It is a global sport in which Ireland excels and the Irish Champions Festival on Saturday and Sunday September 9th and 10th is an event where the eyes of the world rest upon our horse racing.
This is the tenth year of the Festival, renamed this year from previously being known as the Irish Champions Weekend.
Back in August 2014, we wrote on Sport for Business that “There is a point at which confidence expands and it seems as if darker days might never have happened. The sport of horse racing has announced its recovery from the recession of recent years with a major launch of the biggest racing event to take place in Ireland this coming September.”
“The Irish Champions Weekend will be a statement of intent around Ireland’s place in the world horse racing hierarchy and looks set to be a major success.”
So it has proven over the past decade with major sponsorships, major horses and major spotlight on the value to Ireland of the horseracing game as a sport but also as an industry.
The dark days we were emerging from then were those of a global economic recession. More recently it has been the storm of a global pandemic but the two days of racing at Leopardstown and the Curragh have stood strong.
In 2022 Leopardstown secured a partnership with the Bahrain Turf Club for the sponsorship of the Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes.
“The Bahrain Turf Club is delighted to establish this partnership with Leopardstown and Horse Racing Ireland by sponsoring one of the most prestigious races in world racing, The Royal Bahrain Irish Champion Stakes,” said H.H. Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Chairman of The Bahrain Turf Club at the time.
The partnership has now extended to additional races run at the Dublin track and is a valuable part of Horse Racing’s sponsorship portfolio.
Paddy Power, Dullingham Park, Ballylinch, and Coolmore Stud Farms are also sponsors on the first day at Leopardstown.
Comer group, Goffs, Al Basti Equiworld, Moyglare Stud, and Tattersalls are among those backing the second day at the Curragh.
It is of course a busy time in the sporting calendar. The Rugby World Cup kicks off in France with Ireland’s opening game against Romania clashing with Saturday while the Horizon Irish Open takes place in the K Club across the weekend as well.
Both racecourses are nonetheless confident that a general rise in attendance will continue this year, adding to the value of global betting pools based around the key races and significant global TV broadcasts around the world.
Renaming the weekend as a Festival ties in with the trend towards Festivals as a marketing medium with Galway, Punchestown, Leopardstown and the Curragh all seeing the benefit of the wrapping of music and entertainment around the sport.
The cameras were down in Ballydoyle, the base of superstar trainer Aidan O’Brien this week taking a look at some of the stars he will be sending to the Festival including the Epsom and Dubai Duty-Free Derby double winner Auguste Rodin.