HOW time flies. With Cheltenham all but a distant memory and Fairyhouse, Liverpool and the Punchestown Festival all the horizon, and on Sunday the Flat season officially kicks off with the opening meeting at the Curragh, writes TOMMY CALLAGHAN.
And the news gets even better with the announcement on Tuesday of this week that GAIN Horse Feeds (part of Glanbia plc) have just signed a two year sponsorship deal of the Irish St. Leger with the Curragh racecourse. This year is the 97th running the Irish St. Leger, which will be run on Saturday 15th September.
The Group 1 Classic has a prize fund of E200,000 and is run over a mile and six furlongs making it one of the most prestigious staying races in the world and the established premier trial race in Europe for the Melbourne Cup.
Therer have been some magnificent winners of this great race including Yeats, Vinnie Roe, Oscal Schindler, not forgetting Vintage Crop which of course went on to win the Melbourne Cup.
In these days of doom and gloom it is certainly very positive news for the Curragh racecourse, owners, trainers and the general racing public that such a high profile and successful group as Glanbia are to become sponsors of this historic race.
Meanwhile this Sunday (25 March) sees plenty of quality racing to look forward to at Headquarters. The Group Three Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes tops the bill on a seven race programme which also features the www.thetote.com Irish Lincolnshire Premier Handicap, The Irish Field Handicap and the Gabriel Curran Memorial Madrid Handicap.
A total of 19 fillies and mares have stood their ground in the feature event. Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien is well represented here and can choose between Homecoming Queen, Kissed, Devotion, Ishvana and Twirl. Jim Bolger is double-handed with Cleofila and Janey Muddles, while there are three overseas challengers in Call To Reason, Crystal Gal and Libys Dream.
Drombeg Dawn put up a tough battling performance to land the Irish Lincolnshire 12 months ago and the Andrew McNamara-trained six-year-old is one of 25 entries for this year’s renewal. Richard Fahey saddled Kyllachy Star to finish a close up third behind Drombeg Dawn last year and he has entered Arabian Spirit and Take It To The Max in an effort to go a couple of places better. Other notable entries for the competitive handicap are Ansaab, Billyford, Defining Year, Maverik, Prince Of Dance and Sharestan.
Ishvana also holds an entry in the Madrid Handicap for which trainer Aidan O’Brien is also represented by Triumphant. The race has attracted 16 entries and notable among them are Aaraas, Swerve and the Jim Bolger-trained quartet of Miracle Cure, Patrimonium, Rigoletta and Tiffilia.
Racing opens with the first juvenile contest of the season, the Tally Ho Stud EBF Maiden, for which there are 12 entries. Aidan O’Brien is represented by both Forester and Infanta Branca, while Jim Bolger can choose between Dawn Approach, Leitir Mor and Verbal Honesty.
The first of seven races at the Curragh commences at 2.30pm on Sunday.