Duty Free Irish Derby Guide

The Dubai Duty Free Derby Weekend is the highlight of the Irish flat racing season

The Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Weekend in June, which takes place at the Curragh Racecourse, near Dublin, is three days of top quality racing showcasing the best that Ireland has to offer.

With it’s close proximity to Dublin, this iconic racing festival is one of Ireland’s biggest social and sporting occasions, a whirl of music, dancing, fashion and racing that attracts some of the world’s top horses and jockeys.

First run in 1866, the Irish Derby is a Group 1 Classic flat horse race

The Irish Derby is the most important Group 1 Classic the Irish flat racing season. Open to 3-year-old colts and fillies, the Irish Derby is run over a distance of one mile and four furlongs. Many English, Irish, and French 2,000 Guineas and Derby contenders traditionally come to the Curragh for the Irish Derby.

Dual Epsom & Irish Derby Winners

The first horse to complete the Epsom Derby – Irish Derby double was Orby in 1907. He was also the first Irish-trained winner of the Epsom Derby. After prize money was increased in 1962 (run as the Irish Sweeps Derby), the race began to attract stronger fields and in 1964 Santa Claus became the second dual Epsom / Irish Derby winner. 18 horses have completed the double up to 2016:

  • Orby (1907)
  • Santa Claus (1964)
  • Nijinsky (1970)
  • Grundy (1975)
  • The Minstrel (1977)
  • Shirley Heights (1978)
  • Troy (1979)
  • Shergar (1981)
  • Shahrastani (1986)
  • Kahyasi (1988)
  • Generous (1991)
  • Commander In Chief (1993)
  • Sinndar (2000)
  • Galileo (2001)
  • High Chaparral (2002)
  • Camelot (2012)
  • Australia (2014)
  • Harzand (2016)

The Irish Derby Festival: 3-Days of superb horseracing in early June

Day 2 Derby Day

Samtiago wins the Irish Derby 2020 at the Curragh Racecourse

With 8 races on the card, Day 2 of the Irish Derby Festival features 3 Group races, including the Irish Derby itself:

  • ARM Holding International Stakes (Group 3)
  • GAIN Railway Stakes (Group 2)
  • Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby (Group 1)

The 2020 winner of Irish Derby was Santiago, onboard was S Heffernan (joint leading jockey with 4 wins since 1990), trained by A P O’Brien (leading trainer since 1990 with 13 wins) owned by Smith/Magnier/Tabor.

Day 3 Pretty Polly Stakes

Magical wins the Pretty Polly Stakes at the Curragh

Day 3 of the Irish Derby Festival sees two more Group races on the 8 race card:

  • Airlie Stud Stakes (Group 2)
  • Almasmiyah Pretty Polly Stakes (Group 1)
    • Named after Pretty Polly who won 22 of her 24 races, 15 races on the trot and was only the 5th filly to win the British Fillies Triple Crown.

2020 saw Magical ridden to victory by S. Heffernan, (who partnered the Derby winner Santiago the day before, trained (again) by A.P. O-Brien, and (again) owned by the Smith/Magnier/Tabor partnership.

The Aga Khan Grandstand

The Curragh Racecourse Grandstand was redeveloped in 2019 by a consortium of architects and contractors who were also involved in the latest Center Court structure at theWimbledon All England Lawn Tennis Club. The new Aga Khan Grandstand was designed to accommodate 6000 racegoers and a crowd of up to 30000 at the racecourse.

Following completion, a few teething problems had to be ironed out, caused by wind noise in the grandstand’s soaring steel overfly roof, built to protect racegoers from the elements. Now rectified, the new grandstand, designed as a series of stacked horizontal tiers, compliments the surrounding landscape, while providing a superb viewing terrace for spectators on race day, and a superb hospitality facility.

Curragh hospitality in the Aga Khan stand

The Curragh Hospitality

Hospitality options at The Curragh include private box hire, a choice of two restaurants in the grandstand,  plus more casual options for group packages.


Situated on level 2 of the Grandstand, the Oaks Restaurant offers 3-course à la carte dining in a bright, elegant room with oak panel flooring and glass walls where you can experience the race day atmosphere while enjoying world-class hospitality. An adjacent reserved balcony overlooks the parade ring and champagne bar terrace below, while the upper tier terraced seating provides excellent views of the race track.


Situated on the top floor of the new Curragh grandstand, the St. Leger restaurant offers 3-course à la carte fine dining in the most stunning location Irish racing has to offer overlooking the race track and surrounding countryside. The St. Leger restaurant dining experience was nominated for an award at the Irish Restaurant Association Leinster Region 2020 Awards.


Situated at the heart of the action, private box hire at The Curragh combines exclusivity with impeccable service for you and your guests.  Available with a range of views and flexibile options, private box hire can be tailored to suit you. Ranging in capacity from 16-60 guests, each luxuriously furnished box comes with its own private bar and dining area, private balcony and large TVs, so you and your friends, family or clients, won’t miss a second of the action on the track.

What to Wear at the Irish Derby

While there is no obligatory dress code at all Irish race meetings, unlike Royal Ascot or the Epsom Derby, and you won’t be turned away if you arrives in jeans or chinos, most racegoers still opt for a ‘smart but casual look’, espefically at the more prestigeous Irish Racing Festivals suc as the Irish Derby.

There is often, however, a prize for the ‘Best Dressed Lady’, especially on ‘Ladies Day’, and the ladies certainly do not disappoint. This may of course be driven by the fact tat here is usually a very nice prize on offer. You could, for example, win an over night stay in a swanky hotel + a cash prize, not to mention getting your photo in the local papers.

So don’t hold back, get out your glad rags on and go for it, but be prepared for the weather with sensible  shoes and a hat that won’t go chasing after the horses at the finish line.

Best Dressed Lady @ the Irish Derby Festival

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