Left to right: Peter Burke TD, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Paddy Dunican, Managing Director of KIlbeggan Races, at a race meeting in Kilbeggan in 2016.

Kilbeggan Races to go ahead behind closed doors in June

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar announced recently that Horse Racing Ireland’s resumption date for commencing racing behind closed doors has been brought forward from Monday June 29 to Monday June 8.

The new fixture list for the month of June will include four National Hunt race meetings, and Kilbeggan Racecourse has been chosen to stage one of these National Hunt race meetings on Monday June 29.

Paddy Dunican, Managing Director at Kilbeggan Races, said: “Breeding and racing of horses generates over €1.8bn in economic activity per annum, with the industry employing 29,000 people directly and indirectly in Ireland.

“We very much welcome the fact that An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar has confirmed that horse racing will resume behind closed doors on June 8, which is aligned with what is happening in Britain and France.

“This announcement is great news and we are grateful and delighted to be back racing at Kilbeggan, with our first National Hunt race meeting of the year on Monday June 29, being held behind closed doors.”

Mr Dunican added that the HRI, in consultation with the IHRB, have developed strict new protocols, which will be enforced at racecourses to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to safeguard everyone’s health and wellbeing.

“I would like to compliment Brian Kavanagh CEO, Jason Morris Director of Racing and their team at Horse Racing Ireland, Denis Egan CEO and the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board team for their huge work, which has allowed a quick resumption of the racing industry,” Mr Dunican added.

Fianna Fáil senator and Kilbeggan Races chairman Paul Daly has welcomed the Government’s earlier than expected liberation of horse racing activity.

Senator Daly, who had written to the Minister for Health and the Taoiseach asking that they consider an earlier opening given the strict protocols Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) had put in place, said he was glad to see common sense prevail.

“The phased reopening of the country will depend on public health and safety and rightly so,” he explained.

“When I wrote to the Minister and the Taoiseach, I asked that they show flexibility to organisations who can apply strict social distancing guidelines. I impressed on them the disadvantage it would have on the Irish racing industry to be behind the British and French markets in reopening.

“As current chairperson of Kilbeggan Races I know that the resumption behind closed doors will be in adherence with the strictest health and safety guidelines – it makes sense for it to reopen at this earlier stage,” Senator Daly concluded.

Meanwhile, Deputy Peter Burke, Fine Gael TD for Longford/Westmeath, this week worked alongside Horse Racing Ireland and the Department of An Taoiseach to secure a race meeting to be held in Kilbeggan this June and certainty for the sector.

Burke said this is positive news for Kilbeggan and Westmeath and will mean a boost for local jobs and economic activity.

“I was delighted to confirm on Friday last the Minister Creed and An Taoiseach had decided to revisit the decision to resume behind closed doors horse racing from June 29 and amend to June 8,” he said.

“There will be stringent social distancing involved on racecourses, in line with current practices in horse racing in France, Germany and the UK.

“I had been contacted by a large number of stakeholders in the industry who outlined the issues in the sector and how behind closed doors racing could provide a safe solution in the short term, as seen in other countries.

“There will only be ten meetings, held behind closed doors, and I was delighted to recommend to HRI that Kilbeggan be one of these meeting on Monday June 29.

“This will be a great boost to the locality and will provide much needed economic activity, as well as work for many in the sector who have been forced into unemployment due to the coronavirus.”

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