To celebrate the return of flat racing in Ireland this weekend, the Curragh and Naas racecourses have teamed up to offer a weekend ticket, which is available online for just €25 at curragh.ie and naasracecourse.com.
Saturday is the first of 23 scheduled days of top-quality racing at the Curragh for this year. Boasting an eight-race card featuring the Paddy Power Irish Lincolnshire Handicap and the Group 3 Lodge Park Stud EBF Park Express Stakes, the first race goes to post at 1.40pm.
To set the right tone for the weekend, the superb Newbridge Gospel Choir will welcome racegoers at the entrance to the Curragh; there will also be a variety of parade ring chats and previews with leading trainers, jockeys and a number of very special guests as they look forward to the season.
A new Kids Zone featuring the Kildare GAA Skills Zone will be launched at the Curragh, with free activities for younger racegoers throughout the afternoon. As always, under-18s are admitted free to the races when accompanied by an adult.
An innovative fundraising initiative, sponsored by the Curragh, is also taking place, featuring 33 GAA clubs from all over Co Kildare who have signed up to take part. Each club will be given a horse running in the Paddy Power Irish Lincolnshire, where a €10,000 pot will be split between the clubs who have drawn the first three placed horses.
Large crowds are expected to attend from all over the county to cheer on their horse on what will be a family day, and all racegoers are encouraged to wear their club jerseys and colours.
Sunday at Naas, Irish equine science company Plusvital continue their sponsorship at the track with the Listed Plusvital Devoy Stakes, a highly competitive early season target for some of Ireland’s leading middle-distance and staying horses.
This has once again attracted a strong field. Now in their fourth year supporting racing at Naas, Plusvital are delighted to be sponsoring this feature, which was won by Layfayette last year who went on to land the Group 3 Alleged Stakes and the Group 2 Mooresbridge Stakes, both at the Curragh. In 2021 the race was won by Group 1 winner Broome.
Compas Stallions, owned and managed by Micheál Orlandi, also return to Naas supporting five races at tomorrow’s meeting, including the Dubawi Legend Irish EBF Fillies Maiden which has been won by subsequent classic-winning fillies Empress Josephine and Tuesday in recent years.
On top of the Compas Stallions’ sponsorship at Naas in 2023, winning breeders will also be rewarded, being given a free nomination to the stallion after which the race is named.
In the case of the Compas Stallions Handicap, the successful breeder will be allowed to take their pick for a free nomination to any stallion on the Compas roster.
Before racing on Sunday, the Gain Flat is Back Preview will take place in the Circle Bar at 12.15pm, with a panel of well-known trainers, a jockey and a representative from Gain to chat about the build-up to the flat season, preview the card, and note some horses to watch for the season ahead.
Activities for children on the day include face painting and magic show, and there is also a free crèche and playground available.
The Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) wishes both teams at the Curragh and Naas, and all involved in the flat industry, the very best of luck ahead for this weekend, and indeed for the forthcoming season.
By Leo Powell