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Flat Racing 2017

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Just noticed the Irish Lincoln is next weekend. With all the buzz around the horse racing world with Cheltenham you forget the flat season is about to begin.

The Irish Lincoln takes place at Naas this year with the Curragh being redeveloped. It's nice that some of the smaller tracks are getting a spread of the better races because if we're ever going to get people really excited about flat racing in Ireland it needs to be made more accessible. The Curragh is just too awkward to get to and dominates the pattern calendar.

Unfortunately we have the ridiculous situation that the Irish Derby and the second day of Irish Champions Weekend in particular will be run in front of a capped crowd of 6,000. Great to showcase two of Ireland's best days racing with a capped crowd and in front of a building site. Despite being branded as a weekend event, approximately 10,000 of the people who go to Leopardstown will not be able to go to the Curragh. Both races should have been moved to Leopardstown this year and I would even make the case for moving the second day of Irish Champions Weekend to Leopardstown permanently.

What is everyone looking forward to this year?

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Interesting comments.

Wont belong before the English flat season kicks off either. Although with all of the AW stuff over here it feels like its a 12 month season these days.

Not always been that keen on the flat but I do like the fact we have lots of Festivals and its not just all down to one week of racing like Cheltenham. Too much emphasis is on those 4 days for me and its hardly surprising so many horses miss the big races due to injury setbacks. Its just too much to ask these horses to be in peak form for the second week of March, year in year out, and any slight setback means they wont run.

On the flat you can campaign a horse early for Doncaster, Newmarket and Epsom or go for the second half of the season, which is my favourite at Ascot, Goodwood and York.

I'll be honest i tend not to get too involved in the Irish flat racing season and it was interesting to read your thoughts about the Curragh and the problems it has. Living here i never even thought it was a hard place to get too? Just shows how ignorant you can be from afar. I will try and take more interest this season as i will be doing the ratings for every race. I'm even getting into Dundalk this year, its funny how the same horses seem to run at Dundalk all the time.

Do you get to many meetings??

Since i have moved i am now based in the North West so places like Chester and Haydock are local. Went to the Chester Cup last year and have been to the big York Ebor Festival a few times.

Keep us informed:ok

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I love Cheltenham but it has a negative effect on the National Hunt Calendar. Just look at the Betfair Hurdle and Imperial Cup entries compared to the County Hurdle at the festival. Mullins campaigned Douvan around festival and gambled on him running to form there which backfired. He should have been running in races like the Clarence House or Tingle Creek. It's a breadth of fresh air to see Tizzard campaigning horses so boldly and if he didn't Thistlecrack would just be an exciting novice chaser not down in history as a King George winner.

I like both codes but for betting I prefer the flat because I can watch a race in a few minutes and also don't have to judge jumping and the likes. Definitely the longevity of the season is another positive unlike the jumps which has this bad mid season lull prior to Cheltenham.

I go to Leopardstown a lot because I live in Dublin and it's easy to get to for me but since I don't drive getting anywhere else is a lot harder. A lot of the Curragh meetings are on a Sunday where trains are infrequent and the bus isn't great value which is the issue. I just think the pattern races on the flat should be distributed more evenly throughout the top Irish flat courses.

Going to Naas on Sunday for the Lincoln so looking forward to that.

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Agree with your Arsenal it's a shame that they keep the Derby and second day of ICW at the Curragh this year. Though they pitched it in a way that those 6000 lucky souls who will get entry on the day, would encounter better facilities than ever before (a village of tents!) - which in itself is a good indication how out of shape the place was.

As a Curragh member for the last five years I have not renewed my membership this season because I'm pissed off with the fact that despite less race days and despite the re-development and obvious limitations to the race day experience the price stayed the same. No offer or discount offered to members - that's disappointing.

However I'm glad that the course finally gets redeveloped and hopefully once finished it'll shine brightly as it deserves. The track is beautiful, the scenery its embedded in is beautiful, every inch of the track speaks history - the Curragh is a  magical place in my mind. As shabby as it was up until recently, it certainly had its charm. It was such a raw experience, which I duly loved. 

