Thoughts on the Curragh redevelopment and a look ahead to the Epsom Derby

Brendan Duke thinks there's still work to be done at the Curragh, and makes his picks for the weekend's big ones at Epsom...


A fine weekend. The sun shone on the patrons of Leopardstown and The Curragh. Was lucky enough to count myself among their number. Results were tricky but managed to find a couple of winners and return modest profits. Nothing that would justify having grandchildren to recount the tale to but after the last couple of weeks staunching the bleed was most welcome.

The Curragh looked pretty well and the Guineas festival went off without a hitch.

Well, I say that, but as previously mentioned I have weak sales-resistance and may have fallen under the spell of roving reporter Robbie Irwin. His regular bulletins during both days created an atmosphere likened by one acquaintance of mine to Pyongyang. My friend has never travelled to North Korea but does have strong opinions on the political administration in North Kerry. I’m inclined to think he had a point about propaganda anyway.

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I’m not a legal expert but have seen enough of Ally McBeal objecting to a leading line of enquiry to spot a rhetorical question. Robbie would generally approach some racegoer or one of the people working with the food and drink affiliates. With the track still doing a passable impression of a building site our man had to channel his inner estate agent and find beauty in the small.

Thankfully he didn’t use the words bijou, compact or easily maintained at any stage.

He approached Joan looking content sitting under a sun umbrella. ‘Having a good time Joan?’

‘I am Robbie, sure isn’t it great to be alive’. Obviously something about shade that gets people all existential.

‘What a location you have here Joan, views over the parade ring, food and drink next door and the tote only a stones throw away’.

‘Yes Robbie. It’s pretty handy alright’.

‘And Joan what do you make of the redevelopment? We know all about the criticism last year but the improvements are here for all to see aren’t they?’

‘Well I wasn’t here last year but hear they’re making great strides’.

Next Robbie went to a food vendor. ‘What a great gig you have’ was the opener. Robbie complimented him on his light, healthy and summery fare. The vendor agreed that serving up such manna was a blessed existence. Another vendor agreed that food was very important to both the track and the suppliers. Unfortunately he used the word synergies which has a soporific effect on me so can’t be sure how the rest of that visit went. Could make an educated guess though.

Next up was Pat Healy, the renowned photographer. He was certainly on-message and hugely excited about the redevelopment. ‘People have to come to the Curragh’ was his closing line. Didn’t sound like a threat but with those soft Kerry lilts it’s often hard to tell.

Robbie was inclined to look to the future but we did get a bit of history. John from Cavan recalled nearly being blown away in a storm at the meeting last year. He survived and returned on Sunday to tell Robbie ‘you can’t beat progress’. The resident Curragh historian gave us a rundown on the Queen’s Room, a listed building that was demolished and rebuilt brick by brick. Made a grand job of it too. You ultimately probably can’t beat progress but a little nostalgia won’t do much harm.

Finally we got a word with a member of Irish language band Seo Linn. ‘Lots of people, lots of chatter, just what a band wants’ he told us. ‘What a spokesman for Seo Linn’ said Robbie. High praise indeed. If ever choosing a spokesman for my brand I’d be hard pressed to look past the bould Robbie.

Despite the propaganda I’m probably still speaking for myself in saying that it’s not too bad. Viewing is abysmal and patience is required to negotiate a few of the obstacles. The pre and actual parade rings look great and if the rest of it turns out as well Irish racing will have a headquarters to be proud of. I wouldn’t put you off a visit at the moment either.

It’s Derby weekend. Unfortunately not many bets leaping off the page at me. Have real concerns about Saxon Warrior staying and would take him on at odds-on. There are plenty of challengers. I’d probably just plump for Masar as my e/w bet. I’m confident he’ll stay and handle the track. At around 14/1 he looks a fair price.

Tarboosh is probably worth chancing in the dash. He’s around 16/1 at the moment and in the hope that he gets a reasonable draw that looks a price worth taking. He shaped encouragingly over course and distance latest. His trainer, a dab hand with sprinters, rates him highly and I expect the horse to be well backed before hopefully going on to bigger things.

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What do you think?