Racing stars under starter’s orders for Donkey Derby in Youghal

With the Cheltenham festival stabled and fed for another year, many of Ireland’s top jump jockeys will head to Youghal, Co Cork, on Friday for the next great challenge.

Racing stars under starter’s orders for Donkey Derby in Youghal

The town’s fifth annual Donkey Derby is proving irresistible to the knights of the saddle with more than 20 flat and National Hunt jockeys — double that of previous years — already ‘declaring’.

“We have extra races, including more novelty events, this year,” says Siobhán Sheehan of Youghal Chamber of Tourism and Commerce.

The line-up includes such legends as Davy Russell, Johnny Burke, Mark Enright, Jane Mangan, Martin Ferris, Paul Townend, Rachel Blackmore, and David Mullins.

The race night is appropriately dated for April 1 but only a fool would bet against splendid chaos and pandemonium.

The races involve several deeply frenetic excursions up and down a 150m section of Youghal’s North Main St, with teams of jockeys and locals representing businesses and clubs.

On ground that will be decidedly hard, several novelty races will precede the donkey contests, with participants travelling on anything from baby tractors to shopping trolleys, while a ‘six-legged race’ usually results in several fallers.

The street event is the brainchild of local man, National Hunt jockey Davy Russell and is a fundraiser for Youghal’s Queen of the Sea festival next August.

Income for the festival largely derives from a well-funded raffle, supported by over 40 businesses. The Queen of the Sea in turn will raise funds for an affiliated charity.

The former Irish champion jockey has a strong affinity with his home town. “I loved growing up in Youghal,” he says.

“The town means a lot to me and I’m delighted to do what I can to promote it.”

A multiple Cheltenham winner, including the Gold Cup, the rider is grateful to his weighing room colleagues for their support. “They always enjoy the welcome they get in Youghal. It’s a great bit of fun and I’m delighted there are more jockeys coming along this year. We’re really looking forward to it and I hope the public come out in large numbers as always.”

The only non-runners will be reason and order.

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