Legendary Offaly jockey Pat Smullen, who announced his retirement last week, was among the guests at the launch of the Irish Derby at the Curragh on Friday, May 10.
Record numbers turned up at the newly refurbished Curragh Racecourse for the official launch of the Kildare Derby Festival 2019. Honorary guest Smullen was joined by Kildare’s Mayor Sean Power in officially launching the festival which takes place from June 21 to 30, 2019.
In celebration of the major €75 million investment into the Curragh Racecourse, this year’s Kildare Derby Festival is also undergoing a renaissance of its own. The festival has gathered an extensive committee of business, cultural and community leaders to create a unique programme of events. The new Derby Festival Committee has a unified purpose to bring the community and businesses of Kildare together to create a truly unique seven-day spectacle to celebrate Ireland’s greatest horse race in Ireland’s greatest horse racing town.
Working closely with Kildare County Council, Into Kildare and the Chamber of Commerce, the festival committee are planning a sensational week of events ensuring young and old will be entertained. Highlights of the festival’s programme include the Carnival of Circus with Circus Gerbola on Sunday, June 23 which will see Kildare Town Square will turn into an outdoor circus as the talented artists from Circus Gerbola perform two open-air shows supported by local dance schools.
Racing enthusiasts will enjoy The Curragh Racing Memorabilia Exhibition in the Courthouse taking place from June 26-30 June. This is an exclusive opportunity to view rarely seen memorabilia of great trainers, owners, jockeys and racing families from The Curragh. Racing colours, video footage, race cards, saddles and much more will be available to view at this exhibition. R.A.C.E will also be in attendance showcasing their education programme for apprentice jockeys, while a farrier exhibition will take place on selected dates where visitors can see the highly skilled art of shoeing.
The inaugural Irish Derby Legends Walk will take place on Sunday, June 30 from the Irish National Stud at 2pm. The Walkers will take in the Irish Derby “trip” of 12 furlongs from the stud, through the Kildare Village and finish in Kildare town with a fete at the Square to celebrate the culmination of the Derby Festival.
Speaking at the event, Race Manager at the Curragh Racecourse, Evan Arkwright was thrilled to welcome the huge crowd of local community members to the launch of the Kildare Derby Festival. He said, “The Curragh Racecourse is now among the best in the world, and this year’s Festival will play a huge role in promoting racing and in driving tourism in the county.”
Chief Executive of Kildare County Council agreed, stating that the new Curragh Racecourse “is as good as Ascot, Melbourne, or anywhere in the world. He praised the work of the festival committee and pledged the council’s support to the Kildare Derby Festival and the Curragh Racecourse in promoting the Festival and driving tourism in the county through close partnership with Into Kildare.
Guest of honour at the event, recently retired Irish Champion Jockey Pat Smullen was presented with artwork from local leather artist Garvan de Bruir by Chairman of Kildare Derby Festival, Ollie Kearns. Speaking at the event, Pat Smullen said the Curragh Racecourse is “the best track in the world, and it’s great that the wonderful new facilities now match the racetrack.”
He also highlighted the importance of the Festival, saying that “the Kildare Derby Festival is vital to get people back racing, and the whole community must come together to push the Festival forward.”
Guests were treated to a preview of what to expect from this year’s Kildare Derby Festival, with a performance from Gerbola Circus as the event ended with the artists performing a stunning Illusion Box disappearing act and an incredible juggling display.
For full details on the Kildare Derby Festival, including the full programme of events, visit www.kildarederbyfestival.ie. It really is more than the race.