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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Poor advertisement for Irish racing as racegoers vent fury

David Jennings on a day when a Classic double was just a sideshow

As the rain fell the Curragh made the wrong kind of splash. much to the anger of many racegoers
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Rain can make the most picturesque of places look bleak, so you can only imagine what greets us at the construction site that is the Curragh racecourse.

Ivan Yates, the former government minister, television presenter, bookmaker and now a popular Newstalk radio host, never minces his words, and has this to say: "This is an embarrassment to Irish racing. It's an utter disgrace. There's absolutely no regard whatsoever for racegoers and punters. I'll never come back to the Curragh."

Strong words they may be, but it seems he was speaking on behalf of most of the crowd.

This is not a good advertisement for Irish racing. The first Irish Classic of the season should be cherished. There are only five of them – purists say there are only four in Ireland now the Irish St Leger is for all ages – and it should be a day for cherishing Churchill.

Best view is in a tent

Instead, the magnificent miler is just a sideshow as racegoers tip-toe in and out of puddles, moving from tent to tent and watching each race on a television screen. Even when the rain relents, their best view of the action is in a tent. 

"Is this it?" queries Brian Farrelly from County Meath in disbelief at his surroundings. He is in the Grand Hall marquee with one of his mates, Willie Cullen.

“This is my first time here. We always wanted to come to the Guineas and picked today to come to the Curragh for the first time. I'm gutted. This is crap. Navan racecourse is my local track and it's paradise compared to this."

Smiling through: Aidan O'Brien and Ryan Moore are delighted after completing the 2,000 Guineas double with Churchill

There are a few stag-dos in the tent too. The lads are deflated by what they have found. "Let's hope the wedding is a bit better than this, boys," says one of the gang. It is probably a little dig at the best man too, assuming he is the organiser.

Bookmakers are browned off as well. "It's definitely the quietest Guineas day I can ever remember," says Frank Finnegan, who has been relocated to beside the parade ring.

There is another line of layers near the entrance and it does not seem any busier there, although Seamus Mulvaney says the sun would have been a most welcome visitor.

"I like the temporary layout but the rain is just keeping everyone away – there's not much the Curragh can do about that,” he says.

We really should not be here

True, there is not much the Curragh can do about the weather, but we should not really be here at all.

The top trainers all agree it is the best racetrack in Ireland and among the best in the world but, right now, the raceday experience is among the worst.

What a pity, as the horses more than play their part in trying to make up for it.

Churchill does what Churchill always does. There is always a part of his races where we question whether Ryan Moore is happy and, just as we lean across to put that to a colleague, he suddenly has all his rivals covered.

The very well-behaved Thunder Snow trades at a low of 2.3 in-running. He sucks you in Churchill, then spits you out.

Moore remarks: "He's such a beautiful mover so he's definitely a better horse on better ground. He does everything you ask him."

He deflects the praise

Horses who live at Ballydoyle tend to do everything Aidan O'Brien asks them. He adds yet another Classic victory to his CV, but once again modestly deflects the praise on to others. 

He says: "It's a massive team effort. I'm only a very small part of a massive team. We have a lot of hard-workers."

You're a bigger part than you think, Aidan. 

The Jessica Harrington bandwagon just keeps on rolling, whether it is Cheltenham or the Curragh. Next stop is Royal Ascot, where Brother Bear is slated for the Coventry Stakes after being quite marvellous in the Marble Hill. 

Gordon Lord Byron brightens up all our days too. He helps himself to victory number 16 of his career in the Greenlands Stakes – and Tom Hogan has no intention of stopping there. He wants to get to 20 and you certainly wouldn't put it past him.

Gordon Lord Byron and Chris Hayes power to victory in the Greenlands Stakes

Hogan, who seems less surprised than punters who allow him to go off at 20-1 despite the absence of Acapulco, says: "He's won 16 now and I'd like to get to 20! I knew he was back around the level he showed when he won the Minstrel Stakes last year. He's likely to go for that race again now." 

Acapulco does not show up because she has a temperature. Plenty of racegoers probably wished they'd had a temperature too, which might have forced them to watch the Curragh action from the comfort of their living rooms. 

Reality Bites is the name of the band playing after racing. How apt. 

Results and analysis

It is an utter disgrace. There's absolutely no regard whatsoever for racegoers and punters. I'll never come back
E.W. Terms
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