| 18.5°C Dublin

So, where will everybody be on Irish Champions Weekend?


Daniel Tudhope drives G Force (centre) to victory over Gordon Lord Byron (left) with Sole Power (right) back in fourth in Saturday’s big sprint at Haydock. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

Daniel Tudhope drives G Force (centre) to victory over Gordon Lord Byron (left) with Sole Power (right) back in fourth in Saturday’s big sprint at Haydock. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire


Daniel Tudhope drives G Force (centre) to victory over Gordon Lord Byron (left) with Sole Power (right) back in fourth in Saturday’s big sprint at Haydock. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

A recent editorial in Mark Johnston's Kingsley Klarion magazine illuminated the crux of the challenge facing the inaugural Irish Champions Weekend.

John Scanlon - whose insightful contributions lend much to the popularity of the Scottish-born trainer's slightly left-field publication - described an enjoyable Curragh outing for the Irish Oaks. On his first visit for 20 years, Scanlon was complimentary of the card and the atmosphere, and backed a few winners to boot.

There was no doubt that he "thoroughly enjoyed the day," but much of the source of that pleasure was derived from the ease with which he could move around. That's the problem. Scanlon noted how "there weren't really that many people there," so he didn't have to queue to place a bet or order food.

"My colleague and I were able to buy a snack and find a table in the sun at which to eat right in the middle of the afternoon without difficulty," Scanlon observed. "There was space at the paddock to get a good view of the horses, and the car didn't have to be parked miles away."

He didn't appear put out by the dilapidated customer facilities and acknowledged the "warm Irish welcome", but he was puzzled at the dearth of attendance at a Classic. He marvelled at the contrast of "the sheer number of tourists thronging Grafton St by day and Temple Bar by night." Damningly, the parting line of his Curragh appraisal read: "So where was everyone?"

Where indeed? The promotional drive for this weekend's two-day event at Leopardstown and the Curragh has been in full flow. As is the norm, the social element has been heavily accentuated. Horse Racing Ireland presumably hasn't given up on the horse racing, but it knows like us all that even high-class Flat racing fails to capture the imagination in this country.

That is why only 9,000-odd people came to witness Sea The Stars, one of the greatest racehorses of all time, at Leopardstown in 2009. It is why John Scanlon had the freedom of the Curragh on Oaks day and it is why an aggregate tally of just 20,000 has been set as a target for year one of ICW. Even that could prove aspirational, but if the weather holds up, you never know.

Remember, an eye-popping 34,000 people swarmed Galway on Ladies Day. All of 27,500 turned up for the same Listowel promotion last year, and will doubtless do so again on Friday week.

A quixotic combination of long-standing tradition and the continued success of the Ladies' Day theme feeds such volumes, going a long way to justifying HRI's chosen marketing strategy. It may grate with purists, but attracting racegoers with any interest in racing is ultimately trumped by the need to attract racegoers - period.

Of course, with the likes of Ballydoyle's Australia, Leading Light and Tapestry spearheading proceedings in the weekend's feature events, there will be plenty for racing fans to appreciate.

It will take time for it to lure the depth of equine quality to match its international predecessors, but ICW is a worthwhile initiative that deserves support. Maybe more than that, it needs to succeed, as ongoing events across the water are a cogent reminder that deserted racecourses are a bad long-term business model, regardless of the short-term media rights wedge. So, come racing.

Cup Force is with shrewd O'Meara

Former jump jockey David O'Meara enhanced his status as a rising star of the training ranks by plundering his first Group One success with G Force in the Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday.

The Middleham-based Fermoy native has saddled 369 winners since acquiring his licence in 2010, many of which have been sourced from other people's cast-offs.

Saturday's victory was the ultimate triumph of that modus operandi, G Force having been bought at Qatar Racing's dispersal at Newmarket in October for just 25,000 guineas. He surged home under Daniel Tudhope to thwart Gordon Lord Byron's repeat bid, with Sole Power again failing to excel over six furlongs in fourth.

Shock weekend defeats for star duo

The scalps of two of Flat racing's highest-profile international names were taken at the weekend when Aussie speedball Lankan Rupee and classy German three-year-old Sea The Moon both came undone.

Lankan Rupee was chinned by the mare Angelic Light (20/1) at odds of 1/5 on its return from a five-month lay-off.

That will be a source of encouragement for Eddie Lynam ahead of Slade Power's intended clash with Lankan Rupee in November, though it was a bad result for Moonee Valley racegoers, who had been promised half-price beer if he won.

At Baden Baden yesterday, Sea The Moon was held by the unheralded four-year-old Ivanhowe. His defeat threw the Arc market into disarray, with out-of-sorts 2013 heroine Treve now 5/1 favourite.

Youngest O'Brien on the mark at Dundalk

At Dundalk yesterday, Donnacha O'Brien rode his first winner aboard his father Aidan's Quartz.

On his 17th attempt, the 16-year-old Rockwell College student emulated his three siblings on the odds-on shot. "I'm delighted he has got his first winner," his father said. "He's only 16 and had a fall at Wexford on only his third ride, and he was very lucky thank God."

Tweet of the weekend

Fozzy Stack (@fozzystack)

Why do we have racing in Dundalk on All Ireland final day? Think the fixture list compilers should all go with the Munster horse boxes. - Tommy Stack's son Fozzy expresses his frustration with traffic as he makes his way from Golden in the Premier County to the Co Louth venue. At least the trip paid off when Folk Law (8/1) won for Wayne Lordan.

Numbers Game

28,076.87 - One Boylesports customer's winnings after placing a 10c Lucky 63 and 10c each-way accumulator on Friday. All six selections won, resulting in a €4,222.94 bonus on top of the €16,891.78 Lucky 63 winnings and €6,962.15 for the each-way accumulator. Some return for €6.50.

Indo Sport