Monday 23 April 2018

What Derby day at the Curragh means to me

Jim Bolger celebrates Trading Leather’s victory in 2013 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with, left to right, James Manning, Jackie Bolger, jockey Kevin Manning, groom Mohammed Abid Ghaffour, Una Manning and Claire Manning. Photo: Sportsfile
Jim Bolger celebrates Trading Leather’s victory in 2013 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby with, left to right, James Manning, Jackie Bolger, jockey Kevin Manning, groom Mohammed Abid Ghaffour, Una Manning and Claire Manning. Photo: Sportsfile

Donnchadh Boyle speaks to people from across a wide spectrum of Irish life to discover their thoughts on the flat season's biggest day.

Ivan Yates  (Former TD and bookmaker now working as a broadcaster)

I'm a regular at the Curragh - I've been to all the fixtures there this year. On Derby weekend, I'd get to at least two of the three days.

I think it represents the Curragh at its best. It's high summer and the place looks great. There's a social and fashion element to it, too, where people are almost dressed up like they are going to a wedding.

It would be seen as a meeting of the French and English derby winners and I think it's the fairest track with its long straight. It's great that the upgrade plan has been given the green light and hopefully this year we'll get to see the best of the three-year- old colts.

My stand-out memories are probably from my bookmaking days in 1994. Ballanchine was a filly in the race and was what we called a 'skinner,' in that I had laid off everything else in the race. But Frankie Detorri won on her that day.

I also remember St Jovite winning in 1992 because he was so impressive and powerful looking coming home.

It's just a great occasion.

Hector ó hEochagáin (broadcaster)

I'm actually involved in bringing some of the entertainment to the Curragh for derby weekend.

Last year we had Nathan Carter on the Friday night and it brought an extra few thousand people, so we are doing that again.

Over the weekend we'll have loads of live acts and we'll have a sit-down with some of the big names from racing that will hopefully give people a little more insight.

We also hope to have a hot-air balloon show on the Saturday.

I think it's great that we're doing all this. People talk about Epsom, but this is the Irish derby, so why shouldn't we make a big deal of it?

One of my favourite winners of the derby was Sinndar. The Aga Khan colours always look majestic, don't they?

He was my favourite horse and I was lucky enough to meet him when he was standing at stud. Johnny Murtagh brought me down to Piltown and they brought him out.

Plenty of other winners stand out, too, like Desert King and Christy Roche - Trading Leather, too - and they were all great days.

Johnny Murtagh (Four time Irish Derby winning jockey now working as a trainer)

The whole weekend is brilliant. On Friday, you get families there with people in good form and kids finishing school. The Saturday used to be Pretty Polly day, with everything building up to the derby on Sunday.

I remember winning it in 2000 on Sinndar. It was a particularly big deal at the time, because he had won at Epsom and there was a $1m bonus for winning the Irish Derby too. Coming down the straight it didn't look like he'd win, but he got home nine lengths clear.

The other stand out for me was 2003. His Highness the Aga Khan sent both Alamshar and Dalakhani over to the race, which was a big boost to everyone involved in the Irish derby. I was on Alamshar and Christophe Soumillon was on Dalakhani and I won it. It felt like the whole crowd was carrying me home that day.

It was a great race because both horses won on their next runs. Dalakhani went on to win the Arc and Alamshar won the King George.

I was lucky enough to win it on Fame and Glory and Cape Blanco, too, so I have some brilliant memories.

Cyril Farrell (Former Galway All-Ireland winning hurling manager)

For me, it's one of the iconic sporting spectacles we have - like the All-Ireland finals. I have been going since the early 1980s and remember seeing Shergar win in 1981.

I have loads of other great memories from big days there. I go every year now.

One of the stand-out moments for me was the 2014 Derby, when Jim Bolger won it with Trading Leather. That was really special to see, because Jim bred it himself and brought him through.

I remember seeing him as a foal. I didn't know at the time that he was going to be a star, but it was great for them to go and win an Irish derby with one of their own.

It was a real family affair with Kevin Manning on board. You'd often hear of fellas buying a horse and winning the derby, but to be there from the very start with a horse is rare.

It was just fantastic to see and was a great highlight.

Jim Bolger (Trainer)

The Irish Derby means everything to me as far as horse racing is concerned. I'd prefer to win it to any of the other European Derbys. The atmosphere of the home crowd on the day is incredible.

The race has tradition as well and it takes place on the finest Derby course in Europe - and probably the world. It is a fair, but very demanding course. To win it is very, very special for any Irish trainer.

St Jovite was a horse I always believed in and I knew that he would come into his own at a mile-and-a-half. He was an absolute machine at that trip.

The Irish Derby had been dominated by English trainers at that stage for a number of years, so we had to do something about that - and when I got the horse, that was all that was going to happen!

Having bred Trading Leather, and with my wife Jackie and my son-in-law Kevin Manning owning him, it was the most memorable day that we have had in racing. There is absolutely no doubt about that

Tracy Piggott (RTE presenter)

I always remember the derby from 1989, because that was the first live broadcast I did for RTE and I remember being really nervous. I don't think I slept for a week before the meeting.

Old Vic won that day and I recall it because he had a huge abscess on his back that Henry Cecil had to put all these pads around the saddle.

He had won the French Derby, but they weren't sure how he'd go, but he won by four lengths.

He was the first winner that put Sadler's Wells on the map as a stallion.

I remember so many winners, but I suppose Daddy (Lester Piggott) winning on Shergar was special, because he was such a great horse.

St Jovite was another brilliant winner of the race.

This year will be good too. My sister Maureen trains with William Haggas and they have Storm The Stars, which ran third in the Epsom Derby. He ran a blinder in that race - which they weren't really expecting - and because of that they are getting automatic entry to the Irish derby.

Daddy is coming over, too, and it will be my 26th time working at the derby.

I'm looking forward to it.

Irish Independent

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