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Weekend's one champion idea

HORSE RACING IRELAND chief executive Brian Kavanagh believes Irish Champions Weekend is an ideal opportunity to put racing here in the international spotlight.

Kavanagh was speaking as the programme for the two-day extravaganza from September 13-14, which features two of the country's biggest races in the calendar, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Irish St Leger at Leopardstown and the Curragh respectively, was announced.

"Irish Champions Weekend will, in effect, become the first leg of a European triple crown of end-of-season festivals, to be followed by the Arc meeting in France and British Champions Weekend," Kavanagh said.

"This will be a showcase for Flat racing in Ireland, creating a high-profile event to attract the best horses in the world and to demonstrate the value and importance of the Irish Flat breeding and racing industry.

"We believe it will quickly establish itself as a major racing attraction at home and become part of the calendar for international flat racing fans.

"Flat racing worldwide is moving more and more towards high-quality international meetings and it is appropriate that with Irish Champions Weekend, Ireland will now have a meeting which can bear comparison with all other major international racedays."

The race programme includes five Group Ones, two Group Twos, three Group Three races and four premier handicaps, each worth e150,000. Total prize-money will amount to E3.73 million, with the Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown being raised from E750,000 to E1m.

Leopardstown's manager Pat Keogh said: "The record of the Irish Champion Stakes as one of the world's top flat races gives us the perfect starting point for this exciting new concept for Irish racing.

"With more than E2m in prize-money on offer, Leopardstown looks forward to welcoming the cream of international racing to the first of two wonderful days of competition."

Paul Hensey, the Curragh's general manager, said: "This is a unique opportunity to create a new sporting weekend of international significance.

"We will celebrate the 100th running of the Irish St Leger this year. In addition, we have the Group One Moyglare Stud Stakes and Goffs Vincent O'Brien National Stakes, won by six of the last nine European champion two-year-olds."