DAY ONE: Racing Post Day, Thursday, December 26th
€100,000 Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase
The feature event on the opening day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival is the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase over two miles and one furlong and fittingly; this morning’s host Joseph O'Brien landed a 1-2 in the €100,000 event last year when Le Richebourg got the better of Us And Them. Joseph’s exciting four-year-old Fakir D'oudairies who was victorious at Fairyhouse yesterday, is among the 16 entries for the 2019 renewal and another big draw will be Willie Mullins-trained Laurina which impressed on her chasing debut at Gowran Park. Melon is also among a Mullins entry of seven while Samcro heads three from the Gordon Elliott yard. Punchestown’s Grade 2 Craddockstown Novice Chase winner Notebook is one of Henry De Bromhead’s three entries.
DAY TWO: Paddy Power Chase Day, Friday, December 27th
€200,000 Paddy Power Chase (Handicap)
A full field of 28 runners is certain to face the starter for the Paddy Power Chase which boasts a prize fund of €200,000, the richest race of the four-day extravaganza, and a bumper entry of 61 horses, including six from Britain. Punches Cross, Tower Bridge and Mortal are among a Joseph O'Brien entry of five, Gordon Elliott has put eight in the race including his thetote.com Galway Plate winner Borice, Cabaret Queen features in a Willie Mullins team of ten while Any Second Now and Articulum could feature towards the head of the weights for trainers Ted Walsh and Terence O’Brien respectively. Among the Henry De Bromhead entry is the Kerry National winner Poker Party.
€125,000 Grade 1 Paddy's Rewards Club 'Loyalty's Dead, Live For Rewards' Chase
There are two Grade 1 races on the second day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and first up is the Grade 1 Paddy's Rewards Club 'Loyalty's Dead, Live For Rewards' Chase which went for export last year as Leopardstown favourite Simply Ned, trained by Nicky Richards, got the better of the Willie Mullins-trained Footpad in a thriller. While both feature in the 19-strong entry this time, Mullins has certainly targeted the race as a stellar entry from Closutton also includes Chacun Pour Soi, Cilaos Emery, Min, Un De Sceaux and Duc Des Genievres. The Ruth Jefferson-trained Waiting Patiently is another cross-channel entry while the home team is further strengthened by big race winners from the Henry De Bromhead yard in A Plus Tard and Ornua and Enda Bolger’s Ballyoisin.
€100,000 Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle
The Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle is the first of three top-level hurdles races at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Willie Mullins has won the last four renewals and was successful 12 months ago with the Ruby Walsh-ridden Aramon. The champion trainer has a typically strong entry once again and it includes Blue Sari, Elixir D’ainay and Foveros but even that might be topped by a Gordon Elliott team which revolves around Envoi Allen, Abacadabras, Andy Dufresne and Fury Road. Joseph O'Brien’s entry includes recent winners Embittered, Front View and Midnight Run.
DAY THREE: Savills Day, Saturday, December 28
€175,000 Grade 1 Savills Chase
A real highlight of the Festival will be Saturday’s Grade 1 Savills Chase, the inaugural running of which was won in tremendous style last year by subsequent Aintree and Punchestown Festival scorer Kemboy, trained by Willie Mullins, which ended the season as the highest rated chaser in Ireland and Britain. He tops the 25-strong entry and could well come up against last year’s second and third, Monalee, trained by Henry De Bromhead and Noel Meade’s Road To Respect which won the Grade 1 Champion Chase at Down Royal for a second time early last month. Mullins’ Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo holds an entry as does Joseph O'Brien’s Darasso, the Tony Martin-trained Anibale Fly, Gordon Elliott’s Delta Work and the Pat Kelly-trained Presenting Percy.
€100,000 Grade 1 Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle
Stayers take centre stage on day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival with both the Grade 1 Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle and the Grade 1 Savills Chase to be run over three miles. Last year, subsequent Irish Champion Hurdle winner Apple's Jade, trained by Gordon Elliott and ridden by Jack Kennedy, scored an impressive success when winning the race for the Christmas Hurdle for a second time. A 10-time Grade 1 winner, she is among the 16 entries this year and could be joined by her stable companion Surin. Grade 1 winning mares Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle could yet represent Willie Mullins and Henry De Bromhead respectively while Mullins could also call upon his Lismullen Hurdle winner Bacardys and dual Cheltenham Festival winner Penhill. A trio of British-trained entries is headed by Harry Fry’s Unowhatimeanharry, twice a big winner at the Punchestown festival.
The aforementioned Grade 1 Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle is being ran in memory of Frank Ward who recently passed away. Frank was a great supporter of Irish Racing and Leopardstown. His legal firm, Frank Ward & Co Solicitors, sponsored the Irish Arkle for 10 years and he served on the board of Leopardstown and Tote in the past alongside owning many horses over the years. He was local to Leopardstown as he lived in Foxrock and a great friend of the track, we look forward to remembering him on December 28th and celebrating his life with his family and friends.
DAY FOUR: Matheson Day, Sunday, December 29th
Leopardstown are delighted to announce that one of the feature races of the festival is to be sponsored by the international law firm Matheson. The feature Grade 1 Hurdle race, which takes place on December 29th as part of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival will from today be known as The Matheson Hurdle and December 29th as Matheson Day at Leopardstown.
€125,000 Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle
The Willie Mullins-trained Sharjah added to notable earlier wins in the Galway Hurdle and the Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle when landing the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle last year. He could be joined in the latest renewal by his own stablemates Klassical Dream and Aramon, winners as well at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival last year. Gordon Elliott is responsible for six entries, headed by Apple’s Jade, Coeur Sublime and leading novice hurdlers Envoi Allen and Abacadabras. Former Irish Champion Hurdle winners Supasundae and Petit Mouchoir, trained by Jessica Harrington and Henry De Bromhead respectively, also feature among the 12 entries. One to watch is the Henry De Bromhead trained, exciting mare Honeysuckle, who won a competitive renewal of the Hattons Grace Hurdle in Fairyhouse yesterday.
€100,000 Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase
The best staying novices will be targeting the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase where there are 26 entries for this hugely anticipated contest. Gordon Elliott is going for his third win in-a-row after the mare Shattered Love scored in 2017 and Delta Work recorded a 10-length win last year. His team of five is headed by Samcro, who was unlucky when falling at the penultimate fence in Fairyhouse yesterday, Battleoverdoyen and Champagne Classic while Willie Mullins has six to choose from at this stage, most notably Faugheen and Melon. The Henry De Bromhead-trained Minella Indo would be an intriguing contender and others of definite interest are Matthew Smith’s Ronald Pump and Mount Pelier for trainer Keith Clarke.
Speaking at the launch Joseph O'Brien commented: “The Leopardstown Christmas Festival is a highlight of the National Hunt racing calendar, it is a target for many of our horses and we look forward to supporting it”
Vicki Donlon, speaking on behalf of Leopardstown Racecourse, said: “ We are delighted with the quality of entries once again for the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, we are grateful for the support of the owners and trainers from Ireland and the UK and look forward to an exciting four days of sporting action. The addition of international law firm, Matheson, to our valued existing partners of the Christmas Festival is fantastic and we look forward to enhancing our strong relationship with them.”
Entries for the seven Grade 1 races at Leopardstown Christmas Festival can be seen HERE