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Dundalk all-weather track gets go-ahead with full HRI grant.

IRELAND'S first all-weather racing facility is expected to open for business in the spring of 2007 after Horse Racing Ireland yesterday announced that it had approved maximum grant aid of 10.276 million towards the cost of a new development at the site of Dundalk race-course, writes Tony O'Hehir. HRI's decision, taken at a board meeting on Monday, was announced jointly by Minister for Sport, Arts and Tourism John O'Donoghue and HRI chairman Denis Brosnan after representatives of Dundalk had met with HRI executives to go over the finer points of the agreement.

The total cost of the project, on the site where Dundalk greyhound racing stadium has been in operation since November 2003, will amount to 19.6m.

Dundalk will provide 9.3m funding and this will include 2m grant aid from Bord na gCon to assist the extension of the existing grandstand for the benefit of greyhound and horseracing crowds.

In addition to being Ireland's first all-weather track, sanctioned 16 years after the launch of all-weather racing in Britain, the Dundalk venture will be the first floodlit track in Ireland and the first facility combining horseracing and greyhound racing.

According to HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh, it is envisaged that 25 meetings will be staged at Dundalk in its first year of operation.

He said: "Everything will be sorted out by the fixtures committee next year when it puts the 2007 fixture list together, but we are probably looking at two blocks of ten meetings - one in the spring and one in the autumn - either on Friday or Saturday nights.

"Dundalk are also keen to hold on to some of their traditional dates, so they will probably have another five night meetings through the year."

Kavanagh added: "We are looking at a minimum of 175 extra races being added to the year's programme of Flat races when Dundalk is up and running."

Leo McCauley, chairman of Dundalk, said: "We are delighted with HRI's decision to support our am-bitious plans. We look forward to building a facility that the industry will be proud of."

Jim Kavanagh, chief executive of the Irish Racehorse Trainers' Association, welcomed the news, saying: "We're delighted that Dundalk has been given the go-ahead.

"We have been behind the project all along. It will provide a whole new dimension to Irish racing and we look forward to it being a big success."

The track will be a ten-furlong oval with a five-furlong sprint track and the licensing committee of the Turf Club, which licenses all racecourses, is to visit Dundalk next month before work begins.

Turf Club chief executive Denis Egan said yesterday: "Some of our racecourse officials have seen the plans for the racetrack at Dundalk, but the licensing committee has yet to see them.

"That will happen on October 18 and the following day members of the licensing committee will be going to Dundalk to meet with chief executive Jim Martin and his team."

Revamp for Killarney, page 11

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Brian Kavanagh HRI boss envisages 25 meetings
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Sep 28, 2005
Words:504
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