A €1.5 million jumps jamboree inspired by Champions Weekend
The inaugural Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown this weekend boasts seven Grade 1 races and €1.5 million in prize-money.
The two-day fixture is made up of major races that were originally run across three race days in January and February at Leopardstown, along with the addition of three new races – two €75,000 bumpers and a Grade 2 chase over 2m1f.
Leopardstown course manager Pat Keogh said the power of festivals rung through after the success of Irish Champions Weekend on the Flat provided the course and HRI with encouragement that something similar would work well in jump racing.
Keogh said: “We’ve been very aware of the growth of the appeal of festivals in comparison to stand-alone fixtures and I suppose the success of the Longines Irish Champions Weekend drove that point home to us.
“In that instance, we took more or less the same programme of races and incorporated them into one weekend of racing and we saw the appeal that had among racing fans. We knew there was something in that with regards to the jumps and we’re hoping this weekend is very successful.
“The two original January fixtures and one February meeting were all doing okay, but we felt there was more in them and perhaps we weren’t doing them justice, which is why we decided to create a weekend of top-calibre racing over the jumps.
He added: “From the word go we've received an awful amount of support. Everyone in Horse Racing Ireland has been fantastic, including Jason Morris, who is in charge of the race programme.
“Success has many fathers, a lot of people are pulling together to make this weekend work and I'm hopeful it's something that will grow.”
Race-by-race guide to the Dublin racing festival
Grade 1 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle (2m6f)
Held Grade 2 status last season when run over a distance of 2m4f on January 29
Grade 2 Coral Dublin Steeplechase (2m1f)
A new race that could see Yorkhill and Min take each other on.
Grade 1 Frank Ward Solicitors Arkle Novice Steeplechase (2m1f)
A supporting race on the Irish Champion Hurdle card that was run on January 29 last season.
Sandyford Handicap Steeplechase (2m1f)
Part of the Irish Champion Hurdle card last season
Grade 1 BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle (2m)
Normally held on the last Sunday in January. Faugheen, bidding to bounce back from a disappointing display in the Ryanair Hurdle last month, won this race in 2016.
Coral.ie Handicap Hurdle (2m)
A race that has had many different titles, including the Ladbroke, Pierse and Boylesports Hurdle. Run last year on January 22.
Goffs Future Stars Bumper (Grade 2)
A new race boasting a prize fund of €75,000.
Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle (2m2f)
Run last year on February 12. For the first time the race will carry the title of the Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle and has received a massive cash injection to hold a prize fund of €75,000.
Grade 1 Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle (2m)
Usually part of the Irish Gold Cup card and important springboard towards the Triumph Hurdle.
Grade 1 Deloitte Novice Hurdle (2m)
Another Grade 1 race that has long been associated with the Irish Gold Cup card and has been won by top-notchers Nichols Canyon, Vautour, Champagne Fever, Dunguib, Brave Inca and Solerina since 2003.
William Fry Handicap Hurdle (3m)
Won by the Jessica Harrington-trained Oscar Sam, a full-brother to Our Duke, last year on January 22.
Grade 1 Flogas Novice Steeplechase (2m5f)
Formally known as the Dr PJ Moriarty Novice Chase, it was elevated to Grade 1 status in 2002 and has long been run on the Irish Gold Cup card.
Grade 1 Unibet Irish Gold Cup (3m)
Usually run in early February alongside the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile, Deloitte Novice Hurdle and Flogas Novice Chase, Sizing John took last year’s edition before following up in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Chanelle Pharmaceutical Handicap Steeplechase (2m5f)
Run last year on January 22 alongside the Coral.ie Handicap Hurdle, it was won last year by Gordon Elliott’s A Toi Phil, who holds an entry in this weekend’s contest.
Grade 2 Coolmore N.H Sires Mares' Bumper (2m)
A new race that holds a prize fund of €75,000.
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