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North hopeful of resumption

Downpatrick racecourse manager Iain Duff is hopeful that the planned meeting at the track on May 18th and 19th will go ahead to become the first fixture in Ulster since the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture have issued new guidelines which has relaxed the restriction on the movement of horses within the province.

Duff said: 'It is good news and we have requested the Department for a meeting with the minister Brid Rodgers for clarification.

'Our May meeting can`t go ahead as the course meets the criteria laid down by the Department. We will hope that official approval from the Northern Ireland Executive will be forthcoming.'

The Executive earlier this month had requested that no racing take place at Down Royal on May 7th and Downpatrick on May 18th and 19th. The Down Royal date may be too close to be a starter.

The question of movement of horses across the border north and south has still to be resolved but Duff said: 'I assume that the officials from both agricultural departments will link up on this matter.'