Irish racing official plays down drama with sponsor of €1.1m race
Sheikh Fahad Al Thani describes decision to move race as ‘very unfortunate’
Frankie Dettori riding Golden Horn celebrates winning the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown racecourse on Saturday. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty
Irish racing’s top official said the sponsor of Saturday’s QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes was informed two days beforehand of the decision to move forward the “Champions Weekend” feature, in an attempt to ensure fresh going for the €1.1 million race.
Leading owner Sheikh Fahad Al Thani of Qatar has been quoted in media reports as describing Thursday’s surprise move as “very unfortunate”. The decision to move race, ultimately won in dramatic style by Golden Horn, angered the Doncaster executive and the St Leger sponsors, Ladbrokes, because it prevented Golden Horn’s jockey, Frankie Dettori, from riding in the English classic before flying to Leopardstown.
The sheikh’s racing manager was also quoted as saying the QIPCO team weren’t consulted about the move, which was described as creating “logistical problems” for the race sponsors.
“It would have been nice to have had more of an idea of what was going on, but the Irish must do what’s best for them – and that isn’t necessarily always what is best for Ladbrokes, Doncaster or us,” said David Redvers.
Mr Fahad is a major owner as well as a sponsor, but Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh moved to play down any suggestion of an issue with him.
“QIPCO, Leopardstown and HRI are all on the same page. We are hugely grateful for the sheikh’s sponsorship and dedication. He travelled to Ireland twice in 24 hours from Doncaster, once to speak at a breeder’s seminar on Friday and then again on Saturday,” he said.
“Pat Keogh [Leopardstown chief executive] was faced with a forecast saying there could potentially be three inches of rain. So everyone worked to try to get the best possible ground for the Champion Stakes by bringing the race forward. That sort of flexibility is not unusual in Ireland,” Kavanagh said.