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First run in 1866, it is a race that every breeder, trainer, jockey, and owner dreams of winning, and this year's edition will be no different. The current market leader at the time of writing is the Ralph Beckett-trained Westover who ran a fine race to be third in the Epsom Derby.
Although the Frankel colt was no match for the impressive winner Desert Crown, he closed all the way to the line having been denied a clean run. The British raider won't be without some stiff opposition though, with Aidan O'Brien likely to run a small battalion of horses.
When And Where Is it On?
This year's Dubai Duty-Free Irish Derby will take place at the Curragh Racecourse on Saturday 1st July. It is part of a three-day Festival that begins on Friday 30th June and ends on Sunday 2nd July, with the Derby the highlight. The Curragh is the home of Irish flat racing and is situated between the towns of Newbridge and Kildare. It first held the Derby in 1866 but all five Irish classics are also run on the course: the 1,000 Guineas, the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, the Oaks, and the Irish St. Leger. The course itself is a right-handed turf track with a stiff uphill track. Due to its wide nature it is a fair and safe track that is widely respected in the horse racing world.
Which Horses Can Enter the Race?
The race is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. However, it is rare nowadays to have fillies run in the race. Instead they will likely run in the Irish Oaks, which is confined to three-year-old fillies. The last filly to win the Irish Derby was back in 1994 when Frankie Dettori steered Balanchine to victory. This followed Salsabil reigning supreme in 1990. Previous to that, it had been 90 years since Gallinaria won the race for the girls. In recent years the field size of the Irish Derby has varied quite considerably. 2021 saw 11 runners, 2020 saw 14 runners, and 2019 saw just 8 runners.
The Epsom and Irish Derby Double
Although connections of Epsom Derby winner Desert Crown did not initially enter their horse in the race, there still remains the chance that they could supplement the horse for the clash. Harzand was the last horse to complete an English-Irish Derby double in 2016, ridden on both occasions by the late Pat Smullen. Before then it was completed by Aidan O'Brien Australia (2014) and Camelot (2012). In all, 18 horses have done the double throughout history, but it was most common in the 1970's and 80's, with only five horses winning both contests in the 21st century.
Horses to complete the English-Irish Derby double
Santa Claus (1964)
Horse Racing - Royal Ascot - The King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes - Ascot. Nijinsky ridden by Lester Piggott goes on to win the race. Photographer: s&g
The Minstrel (1977)
Shirley Heights (1978)
Jun. 03, 1981 - June 3rd 1981 Shergar wins the Derby. Shergar with W. Swinburn aboard seen about to enter the winners enclosure after winning the 102nd Derby at Epsom today. Photographer: KEYSTONE Pictures USA
Commander In Chief (1993)
Horse Racing - The Vodafone Derby - Epsom. Sinndar jockey Johnny Murtagh celebrates his win. Photographer: John Marsh
High Chaparral (2002)
Chantilly Racecourse, France. 01st Oct, 2016. Prix de l Arc de Triomphe, race 4 on card. Harzand - PJ Smullen © Action Plus Sports/Alamy Live News
Trainer to follow
Since 2000, Aidan O'Brien has won the contest an incredible 13 times in total, including on seven consecutive occasions between 2006 and 2012. Notably, though it is not always with his apparent first-string on jockey bookings.
In 2007, Soldier Of Fortune (2007) scooted clear of his better-fancied stablemate Eagle Mountain to win the race in the hands of Seamie Heffernan. The very next year Heffernan was on the right one again when 16/1 shot Frozen Fire was the shock winner.
In 2017, Heffernan was again on second-string duty. This time he rode 6/1 shot Capri to beat Cracksman. But in 2019, Sovereign didn't appear to be the first, second, or even third-string for Ballydoyle when going off at 33/1. Padraig Beggy sent him off into a handsome early lead, and the colt couldn't be caught.
Aidan O'Brien's Irish Derby winners list
1997 Desert King (11/2) Christy Roche
2001 Galileo (4/11) Mick Kinane
2002 High Chaparral (1/3) Mick Kinane
2006 Dylan Thomas (9/2) Kieren Fallon
2007 Soldier of Fortune (5/1) Seamie Heffernan
2008 Frozen Fire (16/1) Seamie Heffernan
2009 Fame and Glory (8/11) Johnny Murtagh
2010 Cape Blanco (7/2) Johnny Murtagh
2011 Treasure Beach (7/2) Colm O'Donoghue
2014 Australia (1/4) Joseph O'Brien
2017 Capri (6/1) Seamie Heffernan
2019 Sovereign (33/1) Padraig Beggy
2020 Santiago (2/1) Seamie Heffernan
Chances this year?
