The dust is barely settled from last week’s events at Cheltenham but Horse Racing is a continually moving feast and yesterday the sport doubled up with a launch of the new flat racing season at the stables of Aidan O’Brien in Ballydoyle and the social launch of the Boylesports Irish National at Fairyhouse in the glamorous surrounds of House in Dublin.
The 2018 flat season kicks off at Naas on Sunday with the €100,000 Tote Irish Lincolnshire.
Ireland’s champion trainer for the first time in 1997, O’Brien has won the crown every year since 1999 and rewrote the record books in a whirlwind 2017 season which saw him comfortably better Bobby Frankel’s 2003 record of 25 Group/Grade 1 winners in a calendar year.
Saxon Warrior landed the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster to beat Frankel’s record and O’Brien then went on to win with Mendelssohn in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar in early November before Highland Reel headed into retirement with victory in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin the following month.
O’Brien sent out Group/Grade 1 winners in Ireland, England, France, America and Hong Kong as he set a new mark of 28 and no doubt Ireland’s newest Group 1, the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at the Curragh on Longines Irish Champions Weekend in September, will be an end of season target for the Ballydoyle maestro. It will be the first Group 1 sprint for older horses in Ireland and a sixth Group 1 race for Longines Irish Champions Weekend.
Longines Irish Champions Weekend will also see further significant enhancements with the promotion of the Willis Tower Watson Champions Juvenile Turf at Leopardstown from Group 3 to 2 status and the conversion of the Leopardstown two-years-old fillies’ maiden into a two-years-old winners’ Listed race for fillies.
“Irish trainers, jockeys, owners and breeders enjoyed a hugely successful Flat season last year both at home and internationally and we have so much to look forward to when the new Flat season begins at Naas on Sunday,” said Brian Kavanagh, CEO of Horse Racing Ireland.
“Aidan O’Brien brought the sport of horse racing to a wider audience with his phenomenal achievement of 28 Group and Grade 1 winners around the globe in 2017, setting a new world record. Between that feat, and that of Irish trainers taking the first three places in the Melbourne Cup on a famous day in November, it was an unforgettable Flat season which has whetted the appetite for what’s to come from Sunday at Naas, right through the summer months.”
Before the summer season kicks in there is plenty of action over jumps and Fairyhouse hosted a glamorous launch at House in Dublin ahead of the Easter festival.
Image Credit: Morgan Treacy, Inpho Photography