We are delighted with how the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival is unfolding. It is a great weekend, with three days of racing, and great support from the sponsors particularly Dubai Duty Free who have been very loyal to the Derby and love it. Every race has a sponsor and that is significant.
But the racing has been unbelievable. The Irish Derby is just a fantastic race. This is as good a race as has been for a long time. And having the second, third and fourth from the Epsom Derby in the field is just something else altogether. We really couldn’t have asked for anymore.
It is great that we are going to have owners back on the track. This has been a very tough time for owners, they have been so loyal throughout the whole of Covid. So to have them back for the three days is very, very important to us.
Then Saturday, is a trial event, where we will have 1,000 people at the Curragh. It will be great to see people back on track and to have that bit of atmosphere. We are all very excited about having members of the public back in to see the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby.
When you go racing and you see quality racing and there is no one there to appreciate it, it’s just not the same. I know the streaming figures have been very high. There are lots of people engaging in the sport through social media or various different channels and that is good.
But when you are at the track, whether as CEO of Curragh Racecourse or a trainer or journalist, when you see great horses on the track you just say to yourself, ‘Oh my God I wish there was people here to enjoy it.’ And that has been the case. That was very evident, when we put the tickets on sale for Saturday. They were sold out in ten minutes, that gives an idea of the appetite and level of the appreciation.
We are giving €10 from each ticket sold to the Peter McVerry Trust for homelessness. We just felt it was an important thing to do.
We let the tickets go at €25 which is way lower than the norm. We wanted to say to the general public, ‘Come back and have a good time.’
And we also wanted to recognise what was going on within the community. So we gave 50 tickets to frontline workers across the road from us in the Defence Forces based in the Curragh camp. They have been all over the country with ambulances, with Covid testing, doing everything that is needed to be done.
We gave tickets in the local community, we asked people to express the level of interest and that was about six times over-subscribed. People need to get out, people need to get going again. And it is just a pity that we can only have 1,000.
We will do as much as we can. It won’t be like a normal race meeting. The races are going to be as good or better than ever though.
The racecourse will be divided in two with all the industry people - owners, trainers etc - all on one side and the general public on the other side but they will have half the parade ring for the general public, as well all the area in front of the Grandstand. We will make it as good as we can do.
This is an important step towards the return of racing to a wider audience. This is a trial event. We are carrying a lot of responsibility for all the racing in Ireland. I would just like to say thank you to all the owners, what they have done, and the trainers the way they have supported us throughout. And the English trainers have been great, we are delighted to see them coming over as well.
As for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby itself, I don’t mind who wins. When I saw the entries and I saw how open the race is, that is what I was looking for most, a well-supported race of real quality. There is tons of quality in this field and it is very open. I think that is what we want.
And I just want everyone to go home on Saturday night saying that they loved their experience in the Curragh.