Limerick to stage first Grade 1 after novice chase is upgraded
Limerick racecourse has been given a boost with the news that this year’s Greenmount Park Novice Chase has been elevated to Grade 1 status, making it the only top-level race in Munster.
Tipperary’s Istabraq Hurdle, named after the three-time Champion Hurdle winner who made the race his own between 1997 and 1999, was the only other race in Munster that carried Grade 1 status between 2003 and 2005, but it is now just a Grade 3.
Enda Bolger, who won the Greenmount Park in 2014 with Gilgamboa when the race was a Grade 2, believes the change is a deserved one and has set his sights on finding a novice capable of landing the 2m3½f contest on December 26.
He said: “Hats off to everyone for making this happen. It’s going to be huge for everyone in the area and it’s great that everything isn’t just being concentrated towards Leopardstown over Christmas.
“It’s a very good race at a fantastic festival and it probably deserves to be a Grade 1 as it’s been won by some top horses. All we need now is to find something good enough to win it again.”
As well as Gilgamboa, the Greenmount Park Novice Chase, which has been run as a Grade 2 since 2002, has been won by future top-notchers such as Sir Des Champs, Outlander and Bellshill.
“Over 20 years ago the board of directors had the foresight to develop a Grade 1 facility at Greenmount Park and now we will have Grade 1 racing to match.
“The Greenmount Park Novice Chase has always been a distinctive race with notable winners in recent years. St Stephen’s Day is a highlight on our racing calendar and we're expecting some top-quality runners due to the improved status and increased prize-money on offer."
He added: “The aim has always been to have Grade 1 racing here and it is testament to the board and all the team that this has been achieved.”
Shane Doyle, Horse Racing Ireland's race planning manager, said: “The Greenmount Park Novice Chase has attracted Grade 1-quality runners to Limerick at Christmas for many years and with the strength and depth of the novice chase group in Ireland in recent seasons, the National Hunt Pattern Committee felt the time was right to have a Grade 1 opportunity for the intermediate-distance horses to augment the races over the 2m1f and 3m distances at Leopardstown.”
In a further boost to the programme at Limerick, a new Listed hurdle for mares will be added to the card on Munster National Day on Sunday, October 14.
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