First all-weather season for Ireland
An all-weather season will take place for the first time on these shores after Horse Racing Ireland approved a move to give Dundalk 14 new fixtures this winter.
Racing will take place at Dundalk Stadium every Friday evening from September 23 this year and March 30 next year, except December 30.
There will be one extra date added this year, on December 23, with 13 new meetings introduced in the first three months of 2012.
These fixtures will be in addition to Dundalk's existing annual allocation of 23 race meetings and the costs will be financed by contributions from SIS, the broadcast rights holder for live Irish racing to betting shops, and Dundalk racecourse.
The new Dundalk Friday evening winter horse racing series will provide 100 extra races - a rise of approximately 10 per cent - for the flat horse population, generating additional opportunities for owners, jockeys and trainers.
There will be an estimated €900,000 in extra prize money at the 14 fixtures, with Dundalk's normal prize money levels and the €7,000 minimum value per race maintained
The extra fixtures mean betting shops will be able to open in Ireland throughout the winter on the most popular betting evening of the week.
It is intended that these fixtures will be run for a three year trial period at which point the situation will be reviewed.
As a result of the expansion of Dundalk's winter programme, separate summer and winter flat seasons and championships will now be created.
This year the main summer flat season runs from the Curragh's opening meeting on March 20 to the Leopardstown meeting on November 6.
A separate winter season will then apply for the all-weather meetings staged at Dundalk.
"HRI is pleased now to be in the position that we can introduce a series of additional Friday evening fixtures at Dundalk Stadium, meaning that there will be a consistent weekly product to showcase throughout next winter," said HRI CEO Brian Kavanagh.
"This is good news for the flat racing industry and good news for the betting industry, with additional employment and earning opportunities created in both these sectors.
"The priority of the HRI Board was to ensure that minimum prize money levels were retained and I am grateful to Dundalk and SIS for making that happen."
HRI Director of Racing Jason Morris added: "We are announcing the new expanded Dundalk winter series at this stage, in advance of publishing the full 2012 fixture list, in order to alert owners and trainers to the significant additional opportunities and prize money that will be available for flat horses this winter.
"We will develop and publish the full programme of races for the five months from November 2011 to March 2012 before the end of June."
Dundalk Stadium Chief Executive Jim Martin commented: "We welcome the introduction of the winter series at Dundalk Stadium which will provide additional opportunities for employment in the racing and betting industries as well as in the Dundalk area.
"We believe that this new series will be well supported by trainers in Ireland and Britain."
SIS MD Phil Siers stated: "SIS is delighted at this extension to the fixture list offering our bookmaker customers greater continuity and a cohesive winter programme through the provision of better all weather coverage on these busy Fridays."
He continued: "This will give Irish betting shops an additional 14 days of winter evening opening.
"SIS is delighted to be working with HRI, Dundalk and the IBA to deliver an improved programme which is sure to benefit all of the constituent parts."