There are 1,000 Irish Derby tickets still available

Cracksman, not Wings Of Eagles, made the early favourite for €1.5 million classic

Racing continues in front of the old stand at the Curragh, despite construction being underway. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

Racing continues in front of the old stand at the Curragh, despite construction being underway. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho

 

Cracksman is an early favourite to overturn the form of Epsom derby winner Wings Of Eagles in the Curragh’s €1.5 million Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, for which 1,000 tickets for sale on a first come - first served basis, are still available.

Despite a restricted 6,000 on-site crowd capacity at the Curragh, due to the €70 million reconstruction of Irish racing’s HQ track, officials are keen to stress tickets for flat racing’s flagship event can still be bought.

The capacity includes everyone working at the course, from caterers to stable staff, to jockeys and trainers and the decision to keep both the Derby and the second leg of ‘Irish Champions Weekend’ at the Curragh in such circumstances has proved controversial.

In contrast last year’s Derby attracted an attendance of 18,244 and that was a substantial drop from the 2015 attendance

There was also criticism of the temporary facilities in place during the Guineas festival weekend when poor weather conditions contributed to an overall attendance of just 2,500 on the opening day. There was a slightly bigger crowd of 2,800 on site on the second day.  

In contrast last year’s Derby attracted an attendance of 18,244 and that was a substantial drop from the 2015 attendance of 25,255. The decrease in 2016 was blamed on competition from the European soccer championships.

The Curragh chief executive Derek McGrath has stressed that the 6,000 limit doesn’t mean the 2017 Derby is sold out and confirmed tickets are available online.

“That may surprise some people but there are still approximately one thousand tickets for sale. We’re keen to make that point, especially to regular race-goers because in fairness they’re the people who deserve to be there,” he said on Monday.

“There are commercial arrangements, membership holders, members of the governing bodies and AIR (Association of Irish Racecourses) card holders and provision has been made for them. They’re all accounted for.

“But there are tickets available to the public and they will absolutely be for sale on a first come-first served basis,” McGrath added.

It’s a bit like a Roy Keane-Mick McCarthy situation

The decision to keep racing at the Curragh during a curtailed summer season both in 2017 and 2018 has proved controversial in regard to the impact on the public of continuing to race on what is effectively a building site.

Admission prices have nevertheless been unchanged and the same will apply to the Derby when entrance costs €30. Admission will cost €20 on the Friday and Sunday of Derby weekend.

Despite the headaches of overseeing both construction work and maintaining a racing programme, McGrath believes the likely make up of the Derby field is directly related to the decision to keep the Curragh open.

Aidan O’Brien has indicated his shock 40-1 Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles will try to complete the Derby double

“Clearly some people don’t like that we’re racing but others do. It’s a bit like a Roy Keane-Mick McCarthy situation.

“But then you see a horse like Eminent who finished fourth at Epsom and his trainer, Martyn Meade, says he may come to the Curragh because the track here gives him a fair chance. These are the things we can point to when it comes to explaining why the Derby should stay at the Curragh,” he said.

“It’s great to see the connections of horses placed in both the Epsom Derby and the French Derby talking about coming here. But we’re also very aware we’re catering for the public and how vital that is for the future of the Curragh,” McGrath added.

Aidan O’Brien has indicated his shock 40-1 Epsom hero Wings Of Eagles will try to complete the Derby double on July 1st – but it is Cracksman, a length behind in third in Saturday’s Epsom ‘Blue-Riband,’ who Paddy Power made their opening 5-2 favourite for the Curragh.

It’s 23 years since his jockey Frankie Dettori won his sole Irish Derby on Balanchine but trainer John Gosden scored in 2015 with Jack Hobbs.

It’s a dozen years since Hurricane Run finished runner up in the French Derby before winning at the Curragh and Waldgeist could be on course to try and do the same again for German owner-breeders Gestut-Ammerland.

The Andre Fabre trained Group One winner was just touched off by Brametot in Sunday’s Prix Du Jockey Club, after which the Curragh was nominated as a possible target.

On Monday, Fabre, also an Irish Derby winner with Winged Love in 1995, confirmed: “I would think the Irish Derby is a good option for Waldgeist. He took a big step forward from his first run of the year (at Chantilly).”

Eminent, fourth at Epsom, is not in the Irish Derby and could instead take on Saturday’s runner up Clffs Of Moher in the Eclipse a week later.

“He is not actually in the Curragh and I don’t think he will go for that,” Martyn Meade said. “He might go for the Eclipse and we will consider the Grand Prix de Paris (July 14th) as he is in both of them. They are later than the Irish race so it gives sufficient time to get him back to his best.”

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