Listowel will be hit hard by Champions Weekend in '14

Dnal Nolan

THERE are fears that next year's Listowel Races will be hit hard by the new Irish Champions Weekend which sees racing in the Curragh clashing with the first day of Listowel 2014.

Listowel Mayor Jimmy Moloney and writer Billy Keane were among those to warn this week that the decision by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to create a huge Champions' Weekend festival in the Pale will have serious repercussions for the town.

The Harvest Festival will run from Sunday, September 14, next year until Saturday, September 20. But the new Irish Champions Weekend, comprised of up to five group one races, will see racing at Leopardstown on Saturday, September 13, and the Curragh on Sunday, September 14.

But race chiefs in Listowel fear the weekend will seriously undermine the Harvest Festival. Up to 20 per cent of Listowel's custom is Dublin-based and it's feared these punters will opt for their local meeting.

It's also feared that in creating eight continuous days of racing it will simply prove too much for serious punters.

"The races generate around €9 million for north Kerry, create hundreds of part-time jobs and generally keep the entire region going over the winter," Listowel Mayor Jimmy Moloney said.

"Serious questions have to be asked of the HRI, which is a semi-state body, for coming along and creating the Champions' Weekend in this way. We fear it will hit Listowel very hard," he warned.

It has also rankled that the entirely voluntary directors of the Listowel Race Company were not consulted with on the creation of the new Champions' Weekend.

One source said it was simply presented to them as a 'done deal', but that they were given the opportunity of moving dates afterwards.

Thankfully for the 2013 meeting, attendances were up on the Sunday.

Assistant Secretary Brenda Daly said that attendances were up 'slightly' for Sunday on last year's figures and down 'slightly' for the cold and wet Monday.

"We've had rain in the mornings but thankfully that has cleared into the afternoon and we're also pleased to see that the forecast is promising for the rest of the week."


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