HRI refuse to say what will be satisfactory crowd for Derby day

Attendance could be affected by football qualifier between Kildare and Tyrone at Newbridge

Chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh: “the investment in the Curragh is for the long term”. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland Brian Kavanagh: “the investment in the Curragh is for the long term”. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive has refused to be drawn on what a satisfactory attendance will be for Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the revamped Curragh.

Ireland’s premier classic is the €15 million climax to a three-day festival that begins on Thursday, and it will be the first Derby run after an extensive €81 million redevelopment of Irish racing’s HQ.

Restricted attendances of 6,000 people were allowed on-site during 2017 and 2018. In 2016 a reduced Derby crowd of over 18,000 was blamed on the impact of the European Football Championships. In 2015 an official Derby day attendance of over 25,000 was reported.

The new Curragh facility is designed to cater for up to 30,000, but attendances have proved a contentious issue recently.

An overall crowd of 15,495 was given for last month’s Guineas weekend, but no figures for each specific day were provided.

Horse Racing Ireland’s boss Brian Kavanagh said on Wednesday: “I’ve no real handle on a number. The important thing is that the Curragh gets supported and people enjoy themselves. It will be great to see it used for the Derby for the first time.

“I’ve said it before the investment in the Curragh is for the long term. So I don’t think you can call it a success or a failure overnight because a certain number of clicks happened on the turnstiles.”

Football qualifier

There could be a an attendance impact on Saturday from a clash with the All-Ireland senior football qualifier between Kildare and Tyrone which is due to start at 5pm in nearby Newbridge. The Derby is due off at 5.20pm.

“It’s not ideal, and it’s disappointing it is right opposite the Derby and in the same town. I suppose there was a degree of inevitability about it once Kildare went in the playoffs, won the first playoff and were then drawn at home.

“I know the Curragh were on to the GAA and the Kildare Country Board [about rescheduling or delaying the match] but as a sport’s governing body I have sympathy with the variety of considerations the GAA has.

“Part of the reason for moving the Derby off a Sunday before was that it was clashing with GAA matches. But, of course, sport is so much more mobile now,” said Kavanagh.

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