2016 marks the 80th anniversary of the Ulster Derby.
Taking place at Down Royal on Saturday 18th June, the Magners Derby is the biggest and richest flat race of the season in Northern Ireland, the undoubted highlight of the two-day Summer Festival of Racing at Down Royal.
Thousands of spectators will be at Down Royal to take in the excitement of the €100,000 contest, an annual highlight of Northern Ireland’s social, as well as its sporting, calendar.
It’s also a race with more than its share of heritage, great sporting stories and a unique place in local affections. One man with great memories of the event is three times Magners Derby winner Chris Hayes who took time out from training to help launch the 2016 challenge alongside sponsor Julia Galbraith, Magners Brand Manager.
Chris Hayes, who won the Magners Derby for the third time in 2013 on Sir Ector is back in 2016 looking for further record breaking glory, said: “Down Royal has been a very lucky track for me. I’ve won the Magners Ulster Derby on three occasions and while I had no luck in the race last year, I had a great day as I won the Ulster Oaks and went on to ride a treble. I don’t know what it is, but I just love the track and it has been very lucky for me throughout my career.
“It is very fair and for a horse to win the Derby, they must stay well and it is a very stiff test for three year olds at this stage of their careers.
“Some very good horses have been successful in the race. Kempes won the race back in 2006 and he developed into a very good horse over fences and won two Grade 1 events for Willie Mullins, whilst I’m Supossin developed into a top class horse over hurdles and was placed in The Champion Hurdle behind Istabraq in 1998.
“There is always a great crowd and atmosphere at Down Royal and the track is always very well presented and I know that my fellow jockeys all look forward to riding at the meeting.”
Looking forward to the big day, Julia Galbraith from Magners, said: “This is a race meet like no other, blending sporting challenge in pursuit of a €100,000 prize pot, with a unique sociability. Magners is a brand that is always at the heart of social occasions, so this much-loved event is an obvious fit.
“The links between the Province’s Number One Cider and the Number One race meet of the year is set to be a winner for the two favourites. Like Magners, which last year celebrated 80 years since William Magner started to make his own cider, we’re delighted to discover that this race we sponsor is as old as our brand’s heritage! The brands have both come a long way in eighty years, by staying true to their respective roots.”
Mike Todd, General Manager of Down Royal, added: “The Magners Derby has long been the flagship flat race in Northern Ireland, attracting many names and top horses to Down Royal.
“Down Royal enjoys working with Magners on this race, and we’ve worked hard over the years to continue to introduce new, younger, audiences to the sport in general, enhancing the racing experience with fantastic facilities and a real sense of occasion. We are proud of the venue we offer today for both racing and socialising, and are particularly looking forward to the Magners Derby Day of this year’s Summer Festival of Racing.“