2004 – Bachelor Duke (James Toller, Seb Sanders)
Suffolk sorcerer James Toller trained for 35 years so thoroughly deserved his Classic victory with Bachelor Duke, who Seb Sanders brought through with a searching run about a furlong from home before hitting the front 100 yards from the finish to outpoint Azamour by a length.
Before that the Miswaki colt had been well held in the English equivalent, but a lot faster ground at The Curragh than at Newmarket gave connections grounds for optimism.
Indeed while their charge wasn’t the UK’s best juvenile, he had only been beaten a length and three-quarters by Milk It Mick after a far from smooth passage about a furlong from home in the Dewhurst Stakes, which is considered the most important English two-year-old race.
The renewal that Bachelor Duke won was very good indeed as Azamour won the St James’s Palace Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes on his next two starts, while third-placed Grey Swallow scooped the Irish Derby next time out.
2005 – Dubawi (Saeed bin Suroor, Frankie Dettori)
Any time Italian stallion Frankie Dettori wins a big race is entertaining and this was no exception with the popular horseman treating racegoers to a trademark flying dismount afterwards.
The Curragh was a favourite stomping ground for the winner who had also landed the influential National Stakes at the same venue the year before by three lengths from Berenson.
The Guineas went very smoothly for Dettori and his partner as they cruised to the front two furlongs from home, impressively staying on to master Oratorio by two lengths.
The victory avenged his defeat in the English equivalent on very fast ground and he went on to take the top-class Prix Jacques Le Marois at Deauville and the son of the great Dubai Millennium is now an exceptional stallion.
2014 – Kingman (John Gosden, James Doyle)
Kingman had hinted at greatness when he was an impressive winner of the Greenham Stakes at Newbury, one of the principle Guineas trials, but was then beaten by 40-1 poke Night Of Thunder in the English Guineas when sent off a furiously-backed 6-4 favourite.
Punters forgave him that defeat and he went to post an odds-on shot at The Curragh, where he showed his true class with a five-length defeat of Shifting Power.
It was especially satisfying to see ‘big’ John Gosden’s charge perform like this as I was at my local track Newmarket when he made his racecourse bow the previous season and people present realised that they’d seen something special with a six-length romp.
It was great that Irish racegoers got to see him as he was awarded that year’s Horse of the Year and Champion Three-year-old Colt and was the world’s top-rated three-year-old colt.
2017 – Churchill (Aidan O’Brien, Ryan Moore)
It’s almost unbelievable that ‘King’ Aidan hasn’t won this contest for three seasons, but there’s little doubt that he’ll be putting that right soon enough as he bids to improve on his incredible record 11 wins in this race.
Churchill was selected as he is his latest winner, but the 11 read like a who’s who of brilliant milers with the likes of Desert King, Rock Of Gibraltar, Henrythenavigator and Magician also included.
But make no mistake, Churchill was awesome on the track and was a champion European two-year-old colt before his two-and-a-half-length defeat of Thunder Snow at The Curragh completed a magnificent English-Irish Guineas double following his length win over Barney Roy at Newmarket.
2018 – Romanised (Ken Condon, Shane Foley)
This wasn’t quite like David and Goliath, but it wasn’t far off as Curragh conjuror Ken Condon saddled Romanised to pull off a huge shock at 25-1 to defeat the Aidan O’Brien battalions with the Irish champion trainer responsible for the second, third and fourth.
The winner hadn’t run badly on his previous outing in the Tetrarch Stakes at Naas, where he was only beaten by three and a half lengths despite being slightly impeded at the start and hampered inside the final furlong.
But it took a real leap of faith to see him winning and it was a very special moment to see Ken Condon, who started training in 2002 having been assistant to John Oxx for five years, in the limelight.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing in life as well as racing and if patrons had known Masar, who had beaten Romanised by two lengths in the previous season’s Solario Stakes, would win the English Derby the following month, he might not have gone off at 25s.