Enhancements to National Hunt and Flat seasons feature on fixture list for 2023
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) today published the fixture list for 2023 which will see the overall number of fixtures retained at 390 and a major enhancement to the pre-Christmas National Hunt calendar.
Next year Navan racecourse (November 18, 19) and Punchestown (November 25, 26) will host high-class weekends of racing ahead of the traditional Winter Festival at Fairyhouse (December 2, 3). Navan’s fixture will see the For Auction, Lismullen and Monksfield hurdles and the Fortria Chase and Troytown Handicap Chase run over two successive days.
Both the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle and the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase will now be held on the same weekend at Punchestown on November 25 and 26, bringing the John Durkan Memorial Chase forward from its traditional early December date.
The fixture list has been compiled with a view to maximising the Irish schedule from a coverage and a commercial perspective, while maintaining a number of initiatives to ease pressure on stable staff and trainers throughout the year.
As was the case this year, the number of blank Sundays will be retained at six, on March 19, April 23, June 25, July 16, July 30 and October 8. The number of Saturdays with clashing afternoon Irish race meetings has been reduced to nine in 2023, from 15 in 2022.
The fixture list for 2023 contains 387 meetings at this stage with three ‘floating fixtures’ being kept in reserve to be inserted at short notice by the Fixtures Committee of HRI at a time when demand for opportunities to run is at a high.
There will also be a different look to the conclusion of the 2023 Flat Turf season with a new two-day fixture being introduced at Naas on the weekend of October 14 and 15 and a two-day all-Flat fixture at Leopardstown on the following weekend. The season will end at the Curragh on Sunday, November 5, while the Flat Turf season also begins at the Curragh, on Saturday, March 25.
Jason Morris, HRI’s Director of Racing and Strategic Projects, said: “The 2023 fixture list sees a significant development of the National Hunt schedule in November with a series of two-day feature meetings now being created for both race programming and promotional benefits. The very popular Down Royal NH Festival at the start of the month will be followed by two-day meetings at Navan (featuring the Fortria and Troytown), Punchestown (featuring the Morgiana and the re-located John Durkan Memorial Chase from early December), leading into the hugely successful Fairyhouse Winter Festival in early December.
“There was widespread industry consultation and support for these changes, which will produce a series of high-profile, top-quality meetings at the start of the core jumps season. The end of the Flat turf season has also been rearranged in October with two-day meetings in Naas and Leopardstown, leading into a season ending finale at the Curragh in early November.
“Overall, we have retained the same total number of meetings at 390, with 387 being published and keeping three in reserve as floating fixtures to ensure that we can respond with flexibility and speed to the needs of the horse population during next year. Maintaining the competitiveness and quality of Irish racing is paramount as it underpins the racegoing experience, the value of our media rights and the appeal of our bloodstock to international markets. This is reflected in our continuing international successes and the average Irish field size, which year to date is 11.97 runners per race.
“The HRI Fixtures Committee works closely with the HRI Betting Committee and, at their behest, has reduced the number of clashing Saturday afternoon fixtures (i.e. two Irish meetings) from 15 to nine to reduce coverage congestion on these busy days. Significant input is also received from the HRI Industry Services Committee and the aim is always to balance the commercial aspirations of racecourses with the need to provide appropriate breaks for those working in the industry. We have retained six blank Sundays and kept last race times as 7.30pm for January and February, and 8.30pm for the rest of the year, while also providing three breaks in the season for the leading jump jockeys (in May, June/July and September) and a four-week break for the leading Flat jockeys from mid-December to mid-January.”