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Horseracing in Ireland

Dateline: 08/24/97

Ireland is a land that seems to be made for breeding fine horses. The climate, limestone rich soil, and lush grass all combine to create a perfect environment for horses and produces some of the top international runners. Some of the top sires in the world stand at Irish stud farms, most notably the pre-eminant turf sire Sadler's Wells. Irish breds win in top company the world over, including 7 winners of Breeders Cup Championship Day races (3 in the Mile, 3 in the Turf, and 1 in the Classic), at least one Belmont Stakes winner (Go and Go), and even a US Horse of the Year (Black Tie Affair).

[Breeders Cup Turf 1996 finish]

Most impressive was last year's sweep of the top three places in the Breeders Cup Turf by Pilsudski, Singspiel, and Swain. Singspiel went on after that to win the Japan Cup, finish second in the Dubai World Cup on the dirt, win multiple group races in Europe, and is generally considered one of the top horses in the world.

[Harkaway] Great Irish breds are nothing new though. Harkaway (1834) ruled the Curragh for 3 years with 18 wins in 23 starts. He then went to England where he won 8 of 15 including the Goodwood Cup twice, proving Irish breds could compete with the best England had to offer. He was the first of the great Irish champions and is responsible for much of the popularity of flat racing in Ireland.

Pretty Polly (1901) won 22 of 24 starts and beat the boys to win many of Europes greatest races. She was also influential as a broodmare as well producing one Irish Derby winner and starting a female line that continues to produce top horses today.

[The Tetrarch] The Tetrarch (1911), known as the spotted wonder because of his striking coloration, won all 7 of his career starts. He was not very prolific as a stud, with only 130 offspring, but they were of high quality. He appears in the pedigrees of many top horses like Triple Crown winner Count Fleet and the great rivals Swaps and Nashua. Through his daughter Mumtaz Mahal and her grandson Nasrullah he appears in the pedigree of thousands of today's runners.

Tulyar (1949) was another top performer with 9 wins in 13 starts, including the Epsom Derby. His most important contribution to breeding was probably through his daughter Castle Forbes and her son Irish Castle, sire of 1976 Kentucky Derby winner Bold Forbes.

Continuing the tradition today in the Beverly D at Arlington International was Dance Design, the post time favorite who finished a game third. An Irish bred daughter of Sadler's Wells, she was ridden by Ireland's top jockey Michael Kinane and trained by top Irish trainer Dermot Weld.

For information about the racecourses and major races in Ireland, please visit Suzanne Barrett's Ireland for Visitors feature.

Books about horses in Ireland from Amazon.Com:

  • The Horse in Ireland
    Brian Smith; Hardcover, 338 pages; Published by Irish Amer Book Co April 1991

  • In Search of Shergar
    Colin Turner; Hardcover; Published by Sidgwick & Jackson October 1984
    About the famous race horse who was stolen and never recovered.

Information about Irish racing and Irish bred horses:

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