THE big freeze has taken its toll on the Limerick Christmas Racing Festival with officials forced to abandon the St Stephen's Day card at Greenmount Park.
Racecourse officials remain hopeful, however, of being able to stage a reduced three-day Festival at Limerick Racecourse from December 27 to 29.
Following an inspection of Limerick Racecourse this Wednesday, the racing surface was found to be unraceable due to frost and the December 26 card was abandoned as a result.
The news is a major disappointment for racecourse bosses who were gearing up to host their biggest attendance of the year on St Stephen's Day.
Up to 12,000 racegoers have thronged the enclosures at Greenmount Park on the opening day of the Christmas Festival in recent years. Officials will inspect the track again on St Stephen's Day to assess prospects for the remaining three days of the Christmas Festival.
Racecourse manager, Russell Ferris admitted he was 'gutted' by the forced cancellation of their St Stephen's Day card.
Mr Ferris said the rise in temperatures which had originally been expected to begin on Christmas Eve was not now expected until St Stephen's Day.
General admission tickets already purchased for the St Stephen's Day racing are still valid for the rest of the festival.
Gates open each day at Greenmount Park at 10.30am, while the opening race on December 27 is due to get underway at 12.40pm. The scheduled start time is 12.30pm on December 28 and 12.35pm on December 29.