Irish Champions Weekend and the Listowel Harvest Festival to take place behind closed doors

Organisers admit Covid-19-enforced move is a 'great shame' and an 'extremely difficult decision'
Irish Champions Weekend and the Listowel Harvest Festival to take place behind closed doors

The 2020 Listowel Harvest Festival will take place behind closed doors from September 20-26

Irish Champions Weekend and the Listowel Harvest Festival will take place behind closed doors this year.

Amid continued uncertainty around Covid-19, the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Committee in consultation with Horse Racing Ireland today confirmed September’s two-day Group 1 feast will take place without racegoers.

Champions Weekend takes place at Leopardstown on Saturday September 12, featuring the Irish Champion Stakes and the Coolmore America ‘Justify’ Matron Stakes, and the Curragh on Sunday September 13, with four Group 1 races, the Comer Group International Irish St Leger, the Goffs Vincent O’Brien National Stakes, the Moyglare Stud Stakes, and the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes up for grabs.

Admitting the news is a "great shame", HRI Racecourses chief executive Paul Dermody said the decision was made to provide people with "certainty".

He explained: “With less than eight weeks to go before Longines Irish Champions Weekend, it was the committee’s view that this was the optimum time to give people certainty.

"It is a great shame that our feature weekend of Flat racing will not be enjoyed by racegoers in person this September, but we will ensure a warm welcome for everybody when they return next year.

"In the meantime, we will be refunding all of those who availed of early-bird and advance ticket offers. We will now focus our attention on providing racing fans with a brilliant at-home experience.” 

Harry McCalmont, Chairman of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend Committee, said: “We had dearly hoped circumstances would allow us have racegoers back on the racecourse for Longines Irish Champions Weekend but that doesn’t look at all likely so it is best to make a call on it now. It is a great pity, but we still have a wonderful weekend of racing to look forward to.

"The Committee would like to take the opportunity to thank the sponsors of all races for their loyalty and we look forward with interest to see the array of horses that will line up at Leopardstown and the Curragh.” 

Listowel's popular seven-day festival will also be devoid of racegoers this year.

The meeting, headlined by the Guinness Kerry National, takes place from Sunday September 20 to Saturday September 26.

“In these unprecedented times, and in line with Government guidelines, the Listowel Race Company has made the extremely difficult decision to race behind closed doors, this means the event will not be open to the general public this year," Listowel Race Company chairman Pat Healy said.

"The health and safety of everyone is our number one priority and, with crowd restrictions in place, it would be very difficult for us to run the festival, as it attracts significant numbers of visitors to Listowel each year.

“Making the announcement now gives all of our valued patrons notice, with regard to travel plans and accommodation bookings.

"We would hope that the flavour of the Harvest Festival will still be in the town and that our local shops will continue to decorate their windows with a racing theme. TG4 will be broadcasting six days Monday to Saturday and we are delighted with their continued support, which will bring racing into every home in the country."

Customers who have already paid for admission tickets will receive a full refund in the next two weeks. 

More information is available at www.listowelraces.ie or by contacting Listowel Races secretary Brenda Daly at 068 21172.

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