Irish Derby to remain at the Curragh in 2018
Curragh board make their decision after ‘very in depth review’
Capacity at the Curragh is restricted to 6,000 for this year’s Derby due to the ongoing redevelopment work. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan
As the Curragh gears up for this Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby it has been confirmed that Ireland’s premier classic will be run at the track in 2018 as well.
The decision to stage both the Derby and the second leg of ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ in particular at the Curragh this year – despite a 6,000 attendance limit during its €70 million reconstruction – has been heavily criticised in some quarters.
Half a dozen meetings have already been held at Irish racing’s HQ this season and some negative reaction to the temporary arrangements in place provoked speculation about a possible official change of heart for 2018 in terms of the two best attended fixtures there.
However the track’s chief executive Derek McGrath has said both the Derby and the Champions Weekend fixture will go ahead at the Curragh next year.
“A very in-depth review was carried out at board level and after weighing things up it was decided that racing will go ahead in 2018, and that both the Derby and Champions Weekend will be run at the Curragh.
“The board felt from the business point of view, and from the point of view of the Curragh, and everyone interested, that it was the best decision. It was reviewed in the context of the overall project and how we are exactly where we want to be at this point,” McGrath said on Sunday.
He added that lessons from the six previous meetings run this season, including when the 2,000 Guineas card was affected by wet weather conditions, have been learned and that significant changes will be in place for the Derby festival which begins on Friday.
“The 2,000 Guineas was hard going but it would have been hard going anywhere,” he said. “We have learned lessons and there will be significant changes this time, including more cover and different car-parking arrangements. We’re aware it’s going to be a big day for the Curragh and we’re confident we’re ready,” McGrath added.
He stressed that Saturday’s Derby card is all-ticket and sold out.
Monday’s local action is at Kilbeggan where the high-class four year old Landofhopeandglory will have his second start over fences in the novice chase.
Joseph O’Brien’s runner should benefit from the experience of his Roscommon debut over the larger obstacles behind Townshend and an extra half-mile could boost his chance too.
O’Brien will also be expected to fancy his chances in the €25,000 handicap hurdle as well with the consistent Zig Zag nicely positioned at the bottom of the scale while Monarch can make it third time lucky over flights in the opener.
Mr Showtime has proved a revelation in his last two starts on quick ground and Noel Meade’s runner can bring up a hat-trick in the three mile novice hurdle.
The Roscommon bumper winner had no problem going back to the minimum trip to win his maiden over flights and that speed can prove the difference here.