Kilbeggan Races to open with behind closed doors meeting

Despite the acceleration in the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, the Kilbeggan Races meeting on Monday, June 29 will still be a behind closed doors affair.

Next Monday's meeting will be the first of the 2020 season at Kilbeggan, which had originally planned to begin its programme of fixtures in April.

Confirming that the June 29 meeting would be behind closed doors, Kilbeggan Racecourse general manager Paddy Dunican said: "At the moment the racing industry is being extremely careful and cautious.

"There are very strict protocols in place for the staging of racing fixtures and, given the seriousness of Covid-19, I think that is only right."

"The regulations are being adhered to, and to the letter of the law. The racing industry is very appreciative of being able to get back racing, and we're not going to take any chances that would put anyone's health in danger," he continued.

Mr Dunican admitted that punters not being allowed to attend fixtures is "a massive financial hit" for Kilbeggan Racecourse and for other racing venues around the country.

He said everyone involved in the Westmeath track is looking forward to welcoming punters back when regulations allow.

Kilbeggan will host the Midlands National on Friday July 10 and at the moment it remains doubtful if members of the public will be able to attend that landmark fixture.

However, Paddy is optimistic that people from across the midlands will come back to Kilbeggan in big numbers when permitted to do so.

"At the end of the day people want entertainment and Covid-19 has taught us that people really value social interaction with their friends," he said.

"Talking on the phone and communicating on Zoom can only do so much. People's habits may change but I think people will still want to meet their friends at social events like the races.

"We are delighted to have nine race meetings in Kilbeggan this year. The next month will tell a lot.

"Naturally people are concerned about Covid-19 spreading again but if it remains low, we'd be hopeful about racing fixtures being open to the public later in the year," Paddy added.

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