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Johnny Ward: Get ready for two stellar days of action at the Curragh

By Johnny Ward
Thu 22 Sep 2022

The Curragh is, by a stretch, Ireland's most modern racetrack and some of the conversations about the new design and atmosphere are oblivious to the changing era.

There is an argument, oft-heard, that the bookmakers were better off between the stand and the finishing line and that the track has suffered. Their umbrellas ruined the view of racegoers and the bottom line is that the betting ring is a shadow of what it was – not only at the Curragh but everywhere else.

I'm a journalist and I'd love to edit a Sunday sports newspaper, but people will tell you that's like trying to sell VHS these days. The internet has changed everything, whether we like it or not.

The Beresford Stakes, which has been won by Aidan O'Brien 21 times, takes centre stage at the Curragh on Saturday, live on Racing TV

Getting the masses to go racing is far from straightforward. I've argued time and time again that the Curragh needs to get its railway halt back; it finds itself on the railway lines that serve Galway, Cork, Kerry, Dublin and Waterford, so the potential is enormous.

But then we live in Ireland, where everything takes forever or simply never happens plus costs an obscene amount of money, if it does. So most people drive to the Curragh and I imagine CEO Brian Kavanagh is still working hard at getting the locals back.

Ireland's Flat headquarters was great fun on Derby day this summer; punters have been enticed back by excellent-value offers since. Its main sales point continues to be the quality of athlete running and Saturday is another high-class offering.

The bar facilities, view from the stands and sheer history of the place means the Curragh is still, in my view, a racecourse apart. Moreover, it is exceptionally fair – nothing like Epsom, which is utterly zany and even a truer test of man and beast than Leopardstown, for example.

Almost out of nowhere, we have the richest race in Europe for juveniles on Saturday. Obviously, you would like to see the small guy scoop the pot here – and it may even happen in the Goffs Million (3.20).

No fewer than 19 two-year-olds will line up in the race, including 11 representing British-based trainers! Prize-money issues are not going away, so the raiders have a lust for riches.


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Galeron (Charlie Hills), Oviedo (Edward Bethell), He’s A Monster (Archie Watson), Killybegs Warrior (Mark and Charlie Johnston), Ramazan (Richard Fahey), Wahaaj (Patrick Owens), New Endeavour (Roger Varian), Frequent Flyer (Andrew Balding) and Magical Sunset (Richard Hannon) add intrigue.

Bossy Parker (John Murtagh), Hellsing (Ger Lyons), Queen of Ours (Willie McCreery) and Hiawatha (Aidan O’Brien) are among the home-trained team – and history is kind regarding the chance of Hiawatha.

He's only a full brother to Arc favourite Luxembourg, who hacked up in the Beresford on this card last year. That ever-informative Group 2 (1.35) is interesting in that, like the Goffs Million, Galileo is not represented.

It's a sign that time catches up with us all. Adelaide River represents Australia, who is doing OK as a stallion but will never be quite as good as Galileo. Crypto Force was sold for £900,000 on the strength of his maiden win at this course and his new owners will likely be hoping for better than he showed when well-beaten at Royal Ascot – so there is a little pressure on this performance.

Crypto Force's trainer, Michael O'Callaghan, has only two runners on the card. His recent form is sensational, with his past six runners yielding three winners, none shorter than 7-2.

Betting partner of the weekend, William Hill, will sponsor eight races over Saturday and Sunday at the Curragh, reflecting the firm's renewed interest in sponsorship here. William Hill has gotten heavily involved with the Dundalk winter series, too.

The landscape is changing in Ireland and Aidan O'Brien's dominance is being challenged by his son Joseph, Ger Lyons and others. Lyons has a smart prospect in New Image, who is by Frankel, in the first, and Ballydoyle's Hispanic is by No Nay Never, who is having a sensational run with juveniles.

Then you've the Joe McGrath Handicap (3.55), a race with a lot of history in a place that has seen horses for hundreds if not thousands of years. It's superb stuff from gate to wire and the Taste Of Kildare extravaganza means you have access to pretty much the best cuisine in the world if you back a winner or two.

If you don't enjoy days like this, you're in the wrong game.

Racing TV is THE place to watch all the best racing live from both Britain and Ireland and you can try it for yourself for FREE with a 31 day trial!

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