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Ireland's trainers welcome increase in racing free Sundays from 2020

The number of Friday meetings at the Curragh will drop to three next year
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The increase in the number of racing-free Sundays in Ireland next year has been welcomed by officials of the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association.

The 2020 fixture list for Ireland, which was published by Horse Racing Ireland on Wednesday, showed there will be six Sundays with no racing during the year compared with five this year and three in 2018.

Michael Grassick, chief executive of the IRTA, said: "We welcome the news that there will be six blank Sundays next year. 

"One of the biggest problems trainers have is getting staff and retaining them. Many staff don't like all the travelling involved, especially on Sundays, and it is difficult for trainers allocating time off for staff."

Commenting on the decision to reduce the number of Friday meetings at the Curragh from seven this year to three in 2020, Grassick said: "Nobody will be surprised. Very few people expected the Friday meetings at the Curragh to work out successfully and that assessment proved correct with disappointing attendances."

Michael Grassick: "Very few people expected the Friday meetings at the Curragh to work out successfully and that assessment proved correct"

He added: "Moving the Listowel festival back to later in September will definitely be welcomed by National Hunt trainers as it should increase the likelihood of softer ground at a time of year when trainers want to get their better horses back in action after their summer break."

In addition to the six blank Sundays, there are also five other Sundays during the Flat Turf season on which there is no Flat racing –two in June and one each in August, September and October – while there are nine Sundays with no National Hunt racing from April to September.

The Irish Flat season will once again start and finish at Naas with meetings on Sunday March 22 and Sunday November 1.

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It's difficult allocating time off for staff and from that point of view having six Sundays without racing next year has to be seen as a positive move

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