The 2018 Fixture List for Irish racing has been released today (Monday September 11, 2017) 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.
The racecourses which have each been allocated an additional fixture in 2018 are Ballinrobe, Bellewstown, Cork, Dundalk, Galway, Killarney, Naas, Navan and Punchestown, while Tipperary will lose the industry fixture which they staged in 2017. These new fixtures have been allocated on a temporary basis and their appropriate venues, dates and position in the calendar will be reviewed annually.
These additional fixtures are as follows:
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, while Ballinrobe will run a Friday evening fixture in mid-April which they previously staged in 2016.
Three additional midweek winter National Hunt fixtures have been added (Naas in December, Punchestown in January and Fairyhouse in February), which will be targeted at medium to lower tier horses to provide more jumps opportunities below the top level during the core winter months.
Additional Flat fixtures have been included in the Autumn programme at Cork, Navan and Dundalk which is the time when most required by the horse population.
Other principal features of the 2018 fixture list are:
There will be five Sundays without Flat racing during the summer months so as to ease the workload for stable staff during the busiest months of the year.
The Sunday before Christmas (December 23rd) has been left blank at the request of the Irish Stable Staff Association.
The number of mixed meetings has been reduced from 28 to 19, of which only three will now be staged outside Festival meetings, to aid with the staffing of meetings and to reduce costs for trainers/jockeys.
The Curragh will stage 18 fixtures, once again using temporary facilities, during a truncated season from May 11th to September 16th.
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.
Longines Irish Champions Weekend will be run at Leopardstown on Saturday 15th September and the Curragh on Sunday 16th September.
Overall, in terms of the overall Flat/National Hunt (NH) split, it is estimated that Flat races will increase by 32 (to 1135) while NH races will increase by 22 (to 1434). This reflects the improvement in Flat average field sizes which were up by 0.63 runners per race for the first eight months of 2017 compared to the same period last year (from 10.48 to 11.11), while NH field sizes were up by 0.45 runners per race from 11.24 to 11.69.
Announcing the 2018 Fixture List, Brian Kavanagh, Chief Executive of HRI, said:
“The 2018 Fixture List will feature the highest number of race meetings staged in Ireland to date, with 363 fixtures being scheduled, 325 on turf (up seven) and 38 on the All Weather (up one). 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 (23rd December) 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 dates of the major racing Festivals for 2018 will be: