This year's Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals cancelled, National Hunt season closed

Horse Racing Ireland have announced the news after today’s board meeting.

Mr Adjudicator (right), ridden by Patrick Mullins, on the way to winning the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown last year.
Mr Adjudicator (right), ridden by Patrick Mullins, on the way to winning the Ballymore Handicap Hurdle at Punchestown last year.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

HORSE RACING IRELAND has announced the 2019/2020 National Hunt season has come to a close following the suspension of racing in Ireland and that the Fairyhouse and Punchestown Festivals will not be rescheduled.

Last month, the government announced the cancellation of all sporting events due to the coronavirus outbreak, including those behind closed doors, until at least 19 April. A number of meetings had taken place behind closed doors in Ireland up until then.

At a meeting of the HRI board today, a strategy was discussed that would allow Irish racing to return as quickly as possible once it is appropriate to do so and within Government guidelines.

The board said it recognised that, at least initially, racing would restart on the Flat and most likely behind closed doors, with adherence to strict social distancing protocols as were successfully operated at 10 race fixtures in March.

Nicky Hartery, chairman of HRI, said: “We have stressed throughout that Government and HSE guidelines around fighting Covid-19 must come first and racing will only be able to resume when the Government guidelines permit and when there is adequate medical cover in place to ensure that race meetings can be staged safely. No-one can predict when this point will be reached.

What the Board agreed today was a plan to get back racing once those guidelines allow.”

A statement said a staggered resumption strategy for racing would be planned, initially seeing a programme of solely Flat fixtures for one month to prioritise the portion of the horse population which most require the resumption of racecourse action, while also minimising potential requirement for medical support.

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An enhanced National Hunt programme from October to December 2020 will be revealed later this year and it is intended to include in that programme the 2020 Irish Grand National.

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