In regards to accessibility: personally I don't see an issue. Sure, it lies outside of the city, but even if you want to get to Leopardstown it take you a while with the car or the Luas, depending on where you live. The Curragh is easily accessible through bus or train to Kildare/Kildare Village and then the free shuttle bus - I did that for two years for basically any race day and found it worked okay and was inexpensive. Though agree, it is time consuming. Thankfully now with the car it is just straight down the N7/M7. In that sense it is not much different to Fairyhouse, Punchestown or Navan - in fact those courses without a car can be incredibly tricky imo - Naas a welcome exception.

In general I don't see the case for moving the second day of Irish Champions Weekend to Leopardstown. Simply because the Irish Leger is part of this day and is a race of much history that does belong to the Curragh.

Furthermore the last two years the second day of ICW tied in with the "Curragh Thoroughbred Trail" where in the morning racegoers could go on organised tours to visit yards based around the Curragh, like Johnny Murtagh's or John Oxx for example. That is a fantastic experience to see the yards, speak to the trainers and then go racing in the afternoon - an experience you can only create at the Curragh where racecourse and yards are in close proximity. 

Having the chance to travel quite a bit and see racing in other countries and continents I can compare and have to say that in terms of race day experience Irish racecourses lack massively behind. What I've seen in Japan is probably hard to beat, but even second tier tracks in the US or middle of week race days in Germany offer often better facilities, choice of foot, complimentary racecards etc.

That says what I do enjoy mostly if it comes to Irish racing is its purity. It's about the sport and anyone can come and see it. That's what usually irritates me in Britain, at least those eleven tracks I've been to over the years, where you have all these different enclosures, separating racegoers, sometimes without even having access to the parade ring, and I feel people come more for the "event feel" and the drink - which even on the big days in Ireland, I don't experience to that extend. 

What do I look forward to? Certainly next week, very much as arsenal does. Of course I'll get my ass down to Naas for the opener. Should be a good one (can we get some sun too please?). Entries look promising. I always been slightly more fond of the flat. While I love the four day bonanza that Cheltenham is, I appreciate the flat for the fact that nearly every weekend there is a really big race to look forward to. It's more spread out and keeps the excitement going for longer and is not only geared towards one week a year. 

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I love the flat season. AW finals day on Good Friday next month is a really good days racing. And then I look forward to the early season 2 year olds who train towards Royal Ascot. May is a good month of racing with many clues to the rest of the season. The Lockinge at Newbury and Brigadier Gerard evening at Sandown are two of the best days racing that month in England.


Interesting what you say about Champions Weekend. I'd love to attend it but I didn't realise that was the case with the Curragh. Seems strange to host it there with the building work going on. 

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I still think the start of the Flat in the UK is a bit of a mess and now with the AW racing it's even more of a mess

It just slides in un-noticed with an OK weekend at Donny between Cheltenham and Aintree then goes back into hibernation for a couple of weeks until the Guineas trials in mid April

It would be great to start again, rip up the fixture list, leave the start of the Flat until after Aintree and the AW Championships.............. then kick off with Donny at the weekend then straight into the Craven and Greenham Meetings the next week.


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Group 1[edit]

Month Race Name Racecourse Distance Age/Sex
May Irish 2,000 Guineas Curragh 1m 3yo c&f
May Tattersalls Gold Cup Curragh 1m 2f 110y 4yo+
May Irish 1,000 Guineas Curragh 1m 3yo f
June Pretty Polly Stakes Curragh 1m 2f 3yo+ f
June Irish Derby Curragh 1m 4f 3yo c&f
July Irish Oaks Curragh 1m 4f 3yo f
July / Aug Phoenix Stakes Curragh 6f 2yo c&f
September Matron Stakes Leopardstown 1m 3yo+ f
September Irish Champion Stakes Leopardstown 1m 2f 3yo+
September Moyglare Stud Stakes Curragh 7f 2yo f
September Vincent O'Brien National Stakes Curragh 7f 2yo c&f
September Irish St. Leger Curragh 1m 6f 3yo+

Group 2[edit]

Month Race Name Racecourse Distance Age/Sex
May Ridgewood Pearl Stakes Curragh 1m 4yo+ f
May Mooresbridge Stakes Curragh 1m 2f 4yo+
June / July Railway Stakes Curragh 6f 2yo
June / July Curragh Cup Curragh 1m 6f 3yo+
July Kilboy Estate Stakes Curragh 1m 1f 3yo+ f
July Minstrel Stakes Curragh 7f 3yo+
August Debutante Stakes Curragh 7f 2yo f
August Futurity Stakes Curragh 7f 2yo
September Clipper Boomerang Mile Leopardstown 1m 3yo+
September Blandford Stakes Curragh 1m 2f 3yo+ f
September Flying Five Stakes Curragh 5f 3yo+
Sept / Oct Beresford Stakes Curragh 1m 2yo

To me that list just highlights the problem we have in Irish flat racing. It's too centralised around the Curragh and if they want the sport to get anywhere near jump racing it needs to be made more accessible as the Curragh just doesn't suit everyone. Naas is a good course and the south of the country has nothing so maybe Cork would be another track that deserves a Group 2.

