Darley Irish Oaks to have a Saturday evening start for the first time

Curragh racecourse encouraged by the overall figures for the Irish Derby

Talent remains on course to try and complete an Oaks  Classic double on Saturday week.

Talent remains on course to try and complete an Oaks Classic double on Saturday week.


For the first time the Darley Irish Oaks will have a 6.15 evening start on Saturday week but the Curragh’s Derby experience 12 days ago indicates a combination of a new off-time and good weather can take as well as give.

The 2013 Derby was run in the sort of splendid sunshine that was notably absent from 2012, yet although on-track attendances were up by almost five per cent, total television viewership figures of the premier Classic on RTÉ were down, although the peak percentage of people watching the big race was up.

“Of those watching television at that time, a higher percentage were watching us, which is good. But funnily enough the total numbers watching were down, which we’re attributing to the weather, and people staying outside on a fine Saturday evening,” the Curragh manager Paul Hensey said yesterday.

Total viewership for the Derby programme was judged at almost 130,000, down from 2012’s corresponding figure of over 175,000. However, a peak time figure of over 230,000 was up, and a 25.2 per cent peak audience share was up from last year’s 20.7 per cent.

With that near-five per cent attendance increase on-track for the Derby, and satisfaction from the big-race sponsors, the track is likely to continue with a Saturday evening date for the colts Classic in 2014 and they will be keenly examining the results from the upcoming fillies highlight which has been moved from a Sunday afternoon.

“After the success of the Derby last year, we discussed moving the Oaks to Saturday with our sponsors and Darley were keen to try it,” Hensey said. “Schedule wise, 6.15 is as late as RTÉ.

“But from a scheduling point of view we are still in a good place.”

Similar moves
Although both summer Classics are now run on a Saturday evening, Hensey isn’t predicting similar moves for the other Classics with the 2,000 Guineas still run on a Saturday afternoon, a day before the 1,000 Guineas. This year’s Leger will be run on a Sunday afternoon (September 15th).

The last four renewals of the Oaks have been won by British-based fillies and the Epsom heroine Talent remains on course to try and complete a classic double on Saturday week. Her trainer, Ralph Beckett, also has the option of running her stable companion, and the runner-up at Epsom, Secret Gesture.

Riposte, an emotional Ribblesdalde winner at Royal Ascot for Lady Cecil, widow of the late Henry Cecil, is likely to be supplemented into the race next Monday by the Juddmonte team. The Irish defence is likely to be the Tommy Stack-trained Alive Alive Oh who missed the Ribblesdale due to ground conditions, and the Pretty Polly Stakes 10 days ago due to being in season.

Aidan O’Brien’s immediate Group One focus will be on Longchamp and Newmarket this Saturday and the champion trainer’s four entries for the €600,000 Grand Prix de Paris, Battle Of Marengo, Festive Cheer, Mars and Flying The Flag, remain in contention for the Bastille weekend highlight in France after yesterday’s forfeit stage.