Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) is exploring options to deal with the surplus of declarations expected for Easter Monday’s Boylesports-sponsored Irish Grand National race and may introduce a six-figure consolation race for 2018.
The Irish Grand National attracts 124 initial entries which will be bumped down to 101 after the first forfeit stage; however, a maximum field of only 30 will go to post. Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of HRI has made it clear that would consider a consolation race for those who didn’t get in, if there is demand.
Kavanagh explained this initiative in reference to similar races in Britain, saying: “The Topham Chase isn’t a consolation race, but a lot of horse who don’t get into the National run in it.”
“The Steward’s Cup has a consolation race and the Ayr Gold Cup has two. We’ve never really had a handicap like that in Ireland.”
The Irish Grand National run on Easter Monday will be the most valuable jumps race ever run in Ireland and according to Kavanagh, the consolation race will have a six-figure prize fund in order to ensure a competitive field of 20 contestants.
“The first thing with the National was to get it up to a higher level and trainers have responded even better than we expected in that regard,” stated Kavanagh.
“For your top National Hunt race of the year, you don’t want to have people disappointed so we will see how it goes this year and then take stock.”
“Traditionally, when horses win at Cheltenham in March, people talk about Punchestown next. What this move with Boylesports has done is help to put the Irish National back, front and centre as the most valuable National Hunt race. Now, it is about developing it and the National meeting a bit more.”