It’s all eyes on the Curragh this weekend as the famous course hosts a bumper triple-header of racing action, broadcast live to the nation on RTE. The thrills and spills get underway on Friday when coverage starts at 7pm and you can watch some of Ireland’s most promising fillies – young female horses – duel over a mile.
The main event comes on Saturday with the next chapter in the storied 150-year history of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, live from 7:15pm. And then there’s a Sunday afternoon treat to round off the weekend where you can watch Ireland’s fastest horses go head-to-head in a double-header of sprint battles from 3pm.
Race to Watch – Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1), The Curragh, Saturday, 7:15pm, live on RTE 2
The Classic races are Ireland’s most prestigious races, with five – the 2000 Guineas, 1000 Guineas, Derby, Oaks and St Leger – taking place each season.Saturday sees the third Irish Classic of the season take place, where 15 Group One horses – the premier category of Flat racing – go to post to race over one mile and four furlongs. It’s a race open to both three-year-old colts and fillies – male and female horses – with some of Ireland’s most famous trainers such as Aidan O’Brien, Jessica Harrington and Ger Lyons entering runners.
O’Brien has won this race more than any other trainer – 13 times – and it’s worth keeping an eye out for his horse Santiago, who won a race at the prestigious Royal Ascot meeting and will be ridden by three-time Derby-winning jockey Seamie Heffernan.
Horse to Watch – Make A Challenge, The Curragh, Sunday, 3:45/4:15pm, live on RTE 2
Ireland’s top speedsters take centre stage on Sunday with these horses racing over just five or six furlongs – around 1,005 or 1,206 metres – in a pair of blink-and-you’ll-miss it contests. Like the 100m sprint, these races capture the imagination and it’s Denis Hogan’s Make A Challenge who is certainly worth watching.
Hogan is one of Ireland’s top sprint trainers and while it is not yet confirmed which race Make A Challenge will run in, both the Paddy Paddy Rockingham Handicap and the Weatherbys Ireland Greenlands Stakes are set to be thrilling battles. Make A Challenge won his first race of the season at Naas and triumphed six times in 11 starts last year, marking himself out as one of Ireland’s hottest prospects.
Jockey to Watch – Shane Foley
Ireland’s Champion Flat Jockey is the prize awarded to the jockey who rides the most winners each season and Shane Foley looks certain to be in the mix this year, celebrating 17 victories since the season started at Naas on June 8.
He jumps aboard Harrington’s Gold Maze in Saturday’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, who looks a good bet to trouble the likes of Santiago after finishing second at the Curragh earlier this season Foley has already won the Irish 2000 and 1000 Guineas and is determined to add the Derby to his bulging list of achievements, so don’t bet against him doing just that on Saturday evening.