By Ray Cleere
Whether it was the breathtaking late acceleration shown by Nijinsky in 1970, the facile display in victory from Shergar in 1981, the blistering performance by Galileo in 2001 or Camelot’s tough-as-teak success in the race in 2012, most people will have a contrasting memory of Ireland’s greatest horse race, the Irish Derby, which celebrates its 150th running this year.
On Saturday, June 27th, 2015, the Irish Derby, sponsored since 2008 by Dubai Duty Free, will be run for the 150th time and one horse will add its name to the list of the many greats which have won this race in the past.
The Irish Derby is a Group 1 feat horserace in Ireland open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies.
It is run at the Curragh Racecourse in County Kildare over a distance of 1 mile and 4 furlongs (2,414 metres), and it is scheduled to take place each year in late June or early July. It is Ireland’s equivalent of the Epsom Derby, and it is currently held three weeks after the English race. Technically, the history of the Irish Derby stretches back further than 150 years.
The earliest version of the Irish Derby was a race called the O’Darby Stakes. It was established in 1817 and it was run at the Curragh. However, it was only run on eight occasions and it was discontinued after 1824.
In 1848, 24 years later, a subsequent race called the Curragh Derby was inaugurated, but that was again short-lived.
The modern Irish Derby was created by the 3rd Earl of Howth, the 3rd Marquess of Drogheda and the 3rd Earl of Claremont. It was first run in 1866 and the 2015 winner will be the 150th winner of the Irish Derby. The first running of the Irish Derby attracted only three runners.
The winner was Selim who beat Tom King by three lengths with Fire Eater in third place. At the time, the Irish Derby was run on the second day of a four-day meeting and Selim won on each day. He had a walk-over on the first day and on the day after the Irish Derby he again beat Tom King in the three-mile Queen’s Plate race.
On the final day he won over four miles. Initially, the Irish Derby was contested over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 3 yards. It was extended by 9 yards in 1869, but since 1872 it has taken place over the traditional distance of a mile and a half. In 1966, 100 years later, the winner was Sodium ridden by Frankie Durr.