Leopardstown and the Curragh will welcome back crowds of 4,000 for each day of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
Horse Racing Ireland confirmed the increase in capacity for the high-profile meetings on September 11 and 12 in a statement on Thursday afternoon, which follows Tuesday’s Government announcement of a relaxation in Covid-19 restrictions.
During this week’s briefing from Taoiseach Micheal Martin, details emerged stipulating attendance up to 75 per cent of capacity would be permitted at outdoor events from next Monday, September 6.
HRI will plan for a 50 per cent limit from that date in outdoor spaces on course and 60 per cent of indoor capacity, the latter restricted to those able to provide evidence of their Digital Covid Vaccine Cert (DCC) as fully vaccinated individuals.
In accordance with the Irish Government’s roadmap, those limits are set to rise to 100 per cent if the planned lifting of all restrictions comes into effect on October 22.
In the meantime, both Leopardstown and the Curragh will next week stage a “mixed outdoor event with access to the indoor spaces, but with proof of a vaccine required for those consuming food and beverage indoors”.
Listowel’s Harvest Festival, from September 19-2, will be subject to a limit of 2,000 per day and it will be an “outdoor-only event”.
That figure too, however, is a significant increase on the current numbers – which are capped at 500, although 1,000 were permitted through the gates exclusively at both the Galway Festival and for a Government pilot event when the Curragh hosted the Irish Derby in June.
HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh described the return of crowds as an “essential ingredient” racing has had to get by without during the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “It has been a very difficult 18 months for everybody in society, and racing can be proud of the way it has come through it.
“However, without racegoers, racing has been missing one of its essential ingredients.
“Like many industries, there is still much work to do, but there is now real progress and forward steps to normality. Welcoming back racegoers in measured but increasing numbers is one of those steps – and from Monday, Irish racecourses will be free to use 50 per cent of their capacity to allow racegoers back on the track in real numbers.
“And as we know, this good news comes just in time for some of our most important race meetings – the Longines Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 11 and September 12, and Listowel’s Harvest Festival, which begins on Sunday September 19.
“I would like to thank all our customers for their patience and look forward to race meetings becoming just that again – a place where racegoers can meet each other in a safe environment and enjoy our great sport.”
Tickets for both days of Irish Champions Weekend will go on sale on Friday, September 3 to members of the public who have registered their interest in advance. The remainder will go on general sale on Monday, September 6.
Tickets for Listowel are already on sale.