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October 15, 2012

Curragh enjoys another top class season in 2012

curragh-logo 2012 has been another high-class and exciting year of sport at the Curragh, from the very start right through to the finish.

The very first race of the year at the Curragh, the opening two-year-old maiden of the season, is always an intriguing contest, but this year’s renewal produced a winner that would remain at the top of the juvenile ranks from the very beginning of the season to the very end of it, the Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach. The main event of the opening day, the Irish Lincolnshire, also produced a high-class winner, with the John Oxx-trained Sharestan winning comfortably and going on to win two Listed races.

The following month, the Group 3 Big Bad Bob Gladness Stakes attracted a particularly high-profile star this year, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Excelebration landing the odds in great style prior to going on to stamp himself as one of the leading milers in Europe later in the season.

The first Irish Classic of the season was the Group 1 Abu Dhabi Irish 2000 Guineas and it produced an exciting finish, with the Aidan O’Brien-trained Power proving his class by recording a game length success under Joseph O’Brien. Aidan and Joseph combined to take another Group 1 the following day, combining with So You Think to record an easy win in the Tattersalls Gold Cup. The other Classic of the weekend was the Group 1 Etihad Airways Irish 1,000 Guineas and the prize went for export after the Mick Channon-trained Samitar scored under Martin Harley.

The focus of the entire Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby meeting was the will he won’t he debate over the participation of the mighty Camelot in the feature race, as the testing ground made him a doubtful runner. It was only in the hours before the race that Aidan O’Brien’s stable star was confirmed for the race and while he wasn’t deeply impressive on the day, he ground out a gritty two lengths win under Joseph O’Brien.

The Darley Irish Oaks meeting is always one of the highlights of the Irish Flat season and this year’s renewal attracted all of the top fillies in Britain and Ireland. As it transpired, the John Gosden-trained Great Heavens proved best suited by the testing ground, grinding out an authoritative three lengths victory under William Buick.

The Group 1 Phoenix Stakes is generally one of the top juvenile races of the season, though this year’s renewal will be best remembered for the drama that unfolded. The favourite Probably underperformed and the second favourite Cristoforo Colombo dramatically slipped up when travelling well a furlong out, leaving the Aidan O’Brien-trained Pedro The Great to prevail readily under Seamie Heffernan.

Group 1 action returned four weeks later, with the prize for the Moyglare Stud Stakes being confirmed for export, as the Richard Hannon-trained Sky Lantern recorded a comfortable success under Richard Hughes.

A week later, the final Irish Classic of the season, the Gain Horse Feeds Irish St Leger, produced a pulsating four-way finish, with the Tommy Carmody-trained Royal Diamond notching one up for the Curragh-based trainers by recording a head victory under the ever-green Niall McCullagh. The other Group 1 on the day was the Goffs Vincent O’Brien Stakes and it saw the Jim Bolger-trained Dawn Approach make a glorious return to the Curragh almost six months after making a winning debut there, running out the wide-margin winner and stamping himself as the top prospect of his generation.