THE prestigious new highlight of the country's horse-racing calendar, the Irish Champions Weekend, had its launch bash last night in one of Dublin's most exclusive restaurants.
Attending the event held in the two Michelin-starred Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud was racing royalty Jessica Harrington, Jim and Jackie Bolger, Johnny Murtagh, Ger Lyons and Aidan O'Brien.
The evening was hosted by former government minister and the presenter of Newstalk's Breakfast Ivan Yates.
Co-ordinated and planned by Horse Racing Ireland, the unique racing event which will run for three years and will see two of Ireland's premiere racecourses join forces for the first time to stage the highest concentration of flat racing ever seen in the country.
The meeting features ten Group races and will be held at Leopardstown on Saturday, September 13 and continue the following day at the Curragh with as many as 20,000 expected to attend.
Billed as the richest ever weekend in Irish racing it will feature the horses of famous international owners, including Britain's Queen Elizabeth.
Describing the event as the "pinnacle" of Irish horse racing, leading trainer Aidan O'Brien said: "The weekend was probably something that you thought would never happen in this part of the world but Irish horse racing has built to this in the last 30 or 40 years."
"I've been a jockey all my life and I've been around the world, so to have a champion's weekend in Ireland is a wonderful occasion," said Johnny Murtagh, who announced his retirement from race-riding in February.
"In Irish racing we have the best horses in the world and we really now have to showcase our talents, I think it's going to be the start of something great," he added.
Los Angeles-based Irish actress Victoria Smurfit will jet in especially to act as official ambassador for the weekend which has an overall prize fund of €3.7m, including a €1m race.
Advising attendees who may not be overly familiar with the world of racing, former jockey and champion trainer Jessica Harrington said: "Take the whole day in, don't just stand at the bar or stay in the restaurant but go look at everything from the horses in the parade ring to the bottom of the stands and the bookmaker's rings."