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HRI chief Brian Kavanagh unhappy at number of alternatives for possible Irish Derby contenders

Updated: Monday, 30 Jun 2014 14:08 | Comments

The Irish Derby field which Australia  demolished was the smallest since 1912
The Irish Derby field which Australia demolished was the smallest since 1912

Horse Racing Ireland chief executive Brian Kavanagh expects to meet with his counterparts from England and France to discuss the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby at the end of July.

The race at the Curragh on Saturday was rendered relatively uncompetitive in the absence of Kingston Hill, with Aidan O'Brien's Australia cruising to victory unchallenged as the 1-8 favourite from just four rivals, including two from his own yard.

Epsom runner-up Kingston Hill was a late withdrawal due to fast ground, and there have been similar defections in recent years from big names such as New Approach and Sea The Stars who both missed the race due to testing conditions.

One factor which has compromised the contest’s competitiveness is the lack of French challengers.

The timing of the Prix du Jockey Club and the Grand Prix de Paris means French-trained Classic contenders have eschewed a trip to the Curragh in favour of the races at Chantilly and Longchamp.

The Grand Prix de Paris has become the main target for the more stoutly bred French three-year-olds

since the distance of the Prix du Jockey Club was changed to a mile and a quarter in 2005.

It was often the case that the Curragh staged a Derby decider between the winners from Epsom and Chantilly.

"The reduction in distance of the French Derby (Prix du Jockey Club) is just one of a number of factors," said Kavanagh.

"The Irish Derby has been unlucky in recent years that the likes of Sea The Stars, New Approach and now Kingston Hill were all late absentees, although that being said the lack of French Derby winners is an issue.

"Racegoers at the Curragh on Saturday saw a great horse, but we want them to see a great race.

“I think the Irish Derby suffers because there are so many alternatives for the three-year-olds at this time.

"Sea The Stars ran in the Eclipse, it looks like Kingston Hill is going for the Grand Prix de Paris.

"In the past the Irish Derby was always the title decider, but that is not the case anymore and it's worth looking at.

"Not all in France are happy with the change in distance, I've spoke to owner/breeders myself about it and they felt it should have stayed at 12 furlongs because the ground at Longchamp can get very fast in July for the Grand Prix.

"Everything needs looking at.

"I've been racecourse manager at the Curragh and the ground never gets really fast there, it's like a Links golf course, it's spongy grass, I just think there are too many alternative options.

"So while the crowd saw a great horse in Australia, it wasn't a great race and we need to get the opposition to turn up, it's not Aidan O'Brien's fault.

"We need to look back at them all and see what can be done because there's a knock-on effect on the King George.

"I'll be meeting with my European counterparts at the end of July and that would seem a good time to discuss it."

O'Brien himself felt this year's renewal was up to scratch.

"If there was 30 horses behind him, the pace would have been the same so there was no difference - it was a proper-run race," he told At The Races.

"The quality of the race was a lot higher than anybody thinks."

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