The Irish Derby is a Group 1 flat race open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at the Curragh over a distance of one mile and four furlongs and takes place this Saturday 30 June.
It is Ireland’s equivalent of the Epsom Derby, and it is currently held around three weeks after the English race.
The earliest version of the Irish Derby was an event called the O’Darby Stakes. This was established in 1817, but it was discontinued after 1824. A subsequent race titled the Curragh Derby was inaugurated in 1848, but this was again short-lived.
The modern Irish Derby was created by the 3rd Earl of Howth, the 3rd Marquess of Drogheda and the 3rd Earl of Charlemont. It was first run in 1866, and it was initially contested over one mile, six furlongs and three yards.
The Irish Derby became a major international race in 1962, when its prize money was substantially increased. Joe McGrath, a founder of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake, combined the race with the sweepstake, and it became known as the Irish Sweeps Derby. The event began to regularly attract the winners of the Epsom Derby, and Santa Claus became the second horse to win both races in 1964.
The race was sponsored by Budweiser from 1986 to 2007, and it has been backed by Dubai Duty Free since 2008. It is currently staged on the final day of the Curragh’s three-day Irish Derby Festival meeting.
A total of fifteen horses have now completed the English-Irish Derby double, and the most recent was High Chaparral in 2002.
Aidan O’Brien has won five of the six Classics to be run in either Britain or Ireland this year, and he looks long odds-on to add another to his collection on Saturday with short-priced Epsom Derby hero Camelot.
Imperial Monarch is the second favourite enjoyed the cut at Sandown to win in style. The one colt who could spring a surprise is Speaking Of Which, a son of Invincible Spirit who has only had three starts, trained by Dermot Weld – who last took the Irish Derby in 2004 with Grey Swallow.
Other contenders but outsiders in many people’s eyes include Light Heavy, Akeed Mofeed and Born To Sea.