Moving Derby to Leopardstown in 2018 should be option, says Oxx
Trainer says it is a shame Derby and ‘Champions Weekend’ will run on ‘building site’
John Oxx: “People might put up with temporary arrangements on those two big days for one year; repeating it could be a bit much.” Photograph: INPHO/Lorraine O’Sullivan
Legendary Curragh trainer John Oxx has said the option of running both next year’s Irish Derby and the second leg of “Irish champions weekend” at Leopardstown should not be ruled out.
The decision to keep the Derby and the “Champions Weekend” cards at the Curragh despite building work at Irish racing’s HQ resulting in a reduced 6,000 crowd capacity for the next two seasons has been criticised.
One reason given for that decision is the inability of any other track in Ireland to exactly replicate the programmes on both days, and Horse Racing Ireland’s chief executive, Brian Kavanagh has described the situation as “short-term pain for long-term gain”.
However, the hugely respected Oxx, trainer of the 2009 world champion Sea The Stars, is the latest major industry figure to question the decision.
“I can’t quite believe we’re going to have our two big days run on a building site in front of a small crowd. I think that’s a shame. They have come up with various reasons and maybe there is some validity to them in relation to the difficulty of having different races at different tracks.
Divide the fixtures
Oxx says his own preference was for the Curragh to be closed during its €65 million two-year redevelopment, in the process providing for drainage work to be carried out on the straight-mile track.
“There are arguments on both sides, and I know the Curragh were afraid of losing €1 million in revenue if they weren’t racing over two season. That’s a serious consideration.
“It’s a done deal for 2017. But the argument could be made to look again at the Derby and Champions Weekend in relation to 2018. People might put up with temporary arrangements on those two big days for one year; repeating it could be a bit much.
Change their minds
The 2018 fixture list will not be finalised until September, although Brian Kavanagh has already said he anticipates both the Derby and Champions Weekend will be run at the Curragh next year too.
Jim Bolger and Ger Lyons are two other trainers who have expressed their surprise at how Irish flat racing’s two international “shop window” fixtures will be run at the Curragh where this year temporary facilities, including a 1,500-capacity temporary stand and a temporary weighroom, will be utilised.