Thursday 14 December 2017

From Ascot's less dressed to Curragh's best dressed

LAST Friday my wife Ann and I took up an invitation to attend Royal Ascot. As the manager at the Curragh racecourse, I was glad of the opportunity to do a few media interviews and speak with the English trainers in advance of this weekend's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby meeting.

I also met Teddy Grimthorpe, Prince Khalid Abdullah's racing manager, who informed me that a decision would be made the following morning on whether or not Workforce, the Epsom Derby winner, would be coming over for our Derby. I left Ascot fairly optimistic that he would.

The taxi driver who took us to the track, said it would be easier to pick us up after the racing outside the Silver Ring -- Ascot's 'economy' enclosure. That was some experience.

As much style and colour as there is in the Royal Enclosure, it isn't a patch on the Silver Ring. Put it this way, if there was a fashion competition for ladies there, it would be called the 'Less Dressed Lady' competition. I suppose they had the weather for it.

Unfortunately, when the call came from Teddy Grimthorpe at 10.0 the following morning, the news wasn't what we were hoping for, as they had decided to give Workforce a bit more time. There's no cloud without a silver lining though, and Mark Johnston's people were on minutes later to say they were seriously considering supplementing Monterosso, which had won at Ascot on Friday, for the Derby.

My next job on Saturday was to catch up with Pat Webb, our track foreman. With still no rain forecast, we agreed to keep at the watering, having begun on Tuesday.

After fielding an array of calls from the Sunday papers in light of the news about Workforce, I made for the golf course. I'm a member of the Curragh Golf Club, and spent the evening partaking in a Pierce Purcell competition, which we won.

The following morning, I was up early to walk the track again. We were able to give the lads a day off from watering. It hit 25 or 26 degrees in the afternoon, but the watering that had been done up to then had paid dividends.

Later, Ann and I packed up the kids and headed for the launch of the Kildare Town Derby Festival. The committee do a wonderful job there every year. It adds a real buzz and sense of occasion to Derby week. There is a French market and a stage in the town, bunting everywhere, a cycling race -- just brilliant entertainment.

On Monday I was back at it. We resumed the watering schedule, and I was in meetings for the day. The last one, with the Civil Defence, got underway at 9.0. We went through everything; the Civil Defence personnel are a prime example of the type of people who make Derby weekend so special. There is untold toil goes on behind the scenes by various helpers, and you wouldn't even know they were here.

On Tuesday, a lot of work was done on site, tents and marquees being erected and so on. 'Good Food Ireland' have built a complete tented village for the weekend.

They put on a super spread, with producers from all around the country, so that will be a real treat. I know I'll be dropping in there at some stage to try and put back on the weight that I'm losing walking the track every day in this heat.

I met with the people from Kildare Village on Wednesday. They are sponsoring the Best Dressed Lady competition, and have really embraced it.

This year, for a bit of fun, the six finalists will be selected early so that their images can be put up on the screens around the course and on RTE. You will then be able to vote for your favourite by text, which adds a new dimension to the whole thing.

We stopped watering the straight course yesterday, though we continued to put a drop on the round course, as that is quicker in places.

It's all last minute stuff after that, but we'll be well ready in time for this evening's card. With three days of top-class racing in store and the sun set to shine, you couldn't ask for much more.

  • For more information on racing in Ireland this weekend check out

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