Limerick Racecourse will have the honour of staging the first Grade 1 race to be run in Munster with the announcement that the Greenmount Park Novice Chase has been upgraded in time for the Limerick Christmas Festival.
The race, over a distance on 2 miles and 31/2 furlongs, will be run with a significantly increased value of €90,000 this year and will be televised live on RTE.
The feature of the four-day December meeting, the race is the centrepiece of the high-class St. Stephen’s Day card and has been run as a Grade 2 since 2002. In recent years it has been won by subsequent Grade 1 winners Sir Des Champs, Gilgamboa, Outlander and Bellshill.
Patrick O’Callaghan, Manager of Limerick Racecourse, said: “We are delighted that the Greenmount Park Novice Chase has been upgraded to Grade 1 status. Over 20 years ago the Board of Directors had the foresight to develop a new Grade 1 facility at Greenmount Park and now we will have Grade 1 racing to match. The Greenmount Park Novice Chase has always been a distinctive race with notable winners in recent years. St. Stephen’s Day is a highlight on our racing calendar and we are expecting some top-quality runners due to the improved status and increased prize money on offer. The aim has always been to have Grade 1 racing here and it is testament to the Board and all the team that this has been achieved.”
Shane Doyle, Horse Racing Ireland’s Race Planning Manager, said: “The Greenmount Park Novice Chase has attracted Grade 1 quality runners to Limerick at Christmas for many years and with the strength and depth of the novice chase group in Ireland in recent seasons, the National Hunt Pattern Committee felt that the time was right to have a Grade 1 opportunity for the intermediate distance horses to augment the races over the 2 miles 1 furlong and 3 miles distances at Leopardstown.”
In a further boost to the annual programme at Limerick, a new Listed hurdle for mares will be added to the card on Munster National Day on Sunday, October 14. The Listed Maurice Power Solicitors Mares Hurdle furthers Horse Racing Ireland’s commitment to improving the programme for mares and fillies.
Kevin Power, of Maurice Power Solicitors, said: “We are delighted to lend our support to this exciting new addition to Munster National Day at Limerick Racecourse. This race will provide an important and valuable opportunity for mares to obtain black type status.”
Patrick O’Callaghan added, “It’s another plus for Limerick Racecourse to have a new Listed mares’ race on Munster National Day and we are very grateful to Maurice Power Solicitors for coming on board as the sponsor and to the European Breeders Fund for supporting the race.”