The 2018 Fixture List for Irish racing has been released by Horse Racing Ireland. The total number of fixtures has been increased by eight to 363, the highest number of fixtures ever to be run in Ireland.
Among the highlights are that Leopardstown will stage a new two-day National Hunt Festival on the weekend of February 3rd and 4th featuring the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Irish Gold Cup.
News of the combining of these two races into what will be a major jump racing milestone for Irish and English trained horses on the roadto Cheltenham was revealed earlier this year.
Longines Irish Champions Weekend will be run at Leopardstown on Saturday 15th September and the Curragh on Sunday 16th September. This meeting will have greater focus in the overall sporting calendar with the All Ireland Hurling and Football Finals moving to August next year.
The Curragh will stage 18 fixtures, once again using temporary facilities, during a truncated season from May 11th to September 16th. This will be the second of a two year complete rebuilding programme which will deliver one of the best racecourses in the world in 2019.
Bellewstown and Killarney will both stage an additional day as part of their very popular July Festivals to make four and five-day meetings respectively.
Galway will stage a three-day Festival over the October Bank Holiday weekend.
“The 2018 Fixture List will feature the highest number of race meetings ever staged in Ireland, with 363 fixtures being scheduled,” said Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh.
“In recognition of the additional workload that this will place on those working in the industry, HRI has increased to five the number of Sundays with no Flat racing during the summer months to give stable staff some welcome breaks.”
“HRI has also accommodated other requests from the Irish Stable Staff Association to reduce the number of mixed meetings where possible, especially outside the Festival meetings, and to leave the Sunday before Christmas as a blank day.”
“It is great to be able to develop the Festivals at Bellewstown and Killarney and create a new one at Galway over the October Bank Holiday weekend. This is a result of the success of their existing Festivals and a great credit to the racecourses in question.”
“The HRI Board has again agreed that the Curragh should continue to stage a shortened season during 2018 featuring all its major Classic racedays and the second leg of Longines Irish Champions Weekend. The continued co-operation of Naas and Navan in accommodating early and late season Curragh fixtures should be noted.
“We have added three midweek industry days for National Hunt racing at Naas, Punchestown and Fairyhouse, one each in the months of December, January and February. This will allow the provision of further opportunities for medium to lower tier horses which will hopefully encourage more jumps horses to be kept in training during this core Winter period of the National Hunt season.”
The racing calendar has inexorably shifted towards larger Festival meetings, drawing bigger crowds and providing an easier to understand narrative to the season for those not involved in the sport on a day to day basis.
If you are looking to entertain at one of the Festivals over the course of 2018 here are the key dates for your diary…
Leopardstown Festival Weekend 3rd – 4th February
Cork Easter 31st March – 2nd April
Fairyhouse Easter 1th – 3rd April
Punchestown National Hunt 24th – 28th April
Killarney Spring 13th – 15th May
Curragh Guineas 26th – 27th May
Down Royal Ulster Derby 22nd – 23rd June
Curragh Derby 29th June – 1st July
Bellewstown 4th – 7th July (now four days)
Killarney July 15th – 19th July (now five days)
Curragh Oaks 21st – 22nd July
Galway 30th July – 5th August
Tramore 16th – 19th August
Killarney August 22nd – 25th August
Listowel 9th – 15th September
Longines Irish Champions Weekend 15th – 16th September
Galway October 27th – 29th October (now three days)
Down Royal 2nd – 3rd November
Punchestown November Winter Racing 17th – 18th November
Fairyhouse Premier Jump Racing Weekend 1st – 2nd December
Leopardstown Christmas 26th – 29th December
Limerick Christmas 26th – 29th December
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