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Coral Strikes Sponsorship Deal With Ireland's Leopardstown Track

Leopardstown RacecourseCoral on Thursday announced a landmark deal to sponsor their first races in Ireland at Leopardstown on January 17.

The firm will back the entire seven-race card, which now includes the €100,000 Hurdle and the €100,000 Handicap Chase.

The move is particularly significant as Coral, who have recently obtained an Irish betting licence, are one of many firms who do not meet the new authorised betting partner (ABP) criteria in Britain, meaning they will not be able to sponsor races at many tracks once their current deals run out.

Betfair, bet365 and 32Red became the first firms to officially sign up to ABP status on Thursday.

Coral's Simon Clare denied the timing of the announcement was connected to the ABP dispute, but said racing's decision to bar certain firms from sponsorship was "deeply flawed".

"People are putting two and two together and making five and believing this is a deliberate step to make a political point," he said.

"I can assure anyone we've been in talks with leopardstown for months and planning to do this for some time - it genuinely is just an opportunity to use sponsorship as a good vehicle to promote the brand."

However, Clare did say the deal emphasised the alternative options available for sponsorship spending.

Speaking on ATR, he said: "It just demonstrates there are many different ways to spend your sponsorship and marketing pound, whether it's in horse racing in Ireland or darts and snooker in England.

"We love sponsoring British horse racing and have a great track record - the Eclipse since '76, the Welsh National since '73, the Cheltenham Festival since '74 - no other bookmaker, indeed no other sponsor in British horse racing, can point to such a long-standing patronage of racing that we can.

"So that's why the approach racing has taken in recent months is almost insulting because it's suggesting they don't value that and see it as a one-way relationship, which I certainly don't because I've worked very closely with the racecourses named to make those races a succcess.

"I think the use of sponsorship as a stick to beat bookmakers with is deeply flawed."

Coral are also offering a new €100,000 bonus to any horse that can win the Hurdle and go on to land the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival, a big-handicap hurdle double that was achieved by Xenophon in 2003.

While the ABP debate rolls on, affected bookmakers have sought other sporting avenues to promote their brand with Betway and William Hill choosing to sponsor tennis tournaments in recent months, funding the Davis Cup and Australian Open respectively.

Leopardstown chief executive Pat Keogh said: "The Hurdle is always an extremely competitive race and the bonus with the Coral Cup at Cheltenham adds a new dimension that will be very popular, while the Chase is one of our oldest races which the legendary Arkle won three times.

"We hope that this is the start of a very long relationship with Coral and thank them for their support of Leopardstown."

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