Before trying to secure a seventh and final Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe triumph on board the aptly named Free Wind in Paris at the weekend, Frankie Dettori will hope the looming Storm Agnes doesn’t prove a costly spoilsport at Bellewstown.
Dettori is due back at the Co Meath course for Wednesday’s second renewal of the Barney Curley Cup charity event where’s he’s set to fill a ‘non-playing’ captain’s role in a two-race team contest.
As in 2022, Dettori and champion National Hunt trainer Willie Mullins skipper two teams of riders in a pair of handicap races due off at 2.35 and 4.20 respectively.
Last year’s event raised over €200,000 for the Direct Aid for Africa charity set up by Dettori’s great friend, the late Barney Curley.
With free entry to the track sponsored by the Irish National Bookmakers Association, hopes are high for a crowd of up to 5,000 people that could see last year’s charity dividend bettered.
However, the prospect of widespread weather disruption on Wednesday, particularly due to high winds, has lots of fingers being kept tightly crossed that racing gets to go ahead safely.
“At the moment a status yellow wind warning is in place for Co Meath tomorrow so we will continue to monitor the situation. We have raced with yellow wind warnings before, but we will have to wait and see,” an Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board spokesman said on Tuesday.
Up to 20mm of rainfall is forecast to fall during racing at Bellewstown but the main concern is wind.
Having memorably ridden a winner at Bellewstown in 2021, Dettori’s role is more ambassadorial on Wednesday, although he’s still sure to be a major draw in his final season before retirement at the end of the year.
“We’ll be hopeful, if the weather stays right, for up to 5,000 people. We have a deal with the bookies for free admission for everybody, so we’re hoping for donations to the charity from people coming in.
“Frankie will be there to encourage people, have photos taken and sign autographs,” said Bellewstown’s vice-chair and event organiser Alan Delany.
The star attraction enjoyed some calm before the storm playing golf at nearby Baltray on Tuesday before hopefully getting to carry out captaincy duties for a competition that sees Jamie Spencer riding in both races.
Although the worst of the winds are expected in the south and east, Wednesday’s National Hunt action in Sligo will also be monitored by officials.
Between 35-45mm of rainfall could hit Sligo on Wednesday with high winds and gusts also expected.
If Bellewstown’s action gets the green light, the charity theme will take place under the rules of racing, unlike Sunday’s controversial Corinthian contest at the Curragh.
The final race at HQ on Irish Cesarewitch day saw the Martina Dempsey ridden Fair Damsel win after Damien Moore, the rider of the 13-8 favourite Noble Anthem, sat up and took a pull inside the final furlong after looking a likely winner.
Moore subsequently apologised but the incident prompted plenty comment on social media, particularly in relation to an ‘SP’ being returned.
Sunday’s race was the second of three races in this year’s Corinthian Challenge which is restricted to relatively inexperienced amateur riders who must raise €10,000 for Irish Injured Jockeys.
An IHRB spokesman stressed on Tuesday that although officials voluntarily gave their services to help stage Sunday’s race, it was not stewarded as it didn’t fall under the rules of racing.
“IHRB officials volunteer their time to assist with running of the race but it’s not a race ran under the rules of racing so it’s completely outside their jurisdiction,” he said.
“We provide the starter, the judge, the clerk of the scales; the clerk of the course would assist too but there’s no stewards,” said the spokesman.
The third and final leg of this year’s series takes place at Leopardstown next month.
Unlike in Ireland, there is a largely positive weather outlook for Paris this week where Dettori is set for a final Arc ride on Sunday.
The 52-year-old has a record six wins in Europe’s most valuable race, although bookmakers reckon he has only an outside chance of making it seven on Free Wind who is a general 20-1 shot.
A total of 14 entries remained in the Arc on Tuesday after Jessica Harrington took out Sprewell.
Irish interest in Sunday’s €5 million race is expected to rest on Aidan O’Brien’s Continuous with the Leger winner set to be supplemented into the race on Wednesday at a cost of €120,000.
The home defence is led by the unbeaten French Derby winner Ace Impact, whose trainer Jean Claude Rouget is optimistic the colt can emulate his 2020 victor, Sottsass.
“Why shouldn’t I be optimistic? I’m coming in with a horse that’s unbeaten,” Rouget said on Tuesday.
“We know in any race anything can happen and we’re coming to the end of the season, but he gets three kilos from the older horses, which is important.
“I’m optimistic in the sense that he goes into the race unbeaten and has done everything we have asked him to so far,” he added.
Another leading French three-year-old is Feed The Flame, fourth to Ace Impact in the French Derby but a Group One winner over course and distance in July’s Grand Prix de Paris.
Veteran trainer Pascal Bary is hopeful of finally breaking his Arc duck with Feed The Flame who could renew rivalry with the German Derby winner Fantastic Moon if the latter is supplemented too.
Fantastic Moon beat Feed The Flame in the traditional Arc trial, the Prix Niel earlier this month.
Bary said: “He’s a very good horse, he has a very good temperament, and he gets the mile and a half really, really well. I think on the day of the Arc, the ground will be slightly different, and he will be more comfortable on that ground.
“Anything a bit softer than the ground he encountered in the Jockey Club, Grand Prix de Paris and Prix Niel would be appreciated.”
Connections of Fantastic Moon have been encouraged by a largely dry weather outlook for Paris this week and haven’t ruled out supplementing the colt to try and become just a fourth German winner of the Arc.