Sport Horse Racing

Saturday 16 December 2017

A right royal occasion at the Curragh

Since Dubai Duty Free came on board as sponsors of the Irish Derby Festival in 2008, there has been an increased emphasis on creating a carnival atmosphere. As the commercial manager here at the Curragh, that has been a massive challenge for me.

The Irish Derby is now about so much more than the race itself, and the whole of June has been unbelievably busy. My brief involves overseeing everything from dealing with sponsors, marketing and advertising to organising all the ancillary events.

And there are plenty of those. Going back to the beginning of the month, we had the official launch at the K Club. We had another function to promote the fashion and food side of the festival at the Residence Club in Dublin on Wednesday evening, and then there was a welcome dinner for the Dubai Duty Free team last night. Today we have a golf classic, and tomorrow it's the Derby Ball. Not to mention the three days of actual racing that get underway tonight!

So, it has been a hectic June. I spent most of the first part of the month out and about meeting the sponsors and other partners that are involved over the whole weekend, but the last week or so has been spent on site at the racecourse.

With so much going on here, I prefer to be in the office. Thankfully, everything has gone smoothly.

Paul Hensey, our racecourse manager, was especially pleased not to have to fret about whether or not to water the track. The rain came early in the week and it couldn't have come at a better time, with the ground pretty close to perfect now.

Of course, having the queen's horse Carlton House in Sunday's big race is a massive boost for everyone. The British royal family have never had a runner in an Irish Classic before, so it is going to be a historic occasion.

For the race's profile, Carlton House's presence is immeasurable. It should make the Derby and it will help us to generate a lot of publicity both before and after the event.

It can also do no harm in our battle for spectators with the Leinster football semi-final between Kildare and Dublin.

With Kildare going well, the interest is strong in the county for that right now, so why the GAA in all their wisdom, scheduled the game to clash with the Irish Derby is a mystery.

The Derby is tied to this weekend as part of an international pattern, which doesn't give us the room to manoeuvre that the GAA would have. Still, we'll meet the test, and we have put in place extra screens so that race-goers can watch the game.

We have also scheduled the main event to start at 3.50, so it will be over before the ball is thrown in at Croke Park. Once people know that they can watch uninterrupted coverage of the match here, hopefully they won't be put off coming.

As well as the Derby, tomorrow's feature, the Pretty Polly Stakes, promises to be a brilliant spectacle.

Midday and Snow Fairy travel from England, while our 1,000 Guineas winner Misty For Me is in action too.

We could hardly have dreamt of a better line-up for Stobart Ireland's inaugural association with the race.

Apart from an excellent weekend of racing, I think we have got to the point now where there is something for everyone here over the course of the three days. The Good Food Ireland village has become synonymous with the Festival, and then there is the music, entertainment and fashion as well.

It takes a lot of organising, but I thrive on the mayhem. I've been at the Curragh for nine years, and our small team works well together to make this weekend a success.

When Monday comes it will all be done and dusted for another year. The phones will go quiet and there'll be a bit of an empty feeling around the place. All being well, though, we'll be able to sit back and reflect on what promises to be a special occasion.

For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

Irish Independent

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