Monday 18 December 2017

Curragh ready to be hosts with the most

Irishcorrespondent will carry Mick Halford’s hopes in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday. Pic: racingpost.com
Irishcorrespondent will carry Mick Halford’s hopes in the Irish 2,000 Guineas at the Curragh on Saturday. Pic: racingpost.com

The Curragh has only raced twice so far this season but has probably earned the usual amount of coverage due to the fact that racing continues at the track in the shadow of the course's impressive redevelopment project.

Some people have suggested that the Curragh races would be better suited elsewhere but the track at HQ has so often been described as the fairest in the world and thus Classic action will return there as normal this weekend, with the Tatersalls Guineas and Gold Cup.

Curragh CEO Derek McGrath, is confident that racegoers will enjoy every bit of the experience.

"I think the first thing to note is the exceptional entries we have for our racing this weekend," McGrath told The Herald yesterday.

"We have both the winner of the 2,000 Guineas and the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket on course to run at the weekend and some interesting horses in opposition. And the feedback we got from the jockeys and trainers following our first meeting was that the track has never been better as it hadn't been used since last year, so, from that point of view, I think we'll be seeing the best horses win here again at the weekend."

Two seasons of racing, albeit with a condensed calendar, and a major building operation ongoing in the background were always going to pose challengers but McGrath is looking forward to welcoming a bigger crowd this weekend than what was in attendance a fortnight ago and admits that tweaks have been made to enhance the experience for racegoers.

He said: "We did have some wrinkles from our first weekend but we've had time to review those and improve certain areas, mainly in parking and traffic management, and I think we are getting to where we want to be to provide really good facilities."

He added: "Our feedback from the first weekend was that people certainly didn't expect the quality that was on offer (in the temporary facilities) and this weekend we are hoping that people will come, have a look at the Curragh, have a look at the changes and see some great racing."

A glance at the Curragh entries for the weekend could suggest a Ballydoyle domination at HQ, afterall, one betting firm is offering just 20/1 that O'Brien manages a clean sweep of the five Irish and English Classics and he's already two down with eight to go, and while seeing O'Brien claim all three Group One races wouldn't be a surprise, there certainly is some depth to the entries that suggests he won't have it all his own way.

Mick Halford, who grew up not far from the Curragh, has two real live contenders for both Classics and Godolphin's trainer Saeed bin Suroor sends over his first runner for the Irish 2,000 Guineas since winning the race with Dubawi in 2005, so that must be respected.

Halford commented: "Irishcorrespondent won his maiden well and it's always a good sign if our horses are able to win first time out. He showed a lot of class and we are looking forward to the Curragh with him and Rehana will go for the 1,000 Guineas and appears to have come out of her run well."

Roger Charlton caused a bit of an upset with Al Kazeem in the 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup, overturning Camelot, and two years later he won the race again with the same horse and this Sunday Charlton will be hoping to cause another surprise when Decorated Knight travels over to take on seven-time Group One winner Minding.

Meanwhile, in the absence of Churchill from the Derby next month, all eyes were on Cracksman yesterday as he took in a gallop at Epsom's 'Breakfast With The Stars'.

Trainer John Gosden deemed himself pleased with the colt who was forced to miss last week's Dante Stakes owing to the soft ground.

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