Naas chairman pushes for premier status and first Group 1
Dermot Cantillon, chairman of Naas, has called for changes to the way fixtures and big races in Ireland are allocated and wants those decisions made on the basis of merit rather than on tradition.
Cantillon, who was speaking at the official opening of Naas’s new two-tier building, named The Circle, built as part of a €3.2 million Horse Racing Ireland Capital Development Scheme, also cited the Flying Five Stakes as a suitable race to give Naas a first Group 1 on the Flat.
He said: “The status quo whereby fixtures and races are allotted needs changing to reward those tracks, Naas included, which have made major improvements.
“Our policy at Naas is to try to bring racing to the racegoers and our new facility which we are opening today does that. We’re moving away from what I’d call short-term fixes – best-dressed lady competitions, bands, etc – and concentrating more on bringing the horses closer to the public.”
Ireland has five premier racetracks – the Curragh, Leopardstown, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and Galway – and Cantillon wants Naas to join the category.
He said: “We have done a lot at Naas to improve the racetrack itself and our overall facilities and we are wondering what we have to do to be rated a premier track. Racecourses which are progressive and trying to drive forward need to be encouraged.”
Referring to the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes which this year will become Ireland’s first Group 1 five-furlong race following its recently announced promotion by the European Pattern Race Committee, Cantillon said: “I researched the history of the Flying Five Stakes. It has had a few homes – the Phoenix Park, Leopardstown and the Curragh – and has been run as a Listed race, a Group 3 and a Group 2.
“This year it will again be run at the Curragh in September as part of Irish Champions Weekend and as one of several Group 1 races. We would love to run the race at Naas and it would mean an awful lot to us to stage a Group 1 race at our Birdcatcher meeting.
“It seems that the bigger tracks keep getting bigger whereas other tracks like Naas are forgotten about.”
Reacting to Cantillon’s comments, HRI chief executive Brian Kavanagh, said: “Naas is a very progressive course and last year it ran some of the big races usually run at the Curragh and that will be the situation again this year.
"I understand Dermot’s wish to have a Group 1 race at Naas, but the Flying Five is part of our Longines Irish Champions weekend and that is its place in the calendar.
"We worked hard to get it upgraded and to have a Group 1 sprint on Champions weekend and the race fits in nicely to the European programme, coming between the Nunthorpe and the Prix de l’Abbaye.”
HRI chairman Joe Keeling, who performed the opening ceremony, said: “I’m all for the better races being run at the best run racecourses and I would say that Naas is well on the way to becoming a premier racecourse."
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