Although seemingly without a clear star amongst his three-year-old colts, O'Brien is likely to throw many darts at this year's renewal with such great prize money on offer. Two Galileo colts, Changingoftheguard and Stone Age, who finished fifth and sixth in the Epsom Derby, respectively, could be the pick of Ballydoyle's runners. But both of them would have to improve to beat Westover, who showed plenty of raw ability behind Desert Crown.
What is the best trial for the race?
It is difficult to ascertain the best trial for this race. Three of the last five winners have run in the Epsom Derby, albeit the Charlie Appleby-trained Hurricane Lane's third place was the highest finish of the three in the English version. Sovereign was tenth of thirteen at Epsom before causing a 33/1 win shock at the Curragh, while Capri finished in sixth at Epsom before triumphing at the Curragh.
Elsewhere, Santiago, unusually, stepped down in distance after winning the Queen's Vase over one mile and six furlongs to win the 2020 Irish Derby. While 2018 winner Latrobe had only just broken his maiden status before taking the prestigious Group 1.
The penultimate runs of the recent winners
2021 Hurricane Lane - finished third in the Epsom Derby
2020 Santiago - winner of the Queen's Vase over one mile and six furlongs
2019 Sovereign - finished tenth out of 13 in the Epsom Derby
2018 Latrobe - winner of a 1m 4f maiden at the Curragh
2017 Capri - finished sixth out of 18 in the Epsom Derby
What other races are on the card?
The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby is one of eight races on the card on the Saturday. There is also the Group 2 GAIN Railway Stakes over six furlongs and the Group 3 ARM Holding International Stakes over one mile and two furlongs.
1.30 Dubai Duty Free Dash (Listed) 6f
2.05 Dubai Duty Free Summer Fillies Handicap 7f
2.35 Dubai Duty Free Celebration Stakes (Listed) 1m
3.05 GAIN Railway Stakes (Group 2) 6f
3.45 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1) 1m 4f
4.20 ARM Holding International Stakes (Group 3) 1m 2f
4.50 Dubai Duty Free Derby Festival Handicap 2m
Although recent winners of the race have taken some unorthodox routes to the Curragh, the Epsom Derby still remains the key piece of form. It is worth keeping in mind though that Epsom form doesn't always translate to the Kildare venue. The undulating nature of Epsom Downs can be an overwhelming test for young horses who often prove to better appreciate the flatter test the Curragh provides. The advice is not to be hasty in ruling out horses who run poorly at Epsom.
You can always forgive young horses for not enjoying the unique challenge of Epsom Racecourse, so PIZ BADILE deserves another chance. His trainer Donnacha O'Brien has revealed that his horse hated the track when nearly pulled up in the hands of Frankie Dettori. Previous to that race, he belied his relative inexperience to rally well to take a hot-looking Ballysax Stakes at Leopardstown. That is some of the best form on offer and the suspicion is that the Curragh will be much to the liking of the son of Ulysses. The 10/1 on offer at the time of the writing looks a fair each-way price with this race the target.
How To Place A Bet
If betting on the Irish Derby, you have many options. For the beginner, it can often be very confusing. To break down how betting on horse racing works, let's first consider what we mean by the odds.
Simply put: the odds are the expected probability of something happening. If a bookmaker prices a horse at 3/1, it means that they think that 1 in 4 times it will win the horse race. If the horse is 5/1, they think it will win 1 in 6 times. The odds tell punters how much they will make if their horse wins the race. So, for example, let's say we stake a €10 bet on a horse with odds of 6/1. These odds tell the punter that for every €1 they stake on this horse, if it wins the race, they will win €6. So, if they put €10 on this winning horse, they will win €60 (€10 x 6) while they will also get their stake back.
If someone exclaims that they had a 50/1 winner, it means that for every €1 they put on the horse, they won €50! The odds can look more complicated sometimes. For example, if the horse is 7/4 it is not as straightforward to calculate. It means though that if you stake the denominator (4) you will win the numerator (7) if your horse wins the race i.e. stake €4 on this horse and you will win €7. If you stake €8, for example, you will win €14, and so on.
This is the fractional odds format that is the most commonly used in Irish horse racing. There is also the Decimal and American format, which present the odds differently but use the same principles.
The win bet
This is the most simple and common betting type used in horse racing. It is all-or-nothing. You are betting on your horse to finish 1st in the race, but if the horse doesn't win, you lose your stake. Whether the horse finished second or last is irrelevant to your bet as they didn't win the race.
