THERE may be six Group 1 races taking place in Ireland this weekend, there’s Listowel and Doncaster too, but no racing event has generated more publicity this week than Pat Smullen’s fundraising drive for Cancer Trials Ireland.
What started out as a charity race and a gala dinner has turned into a monster online auction, industry participants donating their professional fees and even a horse being claimed at Laytown in Smullen’s name.
A number of racehorse owners have paid €100 each to have their colours reproduced in the souvenir racecards this weekend. Tonight’s sold-out gala dinner in Dublin will see six special items auctioned.
Some observers estimate that over €500,000 could be raised in total when the dust settles.
Perhaps the most remarkable part of it all is that Smullen has not been available to promote the events himself. A few weeks ago he announced he had to take time out for more chemotherapy sessions. But his enforced absence seemed to motivate all those who have admired his courage, not just within racing but in the wider sporting world and beyond.
The role played by Horse Racing Ireland in pulling it all together must not be overlooked. From the very top of the organisation, to senior executives, the entire marketing department, the racing department, and probably many more, HRI has put serious time and effort into making everyone aware of the fundraising drive.
One central message has been that every donation, no matter how small, means a lot. At Leopardstown today and at the Curragh on Sunday, there will be lots of opportunities for racegoers to chip in whatever they can afford. They can buy a raffle ticket or a special edition reusable coffee mug.
On Sunday nine former champion jockeys will come out of retirement for the Pat Smullen Champions Race for Cancer Trials Ireland. Racegoers will have a chance to meet these heroes earlier in the day.
“I’m so grateful to these lads for coming out of retirement to ride in the race, it looks like the race of a lifetime and I’m just disappointed that I can’t ride in it! I know that it has meant a few gruelling weeks for some of them as they get fit for it and I really do appreciate it,” said Smullen yesterday.
“This race will hopefully raise awareness of pancreatic cancer but it is also going to contribute to our goal this weekend of raising as much money as possible for Cancer Trials Ireland, who has two vital cancer trials ready to go.
“The generosity people have shown has been heart-warming. Within 24 hours we had found sponsors for all of the jockeys and that’s a credit to the generosity of Adare Manor, Ballymore Properties, Bar One Racing, Betfair, BetVictor, the INBA, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and SkyBet, as well as The Underwriting Exchange, The Patron Group and Racing TV. Thanks to one and all.”
Trainer Ger Lyons ran a hugely successful social media campaign to poach the services of Johnny Murtagh. As of declaration time the ‘What’s Johnny worth?’ fund had swelled to €17,000.
How you can help
Make a donation at any time on cancertrials.ie
IRISH CHAMPIONS WEEKEND SCHEDULE
11.00am Gates open
11.00am-4.00pm Registration for Longines Prize for Elegance (Champions Quarter Marquee)
12.00pm-6.00pm Code of Behaviour Brass Band (Champions Quarter)
12.30pm-1.00pm Goffs Champion Sale (Parade Ring)
1.00pm-1.30 Paddy Power Winning Line in aid of Cancer Trials Ireland with Ruby Walsh, Colm O’Rourke, John Mullane & Johnny Murtagh
1.55pm Racing starts
2.00pm-6.00pm January Winters (Champions Patio)
4.00pm Registration for Longines Prize for Elegance closes (Champions Quarter Marquee)
4.30pm Longines Prize for Elegance top 10 finalists and winners to be announced and interviewed (Champions Stage)
5.00pm Longines Prize for Elegance lady and gentlemen winning presentations (Parade Ring)
6.00pm Last race
6.00pm-7.30pm All Ireland football final – Dublin v Kerry
7.30pm-8.10pm True Tides (Champions Stage)
The Curragh, Sunday
8.30am Thoroughbred Trail registration opens (entrance)
9.30am-12.00pm Thoroughbred Trails
11.30am Gates open
11.30am - 12.30pm Music: Newbridge Gospel Choir(grass bank adjacent to main entrance walk way)
12.20 Paddy Power Winning Line (Champions Quarter)
Longines Prize of Elegance Preview (Champions Quarter)
12.30pm Heritage talk with Jim Kavanagh (Queens Room)
12.45pm- Longines Prize of Elegance preview (Champions Quarter)
1.00pm - 6.00pm Kids’ activities (Kids’ Zone at the Queen’s Room)
1.20pm Racing begins
2.00pm-2.20pm Meet the champion jockeys (at the Cancer Trials Unit)
2.15pm - 4.15pm Music: The Hideout (Derby Bar)
2.30pm - 5.30pm Music: Electric Blu (Champions Quarter in Arcum Marquee)
3.10pm - 3.25pm Longines Prize of Elegance winners announced (male and female)
4.15pm - 6.15pm Music: Gordon Turner (Derby Bar)
4.30pm Guard of honour for champion jockeys in advance of Pat Smullen Champions Race, with presentations to all jockeys after race (Parade Ring)
6.00pm Final race