Irish Derby Festival: Race List & Meeting Info

Horses

There is some cracking racing action in store again this weekend on both sides of the Irish Sea. The pick of the bunch – at least in terms of the class of runner taking part – comes with the latest running of the Irish Derby at The Curragh. The ground at the track is currently described as good, but with heavy rain forecast in the area on both Thursday and Friday, soft ground looks to be a very real possibility. Should that turn out to be the case, it may well have a significant impact on the result.

 

Day One Races - Friday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden   7f €10,472 2YO only
Kildare Brewing Company At The Silken Thomas' Irish Ebf Maiden   1m €9,856 3YO plus
JOE.ie Handicap   6f €12,320 3YO plus
Her.ie Apprentice Derby   1m 4f €12,915 3YO plus
Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Ragusa' Handicap   1m 4f €29,500 3YO plus
Paddy Power Onside App Handicap   1m 2f €15,990 3YO only
Sportsjoe Irish Ebf Maiden   1m 2f €9,856 3YO plus

Irish Stallion Farms EBF Fillies Maiden

7f

Run in association with the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund, the opening day of the Irish Derby Festival is for maiden fillies. Open to female horses aged two, it’s run over seven furlongs and on ground that is Good to Soft will take about a minute and a half to be completed. The prize fund is over €10,000 for the winning horse.

Kildare Brewing Company At The Silken Thomas' Irish Ebf Maiden

1m

The sister race to the Festival’s opening one (or should that be brother race?) is also run in association with the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund but is limited to colts and geldings. It’s run over the one furlong with a similar prize, around €10,000, on offer for the winner, with competing horses being three-years-old.

JOE.ie Handicap

6f

The Joe.IE Handicap is run over six furlongs and is intended for horses aged three years old and over. The prize comes in at over €12,000 and consists of around 13 runners with the winning time normally around one minute and twelve seconds.

Her.ie Apprentice Derby

1m 4f

This one is for apprentice jockeys and takes place over one mile and four furlongs. It’s open to horses aged three and over, lasting for more than two and a half minutes when the ground is Good to Soft. The horses are competing over prize money for the winner that sits at the €20,000 mark.

Irish Stallion Farms EBF 'Ragusa' Handicap

1m 4f

The opening day of the Irish Derby Festival is essentially given over to the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund, with this race also boasting the association. It’s one mile and four furlongs in length, with competing horses being five and over. When the Going is Good to Soft the race will last for about two and a half minutes.

Paddy Power Onside App Handicap

1m 2f

Formerly known as the Under Starters’ Orders Handicap, this handicap is for horses aged three and over and takes place over one mile and two furlongs. When the Going is Good you can expect the leaders to hit the finish line after about two minutes and ten seconds as they chase the €25,000 prize.

Sportsjoe Irish Ebf Maiden

1m 2f

The opening day of the Festival comes to a close with this maiden race for horses aged three and over. It is run in association with the European Breeders Fund and takes place over one mile and two furlongs. That means that when the Going is Good to Soft you can expect the race to last for about two minutes and ten seconds, give or take.

 

Day Two Races - Saturday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Irish EBF Maiden   6f €12,320 2YO only
Tote Rockingham Handicap   5f €59,000 3YO plus
Dubai Duty Free Jumeirah Creekside Dash Stakes Listed 6f €29,500 3YO plus
Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Celebration Stakes Listed 1m €29,500 3YO plus
Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Summer Fillies Handicap Class 1 7f €29,500 3YO plus
GAIN Railway Stakes Group 2 6f €67,850 2YO only
Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Group 1 1m 4f €855,000 3YO only
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Irish EBF Handicap Class 1 2m €18,450 4YO plus

Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Irish EBF Maiden

6f 

The Finest Surprise Irish EBF Maiden is again sponsored by Dubia Duty Free. It is for horses aged two and over, who are asked to run six furlongs in pursuit of the €12,000 prize that the winner takes home. If the ground is Good then you can expect to watch the horses cross the finish line after about a minute and forteen seconds.

