With horse racing in Germany and France already making a return, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) announced the news that racing will commence on June 8th at Naas, following its indefinite suspension as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It shouldn’t be too long before the UK follows suit, but it’s usually coming up to this time of the year when the Classics are in full swing. HRI have revealed a provisional racing calendar, with all five of the Classics being raced, in some cases later than usual. As we gear up to the pinnacle of the flat racing season, you’ll be able to find all racing results from yesterday online, as you make your predictions for each race. Let’s take a look at the quintet that form the Irish Classics.
Irish 1,000 Guineas
The newest of the Classics, but still inaugurated in 1922, the 1,000 Guineas was launched a year later than the 2,000 Guineas. Run over a distance of a mile, like its British namesake, the Irish 1,000 Guineas is also open to three-year-old fillies – and it usually takes place three weeks after the Newmarket Classic. Interestingly, in the race’s history, four fillies have completed the 1,000 Guineas double, with Hermosa being the most recent just last year. Aidan O’Brien is the race’s leading trainer with eight victories since 1997.
Irish 2,000 Guineas
Established in 1921, the Irish 2,000 Guineas also mirrors its British equivalent. It’s run over a mile and is a Grade 1 race open to three-year-old colts and fillies. Only three horses have completed the 2,000 Guineas double, with the most recent being Churchill in 2017 – but most leading horses go on to contest the St. James’ Palace Stakes at Ascot. There are no surprises when it comes to the leading trainer and O’Brien has notched a remarkable 11 winners in the Irish 2,000 Guineas since his maiden victory in 1997.
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The Irish Derby is the oldest of all five Classics, having first been run in 1866, although there were two earlier events which resembled something of a Derby. It’s Ireland’s equivalent of the Epsom Derby and is held three weeks later than its namesake, often with horses entering both races. To date, 18 horses have completed the Derby double – Harzand being the most recent in 2016. The Derby is open to three-year-old colts and fillies and is run over a distance of one mile and four furlongs. It usually takes place in late June or early July and is run on day two of Curragh’s Derby Festival. You’ll start to see a pattern forming but O’Brien is the leading training with 12 winners and he won the most recent running of the Derby, with Sovereign.
Also run over a distance of one mile and four furlongs, the Irish Oaks is Ireland’s equivalent of Epsom’s The Oaks – and it’s a race open to three-year-old fillies only. The Irish Oaks is the feature race on day one, or Ladies’ Day of Curragh’s Oaks Festival which is a two-day meeting. Many winners of the British equivalent have gone to win the Irish race, while horses also go on to contest the Yorkshire Oaks the following month. The leading trainer in the Oaks is Sir Michael Stoute who has produced six winners, but has failed to win since 2000.
Irish St. Leger
The longest race at one mile and six furlongs, the Irish St. Leger is the fifth and final Irish Classic of the year and is raced at the Curragh in September, after its Doncaster equivalent. Established in 1915, one major difference between the two races is that since 1983, the Irish version of the race has been open to horses aged three and older, unlike the British race which is restricted to three-year-olds. The Irish St. Leger is also open to geldings, as well as colts and fillies. Vinnie Roe made history in 2004 when he won the Irish St. Leger for a fourth time, having won consecutively between 2000 and 2004.
The Irish St. Leger is also the third and final leg of Ireland’s Triple Crown (with the 2,0000 Guineas and the Derby making up the other races). However, only two horses have ever won the Triple Crown, Museum in 1935 and Windsor Slipper in 1942.