enhancements such as extra festival dates at Bellewstown, Killarney and Galway, and the newly inaugurated Dublin Racing Festival have been retained, while an exciting new fixture list for the Curragh will coincide with the opening of the redeveloped racecourse.
“Consideration has also been taken of the needs of the industry’s workforce with the introduction of extra blank Sundays and earlier finishing times where possible.”
Commenting on the changes made to ease the workload on stable staff, Brendan Caldwell, chairman of the Irish Stable Staff Association, said: "We warmly welcome the changes in the fixtures for 2019, and we’re delighted staff will have extra Sundays off next year.
"The earlier changes to the finishing race for evening meetings are also very welcome. That's something we’ve been requesting for some time, so we’re delighted.”
Michael Grassick, chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, also welcomed the changes: He said: “This is a strong step in the right direction. It’s something the IRTA have been lobbying for and it’s an important development for our members as they try to reduce the workload of their staff. I’m glad the 2019 fixture list reflects these views."
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