2000-2020: TWENTY YEARS AT CURRAHEEN PARK

2000-2020: TWENTY YEARS AT CURRAHEEN PARK

Ian Fortune

RIDGE TAKES THE FIRST CURRAHEEN LAURELS

Ian Fortune looks back at a memorable first Laurels run at Curraheen Park in 2000

Curraheen Park is twenty years old. How and when did that happen? It seems like only yesterday when the shiny, brand new, world class facility opened to much fanfare. The crowds came in their thousands that first year and they were rewarded with some incredible racing.

REBEL THE ONE TO BEAT

Of course, the Laurels has always been the flagship event at Cork and the first to be run at Curraheen Park was a memorable one. Moyne Rebel was one of the big names on the track in 2000. After capturing the Produce Stakes around Thurles earlier that year, breaking the track record for the third time in four runs in the final, he entered the Laurels with a record of eleven wins from twelve starts.

He built a sequence of twelve wins to make the final on October 28th and legendary Cork bookmaker Liam Cashman installed him the 5-6 favourite soon after the draw for the decider. Standing in his way were some talented trackers, however.

HENNESSY WITH THREE

Marinas Tina, the Oaks and consolation Derby winner, had undoubted claims for Seamus Graham, while Paul Hennessy had three finalists in the shape of Champion Stakes winner Lemon Ralph, the lightly raced O Rahilly Walk and the ever-consistent Barefoot Ridge.

Dolore Ruth’s Leger champion Extra Dividend completed the line-up but was the rank outsider despite his classic winning status. Quite simply, the big finisher was going to have to come from a mile off the pace which seemed unlikely around the sharp Curraheen circuit.

ALL THE MONEY FOR THE FAVOURITE

All the money on final night was for Moyne Rebel. After posting a record breaking 28.25 in the opening round, he had overcome some tardy starts to stay unbeaten through the competition. As the sole wide seed, The Liam McCormack trained star looked perfectly housed in the stripes and he was backed into 4-6 favouritism. 

Marinas Tinas was the second choice in the betting but this was not to be her night. She will go down as one of the great bitches to ever race, however, after subsequently claiming a second Oaks success in the summer of 2001.

GOING TO SCRIPT AT FIRST

From the early yards it seemed as though Moyne Rebel was going to add to his incredible record and claim a second classic of the year. He got the better of O Rahilly Walk and Lemon Ralph into the turn to slip around in front. The latter moved wide on the turn, crashing into Marinas Tina.

PREMATURE CELEBRATIONS

The cheers from the crowds suggested they also believed the race was over as a contest with Moyne Rebel entering the back straight with a clear advantage. The celebrations were premature. 

Three lengths clear at the third turn, Moyne Rebel was still in command but then the unthinkable happened. Barefoot Ridge had moved second ahead of his kennel companion O Rahilly Walk and when Moyne Rebel began to show signs of fatigue as they turned for home, the cheers from the packed stands became somewhat muted.

BAREFOOT RIDGE THE LAURELS CHAMPION

In a desperate finish, Moyne Rebel just couldn’t contain the advancing Barefoot Ridge. At the line, the Paul Hennessy trained, Bryan Murphy owned and Kathleen McGovern bred Barefoot Ridge had a half length in hand in 28.69. Extra Dividend unleashed his trademark flying finish to take third, just two lengths adrift.

It was a third Laurels success for Paul Hennessy in four years following the victories of Mr Pickwick in 1997 and 1998. It was certainly a memorable Laurels decider and a fitting first at Curraheen Park. 

Barefoot Ridge winner of the 2000 Irish Laurels, the first in the newly opened Curraheen Park