LEOPARDSTOWN Racecourse has paused the sale of tickets for the Dublin Racing Festival as it waits on a decision as to whether its daily capacity can be raised from 5,000. The two-day meeting usually attracts at least 14,000 racegoers each day. Close to 5,000 tickets are already sold or accounted for.

Nphet, the Government’s public health advisors, will meet next week to consider proposals to ease Covid-19 restrictions on hospitality and other sectors. Chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said this week Nphet needed another week to be sure that the effects of the Omicron variant had not been as bad as feared.

The Dublin Racing Festival (February 5th-6th) is just three weeks away. Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival was staged behind closed doors due to staffing issues related to Covid-19 but a racecourse spokesperson told The Irish Field that scenario is unlikely to be repeated.

“This week’s Government decision that people who have received a vaccine booster no longer need to restrict their movements if they are a close contact should make a big difference,” said Leopardstown’s Vicki Donlon. “All going to plan, you would not expect there to be any staffing concerns.”

Meanwhile, only 500 tickets remain available for the Thyestes meeting at Gowran Park on Thursday week, January 27th. The Co Kilkenny track would normally expect a crowd of 9,000 on Thyestes day but this has been more than halved due to Covid-19.

Racecourse manager Eddie Scally said: “We’re operating at a reduced capacity of 4,000 racegoers, plus 200 tickets for racehorse owners, jockeys, trainers and officials. That’s less than 50% of our normal capacity and the reason for that is that we had to give up the ground floor of our grandstand for the jockeys, so they can be socially distanced.

“For the public we have the entire middle floor of the grandstand – which has a carvery and three bars – plus a large marquee. Corporate hospitality is also operating at 50% capacity and is sold out. We’re selling 100 tickets per day on average and I think they will all be gone by Monday.”

Returning to Leopardstown, there is likely to be some British involvement at the Dublin Racing Festival as Paul Nicholls plans to run Frodon, Clan Des Obeaux and Greaneteen at the meeting.

Frodon, winner of the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, and dual King George VI Chase hero Clan Des Obeaux are among 18 entries for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup, while the Tingle Creek winner Greanteen is one of three British-trained entries for the two-mile Dublin Chase.

Assistant trainer Harry Derham said: “That is the plan at the moment. Both Frodon and Greaneteen prefer a sounder surface, and racing out there the ground has looked good – so that is the plan.

“As Paul always says, you have to have the appropriate horses in the appropriate races and it is no good going over there for the sake of it. There’s no point going over there with the wrong animal.”

The Paddy Power Gold Cup, worth €250,000, has the carrot of a €150,000 bonus to the winning connections if their horse can also land the 2022 Cheltenham Gold Cup.