THE racing at Leopardstown is analysed elsewhere, but this was the first time I’ve attended the DRF and I wanted to comment on the experience.

As someone who was there in a media capacity, my outlook was slightly different, but I was able to get a taste of the betting ring, the parade ring and the general atmosphere while also catching up with a few friends and acquaintances which may have led to a passing knowledge of one or two refreshment facilities.

The obvious thing to say about DRF is how close it is in experience to the first couple of days of Cheltenham, and many have made comment on the huge difference in cost between the two experiences.

That cannot be denied, and with hotels reasonably priced with Ireland’s Six Nations action taking place in Cardiff, the gulf in expenditure was thrown into sharp focus.

It was also remarkably stress-free to get from hotel to course from my experience, although my high praise for the Luas was greeted by bemusement from some colleagues. Ireland may not be known for the sophistication of its public transport system, but getting to a racecourse in the London metropolitan area has been a depressing experience for too long, and this was a pleasure by comparison.

It needs to be pointed out that the experience this year may be hard to replicate in 2024, with a rugby match at the Aviva likely to see the tourist infrastructure much more stretched, and prices going sharply north.

That said, the ticket price for the DRF itself is excellent value in comparison to the Cheltenham Festival, and that will remain the case in 12 months’ time.

Capacity crowd

The facilities at Leopardstown probably need a little further investment if it’s to support a capacity crowd comfortably, and I’m reminded of the situation with Cheltenham prior to its recent redevelopment when the late John McCririck used to kick off the Q&A session at every racecourse media event by asking whether there would be more toilets.

It’s a basic complaint, but an important one. From my point of view, my only visit to the toilets in the main stand saw a couple of fellas offer to shake my hand, which was flattering, if a somewhat mixed blessing in the circumstances.

One thing which really impressed me, and largely because it is done so badly in the UK, was how the aftermath of the stewards’ enquiry for the Paddy Mullins Mares Hurdle was dealt with on the big screen at the track; the screens showed a replay of the closing stages from various angles, including the scout camera which is strictly off-limits to beaten-down British racegoers. That is an excellent touch, and I’d like to see it as standard at all tracks.

Finally, Leopardstown and the Irish racing community deserve huge praise for the atmosphere at the track and I wasn’t the only blow-in from across the Irish Sea who was made to feel hugely welcome; that is another aspect of racing in Ireland that trumps the experience in England, and that’s not meant to be a dig at the likes of Cheltenham, but a genuine compliment about Irish hospitality, which may be a bit of a cliché, but a cliché based on decades of experience.