World Pool impact set to result in nine-race programme at the Curragh on Irish Derby day

Roger Varian keen to spring ‘dark horse’ Matsuri into Sunday’s €1.25m premier classic

Ryan Moore on Auguste Rodin wins last year's Irish Derby to complete the double, having taken the Epsom crown earlier that summer. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

The growing importance of Tote World Pool betting to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby will be underlined next Sunday when the Curragh stages its first nine-race programme of the modern era.

The move is designed to enhance the betting product to a worldwide audience which last year generated almost €500,000 in extra revenue to the Curragh. The World Pool is the biggest co-mingled market in global racing and is run by the Hong Kong Jockey Club.

Ireland’s premier Classic was introduced into the pool for the first time in 2023, a step that contributed to the Derby being switched to a Sunday for the first time in 14 years. Almost €29 million was reported in pool betting turnover on the Curragh card last year.

The Derby retains its Sunday date this time and the €1.25 million centrepiece of the Curragh’s Classic year will highlight a card expanded to nine races. A handicap has been transferred from Friday’s opening night Derby Festival card with its prize money doubled to €100,000.


Auguste Rodin dominated last year’s Derby, winning as a prohibitive 4/11 favourite, and completing the Epsom-Curragh double.

The absence of his stable companion City Of Troy next Sunday might knock the Curragh classic’s prestige but it could also result in a more competitive prospect for punters to get stuck into and a potentially profitable outcome for the track.

Ambiente Friendly, runner-up to the Eclipse-bound City Of Troy at Epsom, is a general 5-4 favourite to go one better at the Curragh.

He is set to try to confirm Epsom placings with Los Angeles, Aidan O’Brien’s number-one hope for a remarkable 16th Irish Derby success. Deira Mile, fourth at Epsom, is also in the mix to line up at the Curragh. The Classic picture should become clearer after Tuesday’s acceptance stage.

The potential dark horse in Sunday’s Derby reckoning may prove to be the Roger Varian-trained Matsuri. The son of Sea The Stars didn’t appear this season until the end of last month when impressively winning an ordinary race at Leicester by eight lengths.

Varian, who broke his Curragh classic duck with Eldar Eldarov in last year’s Leger, is keen to see Matsuri make a rapid transition to the highest class.

“I think he’s very talented and he seems to be thriving at home. His work is good and he has to jump out of novice company straight into classic company, but they can do that if they are good enough,” the Newmarket trainer said.

“We think he’s quite good so we’re looking forward to it. We were disappointed not to have had him ready earlier and to have gone for a proper Derby Trial and then to Epsom, but he just didn’t come to hand as soon as I would have liked.

“Maybe missing Epsom and Ascot will work in his favour though and he goes to the Curragh a fresh horse.

“He would lack a bit of experience on his main rivals and needs to defy that lack of experience by being very good but that’s what we hope he is. We do rate him quite highly.

“I think he’s versatile — fast ground or good to soft wouldn’t worry me but I’m not sure I’d want it to get too testing,” he added.

The forecast for later this week ahead is changeable with some rain expected in many parts of the country.

Wayne Lordan rode Los Angeles at Epsom and said: “We were delighted how he ran in Epsom. He ran a very creditable race. He tries hard and I think the Curragh will suit him even better. He’s a big galloping horse that gets into a good rhythm and the Curragh is a galloping track, so is ideal for him.

“Epsom is a unique track and it’s the buzz of the place as well. They learn how to balance themselves on it and the Curragh will be easier for him. The Curragh has always been a very fair track and the best horse usually wins.”

Having finally broken his Irish Derby a year ago on Auguste Rodin, Ryan Moore is set to team up with Los Angeles for the first time in the horse’s career. Lordan also rode the Camelot colt in Leopardstown’s Derby Trial while Christophe Soumillon was on board for his Group One success last year in the Criterium de Saint-Cloud.

The O’Brien team go into their home Derby on the crest of a wave with the trainer having been crowned Royal Ascot’s top handler for a 13th time after saddling six winners. O’Brien’s total Royal Ascot tally is now 91 winners.

“We feel grateful and privileged, we are just so lucky to have so many special people. The lads obviously at the top run the whole show and that’s where it comes from, but a lot of people put in a lot of hard work, day in, day out,” O’Brien said.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column