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Leopardstown rules out 'hare-brained' idea to switch Dublin Racing Festival

Honeysuckle: won the Irish Champion Hurdle at the Dublin Racing Festival
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An idea to switch the Dublin Racing Festival to Friday and Saturday has been dismissed after Horse Racing Ireland revealed Leopardstown's two-day showpiece will again take place on a Saturday and Sunday next year.

After a successful third Dublin festival earlier this month, Leopardstown's new chief executive Tim Husbands speculated that changing to a Friday-Saturday format would be among the possibilities considered as part of the annual review. 

Faugheen: the star of this year's Dublin Racing Festival

A larger Saturday crowd has become a recurring theme at the DRF since its inception in 2018 and this year's attendance of 14,204 on day one was 1,934 more than Sunday's figure.

The overall attendance at a festival lit up by equine stars such as Faugheen, Honeysuckle and Delta Work was a record 26,474.

Watch: Faugheen is roared home to win the Flogas Novice Chase

However, switching to a Friday-Saturday format generated a mixed response from the industry, with Ted Walsh describing it as a "hare-brained" idea due to the traffic congestion around Dublin on a Friday.

For now, at least, that prospect has been shelved with the publication of the fixture dates, which sees the second day of the 2021 meeting clashing with Ireland playing France away in the Six Nations. 

Leopardstown: will not introduce racing on the Friday

The dates would normally be confirmed when the fixture list was announced, but an HRI statement said there had been "a surge in booking queries" after the success of this year's event, which saw an increase in overseas attendees. 

"Next year’s Dublin Racing Festival will maintain the gap that currently exists between Leopardstown and Limerick’s Christmas festivals, and the Cheltenham Festival in 2021, which runs from March 16-19 next year," the statement confirmed.

"This month’s Dublin Racing Festival saw an increased share of overseas visitors among those who pre-purchased tickets, with almost a third coming from overseas in 2020 compared with 25 per cent in 2019. The majority of overseas bookings came from Britain."

Watch: Delta Work stays on strongly to win the Irish Gold Cup and enhance his Cheltenham claims

Husbands, who succeeded Pat Keogh from the start of this year, said: “It’s great that the appetite to get Dublin Racing Festival 2021 set in stone was there from all parties, including ourselves, our sponsors, HRI and the industry as a whole.

"This year’s festival was just finishing when the conversation from owners, trainers and racegoers was Dublin Racing Festival 2021.

"Having the dates set this far out allows those looking to travel from overseas to make plans, and it’s really important for us to embrace them and let them know that they are an important part of the festival’s success.”

If you liked this you may also be interested in:

Dublin Racing Festival verdict: a cracking two days – but even more can be done

A meeting that had it all: key takeouts from a compelling Dublin Racing Festival

Why Willie Mullins, not Faugheen, was the real star of Leopardstown

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The Dublin Racing Festival saw an increased share of overseas visitors among those who pre-purchased tickets, with almost a third coming from overseas
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