I wouldn't use the Irish Leger as an excuse to not moving the second day to Leopardstown. In the end it's not a proper classic and is it really that historical? Maybe it's because I'm relatively new to racing but it's not exactly a race I remember too fondly with great horses or anything of the like. The fact that the attendance drops off significantly for day 2 of Irish Champions Weekend makes me think it would be sensible to have both days at Leopardstown. A lot of people come over from England and I just get the feeling that a lot don't bother with the second day but would if it was also at Leopardstown. Not only that but Leopardstown is very fair, produces the best ground and has a fantastic stiff hill that produces exciting finishes and is underused as a flat course in Ireland.

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It's a very valid point you make. The distribution of Group races is heavily geared towards the Curragh - it's HQ of racing for a reason I guess (one important factor not to forget: the majority of flat trainers are based around the Curragh). I wouldn't have an issue with some of the races to move to Leopardstown, or as you say, why not even Mallow, which is a very nice, fair track from my experience (in fairness they have two Group 3 races). 

On the other hand I wouldn't say Leopardstown is underutilised as a flat track. They have 14 flat meetings every year, racing twice on a Thursday each month in the summer, with usually compelling maidens, plenty of competitive handicaps and some fine Group 3's on offer. That's quite allot. Not to forget they have all those big jump meetings in the winter. It's a super track, no doubt. I love it. The recent upgrades are fantastic, you have a sensational view of pretty much the whole course. Irish Champions Weekend Saturday is arguably the best day of racing in the whole year. I'm 100% with you on that.

I'd also argue that if you have a high class day as the first day of the ICW is, it's very hard to match that on the second day, regardless of where you run it.  That's why I love the second day as it's done currently because it gets the real racing fan engaged - in fact it engages plenty of foreign visitors. I know for a fact foreign racing fans enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the biggest yards combined with the raceday on Sunday - The "Curragh Trail" as part of the ICW Sunday was a huge success in the last two years as it was sold out. As said, that's something where you get real racing fans engaged, which in my view, is much more important than having a few more folks at the track who only come for the "craic". 

From personal experience I can highly recommend to do the Curragh Trial/raceday double on Sunday. You get to meet the top trainers, can chat with them, see some top class thoroughbreds in their own environment - it#s really well organised as well (sounding like a Curragh PR person I guess - I don't want to, because as mentioned before, I'm actually really annoyed with how they threat members.) 

In my eyes the Curragh is the perfect racetrack - I heard plenty of trainers referring to "the fairest track in the world" - not sure about that, because sometimes over certain trips it heavily favours front-runners and the stiff uphill finish is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. But it's a wide, galloping track with very few hard-luck stories, if the jockey's don't mess up. In general it is incredibly fair.

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I used to get quite excited by that 2yo maiden on the opening turf card in Ireland .............was it The Tally Ho ?

Quite often at the beginning of each season I'd make my mind up to follow the 2yo races and that race usually threw up some decent types, even ones who would run in group races later in the year

Never lasted though .............got bogged down under the weight of hundreds of races by about May

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Here it is, the first flat meeting of the season! Sun is shining - what a surprise! Ground at Naas after a week of rain is still soft to heavy as the racecourse tweeted this morning. 

My main bet of the day is in the Irish Lincoln: Aussie Valentine at 8/1 e/w, already played this a while ago and feeling confident he's hard to keep out of the money at least. Runner-up the last two seasons, gets in off a very handy mark and loves the ground. 

The first two maidens are quite difficult imo, I let them run without the burden of my money on their shoulders in the first, but think Invincible Ryker (4/1) is sets a fair standard in the second one through his form from last season behind a subsequent Group places horse. Also he handles soft ground.

The sprint handicap might go to one of those lightly raced sorts at the top of the market. With price in mind I fancy a nibble on Dalgleish's raider Dark Defender who at least likes the ground and has a favourable draw off an okay mark. at 16's it seems worth a try. 

