'Irish Champions Weekend' planned by Horse Racing Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland has announced the 2014 Fixture List which revealed 349 meetings will take place, the same as in the previous two seasons, with an ’Irish Champions Weekend’ scheduled for the first time.

On Saturday September 13 at Leopardstown and at the Curragh the day after, 10 Group races will be scheduled, including up to five Group Ones.

Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI, said: “I am pleased that HRI has been able to create the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend in September 2014, taking place at Leopardstown on Saturday, September 13 followed by the Curragh on Sunday, September 14.

“It is planned that Irish Champions Weekend will host at least ten Group races, including up to five Group One contests, along with several valuable Premier Handicaps. These two meetings will be promoted and marketed jointly, with the ambition of attracting a major international audience to Ireland.

“Irish Champions Weekend also opens up the opportunity for a new, exciting Tri-Nation series of Autumn Championships linking the top three racing nations of Europe, starting with Ireland’s weekend, followed by the Arc weekend in France and culminating with the British Champions Weekend of racing in October.”

There will now be four Wednesday evening Dundalk fixtures, in addition to the regular Fridays evenings in the November/December period, giving a second weekly fixture during the time of the year when there is a significant demand for additional opportunities on the all-weather.

HRI has also announced a number of races which have been upgraded for the 2013-14 National Hunt season.

The woodiesdiy.com Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown’s Christmas meeting has jumped from Grade Two to Grade One status. The race was won last year by Noel Meade’s Monksland and offers Ireland’s staying hurdles a second chance of a Grade One over the distance.

There are further enhancements to the programme for fillies and mares with the Dawn Run Novice Chase at Limerick to be run as a Grade Two and the Solerina Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse moving up to Grade Three from Listed. There will also be a new Grade C Handicap over two miles and five furlongs for mares only.

Wexford pick up their first black type race, the Bettyville Chase, but three races had their black type status taken away due to the poor historical quality of their fields.

A strong card has been created at Fairyhouse on Sunday April 6 after their Easter Festival was reduced from three days to two due to its proximity to the Punchestown Festival. The new fixture will now stage five Pattern races including the Grade One Mares Novice Hurdle.

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