Imaginative Irish fixture schedules to continue

Last autumn the British Horseracing Authority came under fire over the lengthy delays in publishing the racing calendar for this year. They were finally published only on 11 November.

There are no such problems in Ireland, where Horse Racing Ireland has already set out the fixture list for 2013. It shows the continuation of the innovations introduced this year, and allows for the possibility of some of them to be extended further. In particular, the series of Friday night meetings at Dundalk look set to become a permanent feature of the calendar, as HRI chief executive, Brian Kavanagh, explained.

He said, “The introduction of year round racing at Dundalk was very well received in 2012 and Friday evenings will continue throughout the winter months next year.”

Irish racing took a leap of faith last September when they switched the timing of the Irish Champion Stakes to 6.30 in the evening. They followed that with a 7.30 timing for this year’s Irish Derby, and although this made little difference to the gate at the Curragh, it did see the television audience double in size.

That will be repeated next year, and there’s the possibility of the Darley Irish Oaks going the same way and moving from Sunday afternoon to a Saturday evening slot.

There’s a huge weekend of sport in Dublin next February with the Ireland v England Six Nations match taking place on Sunday 10 February. As a result, the Hennessey Gold Cup, run at nearby Leopardstown, will be brought forward to Saturday afternoon. I think that makes for a splendid weekend away.

Now what stops our own authorities planning so far ahead and getting the British fixtures out in good time?

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