Tote Rockingham Handicap

5f

The next race of the opening day of the Festival is run over five furlongs and open to horses aged three and over. The prize money on offer for the winner is an impressive €59,000, with the race lasting for about a minute when the Going is Good to Soft. The handicapper assigns the horses with weight according to ability.

Dubai Duty Free Jumeirah Creekside Dash Stakes

Listed, 6f

A Listed race that is open to horses aged three and over, this race is run over six furlongs and lasts for about a minute and ten seconds when the Going is Good. Another race that is sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, the prize money for the winning horse sits in the region of €30,000.

Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire Celebration Stakes

Listed, 1m

All of the races on the final day of the Irish Derby Festival are sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, with the Millennium Millionaire Handicap being no exception. Run over one-mile and open to horses aged three and over, the race boasts a winning prize of €30,000. It lasts for about a minute and ten seconds on Good ground.

Dubai Duty Free Full Of Surprises Summer Fillies Handicap

Class 1, 7f

Currently sponsored by Dubia Duty Free, the Summer Fillies Handicap is, as the name suggests, limited to female horses. They can be aged three or over, running the seven furlong race in a little over a minute and twenty seconds when the Going is Good. The prize money on offer to the winner is in the region of €30,000.

GAIN Railway Stakes

Group 2, 6f

First run in 1851, the Railway Stakes is open to horses aged two. It's run on the straight over six furlongs and the weight is nine stone three pounds, with fillies given a three pound allowance. In 1946 it was named the Railway Plate, reverting back to its current title ten years later. It received Group 3 status during the 1970s and then promoted to Group 2 in 2003.

Christy Roche won the race seven times between 1973 and 1993, making him the most successful jockey of the modern era. It's also another race that Vincent O'Brien has his name at the top of the leader board for as a trainer, seeing horses he'd worked with win the race fourteen times between 1962 and 1991.

Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby

Group 1, 1m 4f

The Festival itself offers plenty of thrills and spills throughout the three days, but the main event is unquestionably the Irish Derby. A Group 1 flat race for thoroughbred colts and fillies, it takes place over one mile and four furlongs. The weight for the race is nine stone, with fillies given a three pound allowance.

The O'Darby Stakes was run for the first time in 1817 but was discontinued seven years later. This is widely considered to be the forerunner to the Derby we know today. It was followed up by a race called the Curragh Derby, which was inaugurated in 1848 but didn't last long before it too was discontinued.

It wasn't until the Third Earl of Howth, the Third Marquess of Drogheda and the Third Earl of Charlemont got together and decided to create a new event for Irish racing that the Derby that modern derby came into being. It was run for the first time in 1866 and was contested over one mile, six furlongs and three yards.

The race has been changed and altered numerous times over the years, including in 1869 when another nine yards were added and then again in 1872 when it was cut to its current distance. The race truly began to gain attention and respect from the rest of the industry when Orby won it in 1907, having previously won the Derby at Epsom.

The race garnered even more attention in 1962, which was when Joe McGrath, the founder of the Irish Hospitals' Sweepstake, decided to combine the sweepstake with the prize money for the race. This mean that the prize fund on offer increased substantially, gaining international recognition. It became known as the Irish Sweeps Derb and horses were entered into it from all over the world.

Despite Orby's victory in both races in 1907, it took until the increase in prize money and the new-found international appeal of the race for another horse to win both in the same season. The unseasonably named Santa Claus took that honour in 1964. Unsurprisingly, the race has had numerous sponsors over the years, with Dubai Duty Free taking over the honour in 2008.

Between the race's first outing in 1866 and the one hundred and fiftieth outing of it 2016, eighteen horses managed to complete the English-Irish Derby double. The leading jockey in the race is Morny Wing, whose six wins between 1921 and 1946 have yet to be beaten. That pales in comparison to Aidan O'Brien's thirteen wins as trainer from 1997 to 2019.

