By Daithi Harvey
The 2018 Irish racing calendar will comprise of a record 363 racing fixtures, the highest number ever scheduled and up eight days on 2017. Horse Racing Ireland announced the 2018 Fixtures List on Monday and the calendar will also see an extra day added to both Bellewstown’s and Killarney’s July festivals making them a four and five day affair next year. In an effort to ease the burden on stable staff there will be five Sundays without flat racing during the summer months while the number of mixed meetings (flat and jumps) 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 and jockeys.
The Curragh will again operate on a truncated season hosting 18 fixtures between May 11 and Sept. 16 and despite numerous industry calls for day two of Irish Champions Weekend to be switched to Leopardstown during The Curragh’s renovation, the status quo will remain for 2018 with ICW scheduled to take place a week later Sept. 15-16. Announcing the Fixture List HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh commented, “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 [Dec. 23] as a blank day.”
Kavanagh continued,”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.”