Brian Kavanagh positive about addressing Irish Derby issues

Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive acknowledged need to examine ways to make Irish Derby more competitive

Australia wins a far-from-competitive  Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

Australia wins a far-from-competitive Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the Curragh.

Wed, Aug 27, 2014, 01:00

Brian Kavanagh has stressed any moves to bolster the flagging prestige of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby will have to be taken within an overall examination of the European middle-distance programme but Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive cautiously indicated yesterday that Irish concerns regarding the Curragh’s flagship Classic have met with a “not negative” reaction from other countries.

After Australia’s 1/8 rout in June’s €1.25 million Classic, Kavanagh acknowledged the need to examine ways to make the Irish Derby more competitive and HRI has formally asked the European Pattern Race Committee to undertake a review of the European middle-distance three-year-old programme.

The possibility of moving the race back a week to allow more time for potential Classic contenders to recover from running at Royal Ascot has been widely mooted, and HRI has indicated how the reduction in trip of the Prix du Jockey Club has had a serious impact on the Irish Derby’s competitiveness in the last decade with, it believes, minimal benefits to the French race in return.

Overall reaction

The European Pattern Race Committee met at Ascot last month and while Kavanagh yesterday said it was too early to describe the overall reaction to the Irish position as positive, he did describe it as “not negative” as evidenced by confirmation of a review which will see HRI’s Director of Racing Jason Morris hold meetings with his contemporaries from the British Horseracing Authority and France Galop.

“We have proposed the issue and the way it works everyone will sit down and go through the various aspects. It’s not just the Derby, it’s going across the whole middle-distance spectrum,” said Kavanagh who currently chairs the EPC.

“The fact there is further discussion indicates they clearly felt it’s worth looking into the matter. “I think there are concerns throughout Europe about middle-distance staying races so I think it is appropriate to look at that.”

Any working meetings are likely to lead towards the EPC’s annual meeting in January which is likely to be important for any possible changes that could impact on Ireland’s most valuable race which has been won by Aidan O’Brien in 11 of the last 18 years, including an unprecedented seven-in-a-row between 2006 and 2012.

That has provoked claims of an unhealthy dominance by one trainer, and a single ownership at Coolmore, but HRI has said that a lack of competition rather than O’Brien’s success is the problem.

Traditional slot

Altering the Irish Derby’s traditional slot in the overall pattern remains one option although moving the race back a week could result in a clash with Sandown’s Eclipse Stakes.

However, Kavanagh yesterday pointed to the radical alternations for Europe’s sprint programme announced earlier this month as evidence of significant changes can be made by the EPC and said: “That is the way we will approach this as well, as part of a pan-European look at the programme.

“The calendar is in place for 2015 so obviously any changes would be for 2016 and details of conditions of other races throughout Europe would need to be finalised by January. It’s fair to say we are working towards January in terms of how we can address this. But I would stress it is a review of the Irish Derby as part of the overall European middle-distance programme.”

Michael Halford can supply punters with the perfect start to this evening’s Bellewstown fixture where Shane Foley teams up with Great Dancer in the opening juvenile maiden.

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