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Irish trainers: action needed over neglected Flat programme

Jim Bolger: has a strong hand at Dundalk with Theobald
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Concerns raised by Ger Lyons this week about the Flat racing programme in Ireland have been endorsed by senior trainers Jim Bolger and Kevin Prendergast, who both believe severe adjustments need to be made in order to cater for the demands of trainers on the level.

Lyons aired his frustration about the number of Flat fixtures comparable to jumps meetings during the summer months along with stating his disdain for mixed cards and had asked for the backing of his senior colleagues on the matter.

There have been roughly the same jumps races run (198) as there have been Flat (196) since the conclusion of the Punchestown festival, and Bolger believes Flat racing is not being catered for properly.

He said: “This isn't something that has happened overnight. It's a gradual problem that's been creeping into Irish racing and it's about time that it was addressed. It's a very big problem and I fully agree with Ger that the programme needs a complete revamp.”

“The Flat racing season takes place during the summer months yet we're not being fairly catered for. Jumps racing is well catered for at the moment but Flat racing has certainly been neglected.

“I have plenty of horses that are sitting in their stables waiting for an opportunity. Now, if I was an owner, why would I pay keep for a horse like that?”

It is worth noting that the field sizes since Punchestown have been healthier over jumps. An average of 12.61 runners took part in races under national hunt rules in that time period, with only an average of 10.96 contesting Flat races.


BREAKDOWN OF SUMMER FIXTURES IN IRELAND

June
Flat 20
Jumps 13
Mixed 1

July
Flat 20
Jumps 14
Mixed 6

August
Flat 17
Jumps 14
Mixed 9


More Flat fixtures than jumps were programmed between the start of June and the end of August.

A total of 20 Flat and 13 jumps meetings along with one mixed takes place in June. The figure is 20 Flat and 14 jumps along with six mixed for July, while 17 Flat and 14 jumps with nine mixed are to take place in August.

Prendergast believes it’s not enough, and said: “I have to say I agree with everything Ger said and I'd back him up on every single point he made. The programme has become a complete joke.

“As well as that, we've some great tracks that we're not utilising, and just as Ger said, we had to share half a Roscommon card the other night with the jumps boys even though there was a full National Hunt card scheduled for the following day there.

“The whole thing doesn’t make sense and with regards the race tracks, we have Punchestown, one of the best courses in the country, but we're too busy organising rock concerts there instead of racing during the summer. It’s madness that we aren’t utilising our better tracks.”

Both men have acknowledged the fact that summer jumpers need opportunities, too. However, Bolger echoed Prendergast’s case for utilising some of the better tracks for Flat racing over the summer whilst jumps racing continued at the country tracks.

He added: “There are enough jumps tracks around the country that can cater for jump racing and I don't think it's unreasonable for us to wonder why we're not utilising tracks like Naas, Navan, Cork and Limerick.”

“I would also make the point that I have four apprentices in my yard. If we don't have apprentices, we won't have jockeys, but it'll be hard to give them the rides they need if we don't have enough races to go around.”

We have Punchestown, one of the best courses in the country, but we're too busy organising rock concerts there instead of racing during the summer
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