Irish racing's new "champions weekend" got a further boost yesterday with the promotion of the Solonaway Stakes to Group Two status which industry leaders here believe can only help increase the global impact of September's two-day extravaganza.
The total of 10 Group races to be run across Leopardstown and the Curragh on September 13th-14th will include five Group One races and a pair of Group Two's now that the one mile Solonaway has been promoted from Group Three level by the European Pattern Committee.
In another move, the race has been moved from its Curragh home to Leopardstown to back up a Saturday card that features Group One highlights, the Irish Champion Stakes and the Matron Stakes. The following day’s Curragh fixture will contain the Irish Leger, the National Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes.
"This two-day meeting will be a fantastic highlight of the Flat racing season, not just within Ireland but also in Europe and indeed globally, given the quality of races that will be staged and the provision of top-class opportunities over the full spectrum of ages and distances," Horse Racing Ireland's director of racing Jason Morris said yesterday.
Other black-type moves by the European Pattern Committee yesterday included the upgrade of Navan's Vintage Crop Stakes to Group Three status but Leopardstown's Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial, which boasts a glittering pedigree of identifying future classic winners, has been dropped to Group Three after failing to make rating parameters for four years running.
There are, however, new Listed races at Naas and Killarney, for three-year-old sprinters and for three-year-old and older fillies respectively.
Despite an 8lb hike for getting beaten on his previous start, Drive On Locky can secure the first win of his career when lining up at Fairyhouse today. It will be a 14th start for Philip Fenton's charge and he came within a head of making if 'Lucky 13' at Navan earlier in the month when rallying to run Tony Martin's Gallant Oscar to a head. Martin expressed sympathy for Fenton's future predicament on the back of that run, predicting a rating-increase that sure enough has come to pass. Davy Russell teams up with Dermot Weld for Defining Year in a maiden hurdle but a better option could be Andrew Lynch's mount, Sizing Codelco.