Kavanagh: Two years' Derby pain worth the gain
Horse Racing Ireland CEO Brian Kavanagh has hit back at fresh criticism that the Curragh will be turning patrons away for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby meet on Saturday.
Curragh chief Derek McGrath has warned those without a ticket not to come as, with a restricted 6,000 attendance a consequence of the track's renovation work, it is an all-ticket affair.
Trainers and punters have voiced their frustration at this, with some calling for the in-field area to be open, but Kavanagh says this was not feasible.
"The decision was taken that the Curragh would continue to host the race for the two years during its redevelopment and we have no regrets on that basis. The Classics were always run at that track, generation after generation testing the best of the breed," Kavanagh said.
"With the in-field, restrictions from a planning point of view in terms of erecting buildings, even temporarily, render this a non-runner and the Curragh flagged up well in advance this was going to happen. We had to look at the programme over a whole weekend and it is not easily transferable to other racecourses. The sprint races couldn't be run at Leopardstown.
"Games were played at Croke Park through renovation and you see connections of Cracksman and Waldgeist saying they'd run at the Curragh because it is such a fair test."
Derby hero Wings Of Eagles is one of eight possible runners for Aidan O'Brien along with Capri, Douglas Macarthur, Finn McCool, Spanish Steps, Taj Mahal, The Anvil and Venice Beach.
Cracksman and Wings Of Eagles are still in contention following the confirmation stage, Pat Smullen relishing the opportunity to partner Cracksman. He had to make do with a close-up third behind Wings Of Eagles at Epsom.
Intended jockey Frankie Dettori is sidelined by injury until at least the July meeting at Newmarket so dual Irish Derby-winning jockey Smullen comes in for the plum ride.
"It's a brilliant ride to pick up. He ran a great race at Epsom. At the end of the day Wings Of Eagles is the Derby winner and you can't take that away from him, but this is a different track on a different day and I'll be going into the race very positive," Smullen said.
Andre Fabre's French Derby runner-up Waldgeist adds considerable intrigue to what seems a top renewal and he is hopeful. "It doesn't seem that any horse is able to be the best by 3lb or 4lb," he argued.
"They all seem to be very much together so that is why I am taking my chance. I think it is a good opportunity for him."
Meanwhile, Lady Aurelia's victory in the King's Stand at Royal Ascot is the best performance produced in the race this century, according to the British Horseracing Authority. It rates her victory 3lb superior to recent King's Stand winners Choisir (2003), Miss Andretti (2007) and Scenic Blast (2009), which achieved a mark of 119.
A year after Ballydoyle's Minding was voted Cartier Horse of the Year, it is another of Aidan O'Brien's three-year-old fillies, Winter, which leads the 2017 standings after becoming the first horse in Europe to land three Group Ones this season.
Although the grey daughter of Galileo, which is out of the speedy Laddies Poker Two, might not have made the headlines or column inches that some did at Royal Ascot last week, she nevertheless completed a rare Guineas and Coronation Stakes treble on Friday thanks to a comfortable two-and-a-half-length victory over stablemates Roly Poly and Hydrangea.
The historic Ballymacoll Stud in Dunboyne was yesterday sold to Dublin-based solicitor Peter Walsh for €8.15m on behalf of an undisclosed client, believed to be an Irish owner-breeder who is to continue operating the stud.