The Madrid Handicap is intriguing: smart 2yo form meets race fitness. I stick with potential class and do like despite top weight Bolger's Vociferous Marina (4/1) allot. At second time asking she got off the mark in a competitive Curragh maiden in softish conditions last year and did that in brilliant style. There's Oaks talks so she's clearly thought to be a smart girl. Ger Lyons's Hansian Prince looks worth a small saver at 14's.

Somehow looks hard to beat in the G3 Park Express but Aiden's rarely fit this time in year and his Dubai runners were a big disappointment I prefer the look of Weld's 3yo Queen Anne's Lace (7/1). Not easy against older horses to run this early in the year but she is better than hare bare form suggests, she travels strongly and will relish the ground. 

Good luck whatever you guys bet and enjoy the racing today! :ok

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Naas Preview - Lincoln Meeting

First two races I can't see an angle in so I'm happy just to watch. The first handicap of the year is interesting which takes place on the straight 6f course. Gymkhana is very interesting on debut for Ger Lyons. A winner in France this lightly raced type looks a sure improver and his trainer usually has them ready first time out. He's worth an interest but bet of the race is Dinkum Diamond who is first time out for Andy Slattery. He's ran well in parts off this mark and the fact he comes to a trainer who has such a good record improving horses is a big positive.

Following on from that Richard Fahey has a big chance to continue the fantastic British record in handicaps over less than a mile in Ireland. He was my original selection but I missed the price and Red Sabor looks value as one of the outsiders. He'll love the ground and the booking of Lee is another positive.

The Group 3 looks really poor and a watching brief but I like Sea Wolf in the feature Irish Lincoln. He's got two wins on the board for Lyons and has excuses for his two defeats bleeding first before finding himself on the wrong part of the track at Ascot. He'll love the ground and has a great record fresh.

Gold Spinner looks an easy pick in the last at Naas given Ger Lyons' record in such events. Should go well at a price.

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Nice to get a winner on the board with Gymkhana who traveled well and put the race to bed well. Although the facilities are very much outdated it's a very nice course with a fantastic view from the stands. The horses come up the straight really close to the stand and there was a good crowd and atmosphere to the place today. Hopefully will get back to Naas soon.

Don't know about the times or the form but those O'Brien maiden winners were hugely impressive visually.

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Nice winner with Gymkhana arsenal! :ok

Can't say I had much luck though it was all for small money and the one that really mattered as it was my big ante-post as mentioned before was Aussie Valentine. Would you believe it, he comes second again?! Tha't's what you call a brides made! The runner-up effort was good enough for me though. 

Shame the little old stand has bee teared down. My favourite place to watch racing from in Ireland I'd say. Will be interesting to see what they replace it with. The crowd was certainly very healthy, the good weather didn't hinder the cause I guess...

Some photos I took today below:


Gymkhana storms to success in the first handicap of the new season


Alphabet an impressive winner of the 3yo 6f maiden


Czabo and Graham Lee before winning the G3 Park Express


Even the little ones didn't want to miss the exciting finish to the Group 3 Park Express Stakes


Cheltenham winner Tully East stopped by to say hello


Bottom weight Gino Severini wins the Madrid Handicap


Ger Lyons's camp - winning connections of the Irish Lincoln

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13 hours ago, Trotter said:

In hindsight that Czabo was a good bet on the basis that Channon wouldn't have gone to the trouble of sending it to Ireland if it wasn't fit and ready to rock n roll ..................

Could have said the same about Fahey's runners, and they ran rubbish! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Al Wukair stormed home in the Prix Djebel today. Looks a serous horse, 3/3 now, form very strong of this and his listed success last year. Nice prep for the Guineas and Dream Ahead offspring with decent record at Newmarket - as low as 5/1 with some firms but still available with some at 8's - a serious contender? What do you guys think?

Video to the race: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cfKZOEgyJmw

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  • 4 weeks later...

Exciting: South Africa's top jockey Gavin Lerena will ride for the next three months in the UK for Charles Hills. If you follow a bit of racing in RSA you know this man has balls of steel. But most UK racing followers probably remember him from an excellent day at the Shergar Cup last year: http://www.turftalk.co.za/gavin-lerena-to-leave-for-riding-stint-in-uk/



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