The each-way bet
Oftentimes people want to hedge their bets and have more chance of winning money or getting their stake back. The each-way bet is used for this reason.
|It is made up of two parts, the "win" bet and the "place" bet. To best understand this, it might work best to take these two parts in isolation.|
|The "win" bet is exactly the same as the win bet described above. You win money if the horse wins the race but lose all your money if it doesn't win the race.|
|The "place" bet is when you think the horse will be placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd, although this does complicate on occasions. If there are lots of runners in the race, bookmakers might pay out on the horse finishing 4th and even 5th or 6th. Whereas if there are less than eight runners, it is common that they will only pay out on the 1st and 2nd places.|
You stake €5 each-way on Lucky Jim at odds of 8/1. This means you are placing a €5 'win bet' and a €5 'place bet' on Lucky Jim. The race itself has 10 runners, so bookmakers are counting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses as being placed. They are also offering a quarter of the odds for place bets.
Here are the three different scenarios for the bet:
Lucky Jim wins the race: The €5 'win bet' you placed means your profit from this part of the bet is €40 (€5 @8/1).
|You also won the 'placed bet' of the bet as your horse finished in top three. However, there was a greater probability of Lucky Jim finishing in the top three than there is of him winning the race, so you get shorter odds for the place part of the bet. In this case you get a quarter of 8/1 which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1).|
In total then, for the each-way bet, your profit is €50 (€40 from the 'win bet' and €10 from the 'place bet'). Plus, you are also given your stake back of €10.
As above, you get a quarter of 8/1, which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1). It breaks down as follows:
- Win Bet: - €5
- Place Bet: +€10
- Your total profit is €5.
Lucky Jim finishes 2nd or 3rd:
|The bad news is that you lose the stake from your €5 'win bet' as the horse failed to win the race. The good news is that you won the €5 'place bet' as Lucky Jim was placed i.e. he finished in the top three.|
Lucky Jim finishes outside the top three:
This is the worst result. You have lost both the 'win bet' and 'place bet'. You have lost the 'win bet' because Lucky Jim didn't win the race, and you have lost the 'place bet' because Lucky Jim did not finish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd. In total, you have lost €10 on the bet.
The 'win bet' and the 'each-way' bet are the most popular and widely understood types of bets on horse racing. But why not predict the first horse home when you can pick the first three? Of course this is easier said than done and the rewards are bigger for the decreased probability.
You bet on the horses to finish first and second in the race in exact order. For example, you bet that Lucky Jim will finish first and Yellow Submarine will finish second. But if Yellow Submarine finishes first and Lucky Jim finishes second, you don't win.
Also called a combination forecast, this bet gives you the option of predicting the 1st and 2nd finishers, but, unlike the forecast bet, the horses can finish in any order, first or second, and you still win.
This follows the same rules as the forecast bet but this time you are predicting the exact 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses. It means that ABC must come in as ABC and not any other order. This bet is also known as a trifecta.
Again, you are trying to predict the first horses to pass the finish line, but what order they finish in doesn't matter. This means that if the horses come in as ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, or CBA, you win the bet regardless.
Irish Derby FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about the Irish Derby.
A quick survey of the winners of the race over the past ten years shows a decent record for fancied horses. Hurricane Lane (2021), Santiago (2020), Capri (2017), Harzand (2016), Jack Hobbs (2015), Australia (2014), Trading Leather (2013), Camelot (2012), and Treasure Beach (2011) all went off at 6/1 or less. Although there have been some anomalies, with Sovereign (33/1) and Latrobe (16/1), it is a race that has generally been kind to punters in the past.
Keep in mind that it is one of the biggest races on the calendar, so it is worth shopping around and finding the best value. Some bookmakers may be paying extra each-way places or offering enhanced odds, so check the terms and conditions.
Also, keep an eye on the British raiders who have had a very good record in the race in recent times.
Yes, spectators can purchase tickets on the racecourse's website Curragh.ie. Racegoers can avail of early-bird prices if purchasing tickets in advance for the Irish Derby Festival.
There are a number of options for travelling to the race meeting. Trains run regularly from Heuston Station (Dublin), Waterford, Cork, Limerick and Galway to Kildare Town. The Curragh then offers a free shuttle bus from Newbridge and Kildare train stations to the racecourse.
There is also an Expressway direct bus return service from Dublin City Centre to the Curragh for all race fixtures.
If driving direcly from Dublin take Exit 9 off the M50 onto the N7 Southbound. From there take Exit 12 off the M7.
Visitors have a number of options for staying in the locality. Towns like Maynooth, Newbridge and Naas offer a number of accommodation options. While the racecourse is also easily accessible from Dublin for those who want to make a visit to the capital.
Bear in mind that the party continues after the racing with music, food and entertainment, so plan accordingly.
Friday 30th June - Comer Group International Curragh Cup (Group 2)
Sunday 2nd July - Alwasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes (Group 1)