The Curragh Racecourse is surely the most famous racecourse in the Republic of Ireland. With more history than most, this venue offers the punter flat racing from March to October and is known as the Home of the Irish Classics.
Located in County Kildare, this course has hosted racing since 1741 and all-but-two of the 12 Group 1 races in the country are held at this track. Nineteen race meetings take place annually, however the outstanding and best-attended day of the season is the Irish Derby which takes place in late June.
The Irish Derby has been the feature race on the calendar at the Curragh since 1866 and is run over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs. Open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies, it is the Irish equivalent of the Epsom Derby and takes place three weeks after the English race. In recent years, pick of the trainers in this Grade 1 event has been Aidan O’Brien with 14 winners since 1997, his most recent being with Santiago in 2020.
Curragh Flat Course
The Curragh is made up of two courses – the Plate Course and the Derby Course – which share the same winning post and run in. They are both horseshoe-shaped and right-handed with races taking place from the 1m6f and 1m4f starts on the Derby Course having the sharpest turns into the home straight. The Plate Course, running outside of the Derby Course, is more forgiving on that front. There was a third course known as the inner course though this is no longer in use for racing.
Aiden O’Brien has made this racecourse pretty much his own of late, the three years up to and including the 2019 season returning 86 wins from 467 runners, a strike rate of 18.42%. Pick of the jockeys goes to his son Donnacha O’Brien who has bagged 45 wins from his 221 rides at this venue over the same time period.
With nothing in the way of overly sharp bends, the Plate Course is the easiest of the three to navigate for runners. It has a length of over two miles with a straight run-in which has a length of three furlongs. There is no particular advantage gained in races on the Plate Course from the draw, though getting an inside line ahead of the long right-hand turn towards the run-in clearly has its plus points.
There is also a one mile start that shares much of the track with the Plate Course. After an uphill start, there is a sweeping downhill right-hand turn into the home straight that suits fast finishers.
On the whole, the round courses at the Curragh are fair, however the Derby track differs from the Plate track, the former having a lot of turning and a low draw being an advantage. When they run against the stand side on the sprint track (starts occur at five furlongs as well as six furlongs, six furlongs 63 yards and seven furlongs), a high draw is preferable on all types of ground given that there is a slight camber from the stand side to the far side making the former slightly drier. Having said that, in races over each of these distances, the draw usually counts for less than pace and positional bias on the straight course, however runners do tend to come across to the middle or the stand side when ground is on the softer side.
Inner Course (No Longer Used for Racing)
There was an inner, circular course at the Curragh, though this has since been replaced by two training courses. These are the nine furlong tracks Old Vic, which has a woodchip surface, and Free Eagle, which is a sand and fibre mix.
When it was used, the draw didn’t have much of a bearing when the running was moved into the Inner Course, however high numbers did seem to have the edge at times. There were no big biases on the seven furlong and mile tracks although runners did tend to head over to the middle or stand side when the ground was softer. The tighter nature of the final turn meant that the more nimble runners tended to maintain their speed better coming into the run-in.
Major Races at Curragh
|Last Run||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|12th Sep 2021||Irish St. Leger||Group 1||Sonnyboyliston (4/1)|
|8th Aug 2021||Phoenix Stakes||Group 1||Ebro River (12/1)|
|17th Jul 2021||Irish Oaks||Group 1||Snowfall (2/7)|
|26th Jun 2021||Irish Derby||Group 1||Hurricane Lane (4/1)|
|23rd May 2021||Tattersalls Gold Cup||Group 1||Helvic Dream (8/1)|
|23rd May 2021||Irish 1000 Guineas||Group 1||Empress Josephine (14/1)|
|22nd May 2021||Irish 2000 Guineas||Group 1||Mac Swiney (8/1)|