Curragh strikes gold with Emirates deal
The Curragh received a major boost yesterday when the Emirates Equestrian Federation (EEF) signed a five-year sponsorship deal to take over the Irish Guineas Festival in a significant move that will be welcomed by all concerned.
The inaugural Abu Dhabi Irish 2,000 Guineas will be staged at headquarters on Saturday, May 22, with the Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas being launched the following afternoon.
General manager Paul Hensey hailed the initiative as "hugely positive both for The Curragh and Irish racing" as the twin Classics and four other races are included in the package. This new partnership between the Abu Dhabi-based EEF and The Curragh is a major enhancement of an arrangement initiated in 2003 with the UAE body backing the Royal Whip Stakes at HQ and staging the first race in this country for pure-bred Arabian horses.
English-based Keroune from Bill Smith's yard landed that Arab-only contest and Irish racegoers will be treated to a repeat affair during the Guineas Festival with the launch of the latest round of the President of the UAE Cup series.
Meanwhile, classy fillies Sariska and Midday could be set for a mouthwatering rematch in the Middleton Stakes at York on May 13.
Sariska came out on top by a head when the pair locked horns for the first time in last year's Epsom Oaks and then had Midday in behind again when winning the Irish equivalent.
Midday then landed Goodwood's Nassau Stakes and signed off her campaign with glory in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Round three between the pair may not be far away.
Sariska's trainer Michael Bell said: "Her main mid-season target is the Coronation Cup and it would be nice to get a race into her before that and so the Middleton is really the only option open to us. There is also the Tattersalls Gold Cup in Ireland 10 days later, but that doesn't give us as much recovery time and you can't dance every dance. It won't be the opposition that dictates whether she runs (at York) or not -- it will be the state of the going and her well-being at the time."
Teddy Grimthorpe, racing manager to Midday's owner Khalid Abdullah, said: "Midday has wintered well. If anything she has filled out a little bit and Henry (Cecil) is very pleased with her as she looks to have done well. The Middleton is likely to be her starting point."
Also among the entry of 21 is Peter Chapple-Hyam's twice-raced dark horse Star Ruby, which only had Sariska in front of her in last year's Tattersalls Musidora Stakes but has not been seen since after suffering a setback.