07 Jul 2022

Dubai Duty Free looks back on ten years of Derby highlights

Dubai Duty Free marks ten years of its sponsorship of the Irish Derby Festival at this weekend's event

Dubai Duty Free looks back on ten years of Derby highlights

Golfer Rory McIlroy with Colm McLoughlin and Sinead El Sibai of Dubai Duty Free at the Curragh in 2014

While the saying may state that one week is a long time in sport, Dubai Duty Free’s 10 years of continued sponsorship for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby has flown by in the blink of an eye.

Since becoming the title sponsor of Ireland’s oldest horse race, Dubai Duty Free have consistently increased the standing of the race, pushing it to become a festival rather than just a one-race event. The prize money has considerably increased over that time too, and this year’s race will once again be worth a massive €1.5 million, making it Ireland’s richest horse race.

Dubai Duty Free, the world’s leading airport retailer, have been busy building their brand since being founded in 1983, but creating unforgettable sporting memories has also been high on their list of priorities.


There has been no shortage of jaw-dropping moments over the 10 years of Dubai Duty Free’s sponsorship, with Clane jockey Seamie Heffernan winning the race at his local track when riding Frozen Fire for Aidan O’Brien in their first year of sponsorship in 2008.

The memorable moments kept flowing from there, with the brilliant Camelot’s brave performance in 2012 completing an Epsom Derby and Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby double for the horse and trainer Aidan O’Brien. Camelot’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby win also marked the first time the famous race was run on a Saturday as it switched from its traditional Sunday slot.

There were more emotional scenes a year later when Trading Leather strode to victory under Kevin Manning to give Wexford trainer Jim Bolger a victory in the race for the first time since his 1992 triumph with St Jovite.

Last year was just as spectacular, as Dermot Weld’s Harzand won under jockey Pat Smullen, fending off old rival Idaho to land a brilliant victory following a thrilling duel between the pair.

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is about much more than just horse racing, however. It is one of the biggest events on the Irish social calendar, and countless well-known faces have flocked to the Curragh to enjoy the festivities in recent years.

Fashion is one of the major aspects of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby weekend, and TV personality Millie Mackintosh, singer Rachel Stevens and Irish fashion designer Paul Costelloe have judged the Best Dressed Lady competition in recent years.

The whole concept of the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby has changed in recent years.

The weekend’s festivities now kick off long before the race itself. The Dubai Duty Free Irish Golf Classic is held on the Thursday before the race at The K Club, giving enthusiastic golfers the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Rory McIlroy by playing a competitive round on the world-renowned Arnold Palmer-designed course that played host to last year’s Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.

The Five AA Red Star K Club hotel also hosts the hugely successful Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Ball that is held each year on the Friday night before the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, and it has raised more than €230,000 for the local charity Jack & Jill Children’s Foundation in the past three years, while the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Newbridge Busk and Food Festival and Best Dressed Window competitions have also increased the interaction with the local community.

Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free said; “The 10 years that we have been sponsoring the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby have been wonderful for Dubai Duty Free and thoroughly enjoyable. It is great to be involved with a race of this prestige for such a long period of time, and we have seen it go from strength to strength each year.

“This year is very special as it marks a major evolution for both the Curragh and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby as they continue to carry out renovation works on the course. I’m sure the new facilities at the Curragh will be top class and I’m looking forward to seeing the finished project.”

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