The land of Ireland is known as the “home of the horse”, with some of the finest horses and horsemen in the world based here, why is it that Ireland only has Twelve Group one races on the flat? Almost half of all races in Ireland are handicaps, and as you may or may not know there isn’t many G1 handicap races around, the Melbourne Cup being the most famous one. Here is the G1 race calendar list for 2017
· 27th / 28th May: The Curragh – 2000 & 1000 Guineas, Tattersalls Gold Cup (4YO+)
· 1st / 2nd July: The Curragh – Derby, Pretty Polly (Fillies and Mares)
· 15th July: The Curragh – Oaks
· 13th August: The Curragh – Phoenix Stakes (2YO)
· 9th September: Leopardstown – Champion Stakes (3YO+), Matron Stakes (Fillies and Mares)
· 10th September: The Curragh – Moyglare Stakes (2YO), National Stakes (2YO), St Leger (3YO+)
Can you see the obvious voids that has yet to be filled? A sprint race and a 7f / 1m contest, both three-year-old and upwards to attract some top horses from Britain and Europe. Although I think something like the Flying Five on Irish Champions Weekend will be upgraded in the next couple of years, as with great prize money on offer it will attract the best of Ireland’s sprinters, and British and French raiders to push up the rating of the race. All twelve of these Group Ones are held at the Curragh and Leopardstown.
While these are the two best flat courses in the land I think some other courses deserve to hold a group one, Naas and Navan are two cracking racecourses and perhaps should hold that group one sprint race I was on about earlier on. I know that there is a G1 every other week in England from the Derby to the end of the season, with big prize money on the line and not forgetting the prestige, it is more attractive for owners to see their horse run in big prize money contests.
Another thing is that the Tattersalls Gold Cup held on Irish Guineas weekend has been in danger of being downgraded for the last few years. This has been caused by multiple factors such as lack of runners, bad ground making the rating of the winner and placed horses low and with the Coronation Cup and Prince of Wales Stakes held hot on the heels of this race it doesn’t attract the top British middle-distance horses. The decision to make the Irish St Leger a 3yo and upwards race has been a great success, with no G1 staying race from the Goodwood Cup until Arc weekend in Paris, it is the perfect time to run a high-quality stayer and the race usually attracts high class horses and a good field size. Sponsorship of races is on the increase in Irish racing, so hopefully with the help of Horse Racing Ireland and a race organizer, like Qipco for example can set up new group one flat races for the future. If you look at England, there is 36 Flat group one races. A group one Sprint race would be a great addition, along with a top three-year-old plus 7f / 1m race on Champions weekend. Now let’s see if anyone in the Irish racing scene picks up on this.
ARTICLE BY Jamie Lindsey