Sport Horse Racing

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Derby fails to lift loyal fans

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

you could hardly blame the Curragh executive for being a little apprehensive about how well attendances would hold up for yesterday's Irish Derby card. Notwithstanding the luckless defeat to Dublin, the Kildare footballers were flying, so many locals that might normally support both the Derby and the football team had a choice to make.

Given that there is a Derby every year, but it's not every year you get a realistic shot at beating the Dubs, Croke Park had to be an attractive proposition. Of course, there will also have been a chunk of supporters from the capital that could be written off. So it goes.

Credit then to the likes of Curragh manager Paul Hensey and his commercial director Evan Arkwright for putting on a show over the weekend that drew an accumulated crowd of just over 35,500. Yesterday's figure of 21,768 was down around 2,500 on last year, which seems about right in the circumstances.

Ultimately, the main event had no big selling point. It was the latest in a line of disappointing renewals, and having the queen's horse Carlton House in the race was hardly going to pull in the floating voter when her good self wasn't in attendance.

In these pages on Friday, Arkwright referred to there being something for everyone. There is an element of trying to be all things to all people, but, with attendance figures through the floor in general, they have to do what they can.

Something like the Good Food Ireland village, in particular, is a laudable way of utilising the facilities and the occasion. Likewise the live band after racing gave revellers a chance to strut their stuff in the evening sunshine.

That kind of thing is not everyone's cup of tea and there's a press-room full of disgruntled Irish racing hacks with a bounty on the electricity source to the stage, but needs must.

A sizeable portion of yesterday's crowd certainly appreciated it.

If you were to have a minor gripe about the whole weekend, it would be the ongoing policy of not bringing the successful Derby hero back to the enclosure. Fair enough, parade him out on the track after the race, but keeping the horse and its connections out there for the unsaddling and the presentation is a pointless exercise.

The crowd are so far removed from the action that they become completely detached from it.

Surely the parade ring, from which an endless barrage of trite interviews usually emanates at every course in the country, would be the place for that? No?

Folly of Dunlop's

early decision

You'd just wonder about the wisdom of Ed Dunlop's decision to withdraw Snow Fairy from Saturday's Pretty Polly Stakes on Friday night.

In one respect, the early call was admirable, while he can't be blamed for trying to avoid giving his mare a gruelling race on her reappearance.

On the other hand, though, Snow Fairy had already travelled over and we saw how quickly the ground dried out. Given the pace they went in the race, Snow Fairy needn't have been subjected to a punishing effort. What's more, with Midday below her best, they might have even got a result.

Ride of the weekend

Wayne Lordan on Experience at The Curragh on Saturday.

Lordan's measured handling of an increasingly smart-looking filly was yet another reminder of the polished authority that he exudes on a day-to-day basis.

On a filly that had shown plenty greenness in her first two starts and probably didn't enjoy the slow going, he rode an intelligent race to teach his mount just enough about purposeful manoeuvring at racing pace without giving her a hard race.

McNiff enjoying

Barron spell

Luke McNiff took the latest step in his transformation into a Flat apprentice at Windsor on Saturday.

McNiff rode 18 jumps winners here in three seasons, but decided to make the most of his favourable weight by joining David Barron's Yorkshire yard in January. On Saturday, he partnered Sirvino to a bloodless victory. It was his third winner since relocating, and his first for his new boss.


"For all you people who think Irish racing is easy, Derby winner Treasure Beach actually ran in a Galway nursery last yr (2nd) The Reaper 3rd!" -- Ger Lyons, the most prolific of Irish racing tweeters, advertises the proximity of one of his own to the Irish Derby winner.


13Aidan O'Brien-trained horses among the 15 first-three places in the Irish Derby over the past five years.

Irish Independent

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