Top jockeys swap Cheltenham for Celebratory Donkey Derby

Barely dismounted from Cheltenham, some of the racing world’s top jockeys are now set to brave Youghal’s main street.

And it won’t be a canter either for Lisgoold-born champion jockey Paul Townend, Irish Grand National first lady winner Nina Carberry or Youghal-born Davy Russell, who rode Sir des Champs to victory at Prestbury Park last week.

Along with Fermoy native Davy Condon, Paul Carberry and Limerick-born Andrew McNamara, the six will take part in tomorrow night’s inaugural Paddy Power-sponsored Celebratory Donkey Derby in the east Cork town.

Locals say the testing relay through the streets of the historic town could well relegate the punishing Cheltenham hill to a lawn gallop in the Cotswolds.

Each jockey will join a team of a pub landlord and two members of a local sporting organisation.

The teams will negotiate the three-furlong stretch from the Clock Gate to the Red Store pub by way of mini-tractor, shopping trolley, space hopper and, of course, a donkey.

The event arose after Russell, currently Horse Racing Ireland’s National Hunt Ambassador, volunteered his services to his hometown’s tourism drive.

“I remember the great craic at the Youghal potato festival when I was growing up in the 1980s,” he says. “It’s a brilliant town for fun and celebration. When I asked the other jockeys if they’d help out they were up for it straightaway.”

The cavernous potholes that peppered the route before the local authorities resurfaced it last winter, would doubtless have tested the jockeys’ capabilities. Nonetheless, various obstacles will be placed on the course to escalate the challenge, according to Siobhán Sheehan of organisers Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce. Patrons can meet the jockeys as they visit their respective pubs for an hour before “going to post” at 7pm. The event is a fundraiser for the Chamber’s 2012 festival calendar, including the Queen of the Sea Festival, which in turn supports Childline and Youghal Lifeboat.

Local support has been outstanding, says Ms Sheehan, including free accommodation for the jockeys at Aherne’s seafood restaurant and free meals for the riders at the Quay’s bar.

An accompanying raffle features a night in Dublin’s Louis Fitzgerald Hotel plus two reserved enclosure tickets to Punchestown’s April meeting. Other prizes include tickets for Galway, Listowel, Killarney and Cork racecourses and a weekend for five in Trabolgan.

* More info: Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce on 024 92447.


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