Joseph O'Brien defends Curragh's decision to race on
Joseph O'Brien has launched a staunch defence of the Curragh's decision to continue racing through its €70 million redevelopment following ongoing criticism of the move.
Saturday's Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby fixture saw just 5,412 people witness Capri's victory for O'Brien's father Aidan. A smaller than anticipated number of Association of Irish Racecourses cardholders took up the option to attend, meaning that the final tally failed to meet the reduced capacity limit of 6,000.
Last year the crowd was 18,244, while 25,255 came through the gates in 2015. Noel Meade, chairman of the Irish Racehorse Trainers' Association, was the latest to demand a review of the situation before day two of Irish Champions Weekend, which will be the only other occasion of the year when the capacity limit would be surpassed in normal circumstances.
However, O'Brien is adamant that the continuation of racing at the Curragh is the right thing to do.
"The Curragh is the fairest track in Ireland, if not the world, in so far as getting the best horse to win a race," said O'Brien, who won the Group 2 Comer Group International Curragh Cup on the Sunday card with Rekindling.
"That's why it's so important that the Classics and all the big races are run here, and Andre Fabre said as much. The best horse tends to win.
"In years to come, when you look back on the Irish Derby, having Waldgeist and Cracksman in the race is absolutely huge."
Of the reduced capacity, the Kilkenny-based trainer added: "Fair enough, they can't take the crowd this year and they can't take it next year, but everyone will come back when it's all done.
"You have to run the championship races at the Curragh, and if that means a smaller crowd, so be it. It's the crowd in three years' time and beyond, when everyone comes here when this is redone – that's what everyone should be concentrating on.
"We're really only talking about two meetings a year [Derby day and day two of ICW] that won't get the crowds they might. For the sake of that, I don't think it's worth it [transferring the races elsewhere]. The race will have the history when people look back and that's important.
"There's a much bigger deal being made of people not being able to come than is really the case. I think most people accept it."
On Saturday the Curragh's chief executive Derek McGrath refused to rule out the prospect of a change to the existing policy, although he stopped short of saying it would be seriously considered.
O'Brien maintains that those calling for a rethink should instead get behind the status quo.
"The criticism of this now, I don't see where people are trying to go with it," he said. "Everyone should stand behind it and try and make the best of it, and look forward to what we're going to have in two years' time. That's the way I see it."