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships Irish EBF Handicap

Class 1, 2m

A Class 1 race that is open to horses aged four and over, the day’s last race is run over 2 miles and lasts for about a minute and ten seconds when the Going is Good. Another race that is sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, the prize money for the winning horse sits in the region of €18,000.

 

Day Three Races - Sunday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Barronstown Stud Irish EBF (C & G) Maiden   7f €12,320 2YO only
Westgrove Hotel Handicap   7f €12,320 3YO plus
Grangecon Stud Stakes Group 3 6f €38,350 2YO only
Finlay Volvo International Stakes Group 3 1m 2f €38,350 3YO plus
Lyndsey & Eleanor Comer Trust Handicap Class 1 1m €29,500 3YO plus
Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes Group 1 1m 2f €147,500 3YO plus
Comer Group International Curragh Cup Group 2 1m 6f €70,800 3YO plus
Troytown Grey Abbey Equine Hospital Handicap Class 1 1m 2f €15,990 4YO plus

Barronstown Stud Irish EBF (C & G) Maiden

7f

Day Three of the Irish Derby Festival gets underway with this maiden race, run in association with Barronstown Stud and the Irish European Breeders Fund. It’s run over seven furlongs, with the two-year-old horses that are allowed to compete in it usually taking about a minute and fifteen seconds to complete the race when the Going is Good.

Westgrove Hotel Handicap

7f

The Westgrove Hotel Handicap is run over 7 furlongs with a prize pot of approximately €12,000. The winning time is normally in the region of one minute and twenty four seconds with around 13 runners participating in the race.

Grangecon Stud Stakes

Group 3, 6f

Officially known as the Balanchine Stakes but currently run as the Airlie Stud Stakes or the Grangecon Stud Stakes because of sponsorship, the race is one of the youngest of the weekend having been inaugurated in 2005. It's run on the straight over six furlongs and is for two-year-old fillies with a weight of nine stone, though Group winners take a three pound penalty.

Balanchine, who the race is named after, was a filly who won numerous races including The Irish Derby in 1994. This was a Listed offering until it made Group 3 status in 2011, then in 2019 the European Pattern Committee launched a review and promoted this race along with two others to Group 2.

Known as the Saoire Stakes for a time, it went back to being the Balanchine Stakes officially in 2009. Two years before that it had its distance cut to six furlongs, having been contested over seven furlongs during its first two outings. Ryan Moore is the race's most successful jockey and who else but Aidan O'Brien could take the title of most successful trainer, with four wins and six wins respectively.

Finlay Volvo International Stakes

Group 3, 1m 2f

A Group 3 race open to horses aged three and over, the International Stakes is run over one mile and two furlongs. The following weight information applies:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 12 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 8 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 1 and Group 2 race winners get a penalty of 5 pounds
  • Group 3 race winners get a penalty of 3 pounds

Held at Phoenix Park when it was first run, it used to bear the moniker of the Whitehall Stakes and was run over one mile and one furlong. It was a Group 2 race and cut to one mile in length in 1986 before getting transferred to Curragh five years later.

The race's distance has been played with other the years, and it 2003 it was restricted to three-year-olds before being downgraded to a Group 3 event the year after. Older horses began to be allowed to re-enter the race from 2006 and it got its current length in 2010.

Famous Name is the horse that has won the race more often than any other, doing so three times between 2009 and 2012. George McGrath takes the title of most successful jockey thanks to his six wins, whilst Vincent O'Brien won the race as a trainer eleven times between 1959 and 1988.

Lyndsey & Eleanor Comer Trust Handicap

Class 1, 1m

This handicap race was run as a memorial event for Eleanor and Lyndsey Comer when it took place in 2019. Open to horses aged three and over that boast a rating of between 60 and 90, it is run over one mile. Because it’s a handicap race, the handicapper assigns weight for each horse to carry depending on its ability.

