Curragh Racecourse is the host of the famous Irish Derby that is currently being sponsored by Dubai Duty Free. It is a Group 1 event for three-year-old horses and is run over a distance of 2 414 meters. It was known as the O’Darby Stakes when it was first run in 1817, but discontinued in 1824. In 1848 they tried to bring the race back as the Curragh Derby, but again it failed. The race as we know it today was inaugurated in 186, by the third Earl of Charlemont, the third Earl of Howth and the third Marquess of Drogheda. This popular race is one of Ireland’s most prestigious events, and rescheduling of racing for 2012 has seen to it that the race will be moved from its present fixture.
Due to the high profile of the race, Horse Racing Ireland decided to adjust their racing fixture schedule for next year and have now moved the Irish Derby to be raced on Saturday, instead of Sunday. The last time it was run on a Saturday was in 1987. They made this decision to ensure greater television coverage, and hope that the late afternoon slot will also allow more punters to attend the event at the racecourse. In contrast with this, the Pretty Polly Stakes, which is also a Group 1 event, will be moved to the Sunday slot.
Paul Henesy, the Manager of Curragh Racecourse, commented that it is hoped that the move of the Irish Derby will bring growth, as it will also lure a greater television audience, which will in turn develop the profile of the racing event. A few other changes include the Irish Champion Stakes moving to a late afternoon slot on 8 September, and while the Curragh Moyglare Stud Stakes were always hosted close to the end of August, it has been moved up to 9 September. These two races take place at Leaopardstown, and changes to the Champion Hurdles at Leopardstown will also be moved to the 28th and 29th of September, enabling it to be a two day event.
To encourage off course betting, the racing season at Dundalk has been spread out a bit more efficiently, adding twenty-five additional racing days. Ireland’s horse racing season will kick-off at the Curragh Racecourse on 25 March, and conclude in November, at the Leopardstown racecourse. It is believed that changes made to the schedule will not only benefit the horse racing industry, but also be more convenient for horse racing enthusiasts.