O'Brien taking no chances with fillies

Sun, Jul 1, 2012, 01:00

Racing:Was and Maybe have both been ruled out of this afternoon’s Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh. The Aidan O’Brien-trained pair were among the leading hopes for the Group One contest after Was claimed the Oaks at Epsom earlier in the month, with Maybe a close-up fifth.

However, despite Camelot’s win on unsuitably heavy ground in the Irish Derby last night, O’Brien has opted not to risk his fillies. His wife Annemarie tweeted: “Maybe and Was are both non runners at the Curragh today due to ground conditions.”

O’Brien still has one runner in the shape of Up, who was last seen finishing seventh in the French Oaks.

Curragh general manager Paul Hensey, meanwhile, believes the first ever Irish Derby to take place on a Saturday evening has to go down as a big success. The Dubai Duty Free-sponsored Classic, along with seven other races, were switched from their traditional Sunday afternoon slot, with the feature event concluding the card at 7.40pm.

Hensey believes the wet weather that led up to the start of racing did not help in terms of attendance, but the crowd was still up on the same meeting 12 months ago. “I think the crowd figure was 23,211, which is about 500 up on last year’s Derby meeting,” said Hensey.

“I think considering the inclement weather and everything, that has to go down as a success as there is no doubt the weather had an effect on the number of walk-ups we got on the day. It was a cold, wet morning and it didn’t really brighten up until around 2pm.

“The general feedback has been very positive and I’ve spoken to a lot of people who thought having the Derby as the last race was a very good idea. The crowd built up throughout the afternoon, which was a big help in terms of admissions, racecard sales and such like, as that side of things can sometimes get clogged up when everyone turns up at once.

“We obviously had Ronan Keating on after racing as well and that kept the crowds in and allowed them to disperse gradually, so all in all I think the concept worked well.”

The undoubted star attraction was Camelot, who was aiming for his third Classic of the season in the Irish Derby having landed the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Investec Derby at Epsom. There were doubts about his participation on Saturday morning due to the testing conditions, but he did line up and kept his unbeaten record intact, much to the delight of Hensey and the Curragh faithful.

Hensey said: “I must admit that early on I was getting quite worried as the crowds were arriving a bit slower than they have in the past. I was walking my box a bit! I think that was partly due to the weather, but also there was the doubt about whether Camelot was going to run.

“Thankfully with the social media that is available now, we were able to let people know exactly what was going on and we let everyone know as soon as Camelot arrived at the racecourse. I think that encouraged people to come racing and the atmosphere building up to the race was fantastic.”

It seems highly likely that the new Derby slot is here to stay and Hensey will give the idea his full backing. “It is something we’ll obviously have to review further down the line with our team and later on the board, but my recommendation would be that we stick to the same plan for next year,” he added.

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