Juddmonte Pretty Polly Stakes

Group 1, 1m 2f

The Pretty Polly Stakes was part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge between 2009 and 2012, with winning horses gaining automatic entry into the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. The fact that the race is no longer part of that doesn't make it any less prestigious. It's for fillies and mares aged three and over, with the following weight information at play:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 12 pounds
  • Horses aged 4 and over: 9 stone 8 pounds

It was originally only for horses aged three, but it was opened to older horses at a later date and has remained so ever since. It was a Group 2 offering until it was promoted to Group 1 in 2004. Dance Design and Alexander Goldrun both won the race twice, whilst six different jockeys have been on the back of the winning horses in this event three times. They are:

  • Liam Ward
  • Bill Williamson
  • Johnny Roe
  • Lester Piggott
  • Christy Roche
  • Michael Kinane

When it comes to the most successful trainer, what surname would you expect to see but O'Brien? This time it's Vincent who takes the honour, notching up seven wins between 1959 and 1988. The race, of course, was named in honour of a successful filly that had been foaled in Ireland in 1901.

Comer Group International Curragh Cup

Group 2, 1m 6f

A race named in honour of the course that it's run on will always boast a degree of prestige, so it's no surprise that the Curragh Cup is on our list. Inaugurated in 1987, it is a race for horses aged three and up and is run right-handed over one mile and six furlongs. Here's the weight information:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 11 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 11 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get an allowance of 3 pounds
  • Group 1 race winners get a penalty of 3 pounds

Classed as a Listed offering until 1994 when it was moved to Group 3, it was promoted once more to Group 2 in 2016. Vintage Crop, Mkuzi and Earnest Hemmingway have all won the race twice, with Michael Kinane on the back of Vintage Crop for both victories and Mkuzi for one of them. John Oxx and Aidan O'Brien share the honour of most wins as trainers with six apiece.

Troytown Grey Abbey Equine Hospital Handicap

Class 1, 1m 2f

A race that is open to horses aged three and four, this event is run in association with both the Irish European Breeders Fund and the Troyton Grey Abbey Veterinary Hospital. Run over a mile and open to horses aged three and four, the race lasts for about a minute and forty seconds on ground that is Good to Soft. The winner takes home €20,000.

 

About the Irish Derby Festival

Horses racing

The Irish Derby, or the Dearbaí na hÉireann to give it its Irish title, is Irish racing's equivalent to the flat horse race that counts as one of the five Classics in England. As with many big races, it's not run on its own but rather is part of a wider event that sees other exciting races run alongside it. The main event is a flat race for three-year-old thoroughbreds, taking place at the Curragh and run over one mile and four furlongs.

The Festival takes place over three days and is, as is the case with many horse racing Festivals, about more than just what's going on on the track. The food and drink available off the course is at the same level of class as that produced by the horses on it, so don't think that you're only going to watching the races if you end up attending the event. That said, if all you're interested in is the horses and the races they take part in then fear not: there are a host of Group 1, 2 and 3 events to get your teeth into.

Three Days of Fun

The Curragh is one of the best racecourses in Ireland, so it's a place to head to with wide eyes and full money-holders if you want to take full advantage of it. Running from Thursday through to Saturday, the meeting typically takes place three weeks after the Derby run at Epsom Racecourse, so it takes full advantage of the June summer and the later evenings.

Here's a look at the race cards for each of the days. Whilst it's obviously possible that races can be moved around and even taken off the calendar, it will at least give you some idea what to expect when you're getting ready for the weekend.

Day One

The first day of the Irish Derby Festival is typically run on the Thursday depending on how the dates fall, meaning that it tends to be the more serious racegoers that rock up to see what's going on.

Day Two

If Day One of the Festival is all about offering a gentle introducing to the racing still to come then Day Two takes things up a notch. It's usually held on the Friday so more of a party feel gets introduced to proceedings, with the first of the Group races also coming into play.

Day Three

The previous two days' of racing has been fun and fascinating, but the one that most people have tuned into this meeting for is hosted on the third day of the Festival. That's usually a Saturday in order to allow it to take place exactly three weeks after the Epsom Derby, so the crowd tends to be a lot more relaxed and even a little bit younger. Obviously the main race of the day is the Derby itself, but it's not even close to being the only race worthy of paying attention to.