SENIOR racing officials were waiting anxiously on Friday evening to learn if new Covid-19 restrictions being introduced by the Government will impact the sport.

Leopardstown has already reduced its daily capacity from the normal 20,000-plus to 6,000 and even that figure may come under pressure if the Government takes NPHET’s advice to limit outdoor mass gatherings to 5,000.

Limerick Racecourse has welcomed 14,000 racegoers through its gates on St Stephen’s Day alone in recent years.

The topic is sure to have been discussed at yesterday’s Horse Racing Ireland board meeting, where budget plans for 2022 were due to be agreed.

Board members will also have been digesting comments made this week by the Minister for Agriculture about the damage done to racing’s reputation this year.

In an address to mark the presentation of the HRI Awards, Minister Charlie McConalogue said: “It is important that I take this opportunity to remind everyone in the industry that our hard earned reputation as a global leader is fragile.

“We are always just around the corner from the next crisis and we must take every proactive step to not only protect but to enhance our reputation.

“This reputation has been earned through the hard work, skill and dedication of so many in the industry.

“On a number of occasions this year, we sailed too close to the wind for my liking and we must redouble our efforts in 2022 to safeguard our reputation.”

The Minister has agreed to give HRI €70.2 million to spend in 2022 and details of how that sum will be allocated are likely to be published early next week.

Funding for integrity services, such as drug testing, inspections and the installation of close circuit cameras, is likely to rise, while there are indications that prize money levels will also be boosted.

This week the Curragh Racecourse announce an increased prize fund for the Irish 1000 and 2000 Guineas and the Tattersalls Gold Cup, made possible through the increased support of Tattersalls.

The fund for all three races has gone up by €100,000. Both Guineas will be worth €500,000 and the Gold Cup purse will be €400,000.