RACING continues to come thick and fast and while we skipped quickly from the Curragh to Royal Ascot, it’s important to pause and take stock of what actually happened last weekend.
Siskin proved too hot to handle in the 2,000 Guineas while Peaceful provided Galileo with a world record 85th individual Group 1 winner in the 1,000 Guineas.
However from a personal perspective, last weekend was a particularly important one for RTÉ Racing.
As the first sport back in town, we were under no illusions that we had a unique opportunity to capture a new audience. Fortunately, I was smack bang in the middle of the action!
To my right stood Hugh Cahill — a steadfast racing fan who possesses an undeniable enthusiasm that is infectious even through the lens.
Hugh guided us through the Curragh’s barren landscape, building to each race with the precision of a seasoned professional.
Meanwhile, on my left stood Ruby Walsh, one of the best in the business when it comes to dissecting a race and discussing tactics. His post-race analysis of the Irish 2,000 Guineas was a master class.
Overall, the team came away from the Curragh last weekend with lots of positives, some areas that require further attention but overall content in the knowledge that we didn’t miss our chance.
On Monday morning, the litmus test results arrived – the viewership figures!
Friday evening’s numbers were double that of 2019 with over 129,000 people tuning in to watch an emotional Ger Lyons win the 2,000 Guineas with Siskin.
On Saturday evening, RTÉ Racing recorded 150,000 viewers for the 1,000 Guineas – the highest figure in six years.
Today our attention turns to the studio as we head to Donnybrook to record the first of a number of hour-long shows that will hopefully run as smoothly as last weekend. However, this is an entirely different test.
From 7pm to 8pm this evening, we will broadcast races live from Gowran Park while we air at 5pm-6pm on Saturday and Sunday to discuss the action at Naas and Leopardstown.
This is new territory. No frills or fluff. Just one hour jam-packed full of racing.
The challenge is undeniable but the opportunity outweighs any negative. We are ready to re-write how racing is broadcast in this country and hope you will join us this weekend for the next chapter.
My own attention might be focused on what’s happening here at home but it would be remiss not to discuss tomorrow’s action at Royal Ascot. Somewhat like Cheltenham, day one of the Royal meeting is usually the highlight of the week but with a number of adaptations to the card, it seems they have saved the best for last in 2020.
The St James’s Palace Stakes sees the quick return of the Newmarket Guineas second and third Wichita and Pinatubo. Just two weeks ago, these two went head to head only to be run down by the fast-finishing Kameko near the line. The question remains, will this prove too soon?
Richard Hannon opted to skip Newmarket with his Richmond Stakes winner Threat and it might prove a winning move. Hannon’s horses have been firing at Ascot all week and it must be an advantage to be coming here a fresh horse.
Battaash was explosive in the King Stands Stakes on Tuesday but tomorrow’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes is all about Sceptical. Purchased for a mere £2,800 as an unraced three-year-old from Godolphin, Denis Hogan has really hit the jackpot with this gelded son of Exceed And Excel – winning four of his five races including the Listed Woodlands Stakes at Naas on racing’s first day back after lockdown.
Obviously, for everyone involved, a win would be huge but the fact that someone can buy a horse so cheaply and dream of having a Royal Ascot winner is a great story. Nenagh trainer Denis Hogan has secured the services of Frankie Dettori to take the reigns – a thrill in itself!
Ireland also have a live chance in the Coronation Stakes courtesy of Jessica Harrington’s Alpine Star who will also have the assistance of Frankie Dettori.
This filly missed her intended engagement in the French 1,000 Guineas due to travel restrictions so hopefully, she can make up for lost time tomorrow afternoon!