Ruby Walsh suggests that racecourse design has played a part in Ireland’s struggle to match the UK’s production of top Grade 1 sprinters and may have also led to a relative lack of high-quality flat trainers on the Emerald Isle.
Speaking on Paddy Power’s now twice-weekly From The Horse’s Mouth podcast, Ruby explained how Ireland’s stiff and testing tracks have meant a lack of prestigious events which could have limited the development of superstar sprinters.
I don’t know why Ireland doesn’t have top-class sprinters compared to the UK. Even sprint handicappers are just faster in England.
Is it the style of racing, or maybe the tracks they’re run at?
Do we have top quality handicaps at really fast tracks like York and Epsom?
I just think their sprinters are quicker, and maybe it’s to do with the tracks. Most of our top sprints are run at The Curragh, which is a stiff track so the emphasis can be on ‘stamina’ at times rather than pure ‘speed’.
Naas is a straight track that’s also stiff, Navan is the same, Bellewstown is a straight-ish track and so is Tipperary. But they don’t have good races.
Cork is a fast track but it tends to have more seven-furlong straight races than anything else and not five-furlong sprints.
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Our man Paddy agreed with Ruby, and recalled the days his mother Sabena took Sole Power across to England in search of high-quality opposition.
There were no races for Sole Power in Ireland. He won the Flying Five at the Curragh when it was a Group 2 but there just wasn’t the races.
He ran in Ireland a couple of times towards the end of his career, and also at the very start at Dundalk, but there just weren’t the races here for him.
That has been addressed a bit, and having a Group 1 Flying Five at the Curragh is great. That might help drag up the quality, while having the straight sprint track at Naas is also going to be a help as more five-furlong sprint races can be allocated to it.
Speed is more important now than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and five furlongs is proper speed. It’s hard to have a five-furlong race around a bend and a lot of the Irish tracks just don’t have a straight five furlongs sprint track.
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