Thursday, June 24, 2021

Sarah Mooney

Some 1,000 racing spectators will return to the Curragh Racecourse this weekend for the Irish Derby Festival, as it doubles as one of the country’s pilot sporting test events.

A “different” experience will greet spectators on the Saturday of the three-day festival, with the racecourse divided into zones, temperature checks upon arrival, face mask wearing and allocated arrival times on all tickets.

No bookmakers will be at the course, although the Tote will be in operation on the day.

“With this being an outdoor event, the racecourse divided into zones and one-way systems in operation the experience may be very different to your last visit,” organisers said.

“We are very excited to welcome racegoers back to The Curragh,” they added.

Owner Glyn Davies watches his race horse Earlswood, trained by Johnny Murtagh, exercising on the Curragh gallops. Photo: INPHO/James Crombie.

Compliance officers

Tickets for the event are now sold out, after the 14th instalment of the derby was chosen as one of the Government’s pilot initiatives for extended capacity at outdoor sporting events this summer.

The Kildare festival, sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, will take place from June 25th to 27th with spectators returning on the Saturday alone and the other days taking place behind closed doors.

On Saturday, there will be hand sanitation stations, “suitably spaced” furniture and social distancing to be “supported” by racecourse staff and security.

“Designated Covid compliance officers will be located throughout the site to monitor compliance and provide assistance,” organisers said.

Due to Covid-19 transmission risks, the Curragh will not be operating a shuttle bus service to the racecourse.

Ticket allocations

Of the 1,000 tickets for the event, 200 have been allocated to Kildare residents and another 450 to general release.

Another 50 complimentary tickets were set aside for local frontline workers from the Defence Forces, while the remaining 300 tickets went to Curragh and Go Racing in Kildare members.

Some €10 of proceeds from each €25 admission ticket purchased is set to go to the Peter McVerry Trust, who provide accommodation for homeless people at seven different locations in Kildare.

While it will not be the Curragh as we know it… we are sure there will be plenty of atmosphere on the day

Chief executive of the Curragh Racecourse, Pat Keogh, said: “While it will not be the Curragh as we know it, the racing will be as good as ever and we are sure there will be plenty of atmosphere on the day.”

Colm McLoughlin, chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, commended the Irish Horse Racing Regulatory Board, Horse Racing Ireland and the Curragh Racecourse for “keeping racing going” during the pandemic and for overseeing the return of spectators to the track this weekend.

The airport retailer took on the role of title sponsor of the Irish Derby Festival in 2008, with the centrepiece, the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby, now boasting a total prize fund of €1 million.

The three-day racing festival will see some of the best horses from Ireland and England compete from tomorrow for €2.3 million in prize money.

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