Curragh chief defends Irish Derby in wake of City Of Troy's absence

The most exciting Flat horse in training might be sidestepping the Irish Derby in favour of the Coral-Eclipse, but Curragh chief executive Brian Kavanagh has defended the Classic, pointing to the strong possibility that three of the first four home at Epsom will renew rivalry and make it an exciting and popular spectacle. 

Trainer Aidan O'Brien revealed on Sunday that Derby star City Of Troy would not be following in the footsteps of stablemate Auguste Rodin and bid for a second Derby in the Dubai Duty Free-sponsored race on June 30 and will instead head to Sandown. However, the three who followed the son of Justify home at Epsom, Ambiente Friendly, Los Angeles and Deira Mile, could all contest the Curragh's €1.25 million showpiece of the season. 

From 2011 to 2022 the Irish Derby was run on a Saturday but it moved back to its traditional Sunday slot last year and attracted an attendance of 10,987. Kavanagh said advance ticket sales have been strong and he hopes to build on last year's crowd.

Alan Sweetman: the Irish Derby has become a cringing embarrassment and City Of Troy decision is the latest body blow 

On City Of Troy's absence, he said: "It's still going to be a very competitive race and I think the field will really come together over the course of the next week or so."

When asked whether he believes the Irish Derby is still one of the hottest tickets in town, Kavanagh replied: "Absolutely – it's still a great race and a really prestigious one. You just have to look at the last two winners – Westover and Auguste Rodin. Last year we had three of the first four from Epsom and it looks like it will be the same again this year as well. It's an excellent race.

"It's the second year that we've moved back to a Sunday and ticket sales have been strong so far. We have nine races on Irish Derby day this year and no race worth less than €100,000. We've put a lot of work into the prize fund and we have two good days' racing before it as well. It's a very strong weekend.

"We saw over our Guineas weekend how successful the British runners were and I would say we'll have very strong interest from the UK on Derby weekend as well."

On his attendance hopes, Kavanagh added: "We had 11,000 here on the Sunday for Irish Derby day last year and it's a case of building on those numbers. It's also a question of ensuring that the people who do come enjoy themselves. 

"We look at crowds over the whole weekend, not just on the Sunday, and we've plenty of attractions on top of the racing for people who are coming for a social day out as well. I'd be very optimistic about the weekend."

Kavanagh emphasised the importance of good prize-money, adding: "We've put our prize-money up from €14.2m to €15.3m and we have a minimum race value of €20,000 all year round. We see ourselves as the industry's racecourse and any money we make we want to put back into prize-money or promoting the racecourse. That's what we're here for

"We're in the World Pool again for the second year in a row on Irish Derby day and that's a big positive as well. It's all systems go for Derby weekend and we're looking forward to it."