Leopardstown chief Keogh hoping attendance will be 'north of 25,000'
Leopardstown supremo Pat Keogh is taking a long-term view and called for a little perspective in advance of the inaugural two-day Dublin Racing Festival after criticism that the mooted attendance target of 24,000 was conservative for such a high-profile offering.
Keogh, who is hopeful of hitting the 25,000 mark across the two days, says there is an element of the unknown about the first edition of a concept that came about as a consequence of the success of Irish Champions Weekend, which attracted 24,168 in its first year in 2014.
Given the jumps scene has traditionally enjoyed a more loyal support base in Ireland, the root of the criticism is that a more ambitious target has not been floated this time.
"This festival is a bit of an unknown," Keogh said of the event on Wednesday. "Ticket sales for the weekend have been going very well and are ahead of expectations. There's a pre-Christmas meeting feel to it.
"However, unlike our Christmas festival, where you can gauge from year to year from ticket sales what sort of crowds to expect, this weekend is new territory for us. But sales have been pretty strong and there's been good interest shown from the UK.
"We're merging three meetings into two days this year and the overall attendance for Coral Hurdle day, Irish Champion Hurdle day and Irish Gold Cup last year totalled 20,500. We're hopeful of getting north of 25,000 this weekend.
"We're starting something new and hoping for a very successful two days."
The track's chief executive added: "In my time at Leopardstown we reached 18,000 on one occasion and when our redevelopment programme is finished we'll be able to cater for 20,000 very comfortably. But at this stage if we got 16,000 any day it would be pretty much house full."
Regarding the absence of the hunters' chase – traditionally a top-quality contest run on Irish Gold Cup day – from the weekend programme, Keogh said: "It's a pity we won't have it. We'd have liked to run one but there wasn't room because of all the other races down for the two days."
Simply Ned, who made his fourth visit to Leopardstown a winning one when he was awarded the Grade 1 Paddy's Rewards Club Chase in the stewards' room over Christmas, has arrived at the track in good shape for the Grade 2 Coral Dublin Chase on Saturday.
The 11-year-old's trainer Nicky Richards said on Wednesday: "Simply Ned is already at Leopardstown. He travelled over well and the lad who went with him is happy.
"We're looking forward to Saturday. He's run very well there in the past and we're hoping he'll give another good performance."
Simply Ned's rivals are likely to include Min, who beat him by half a length at Christmas only to be relegated for causing interference on the run-in.
Joseph O'Brien will be on the Grade 1 trail with Early Doors, who is entered in the 2m6f Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle on Saturday and the 2m Deloitte Novice Hurdle on Sunday.
O'Brien said: "Early Doors is in good form and will probably run in the Deloitte. His form is good and he should have a decent chance of being in the money."
He added: "Apart from Early Doors our main runners at Leopardstown will be Vieux Morvan in the Chanelle Pharma Handicap Chase on Sunday, when Edwulf will take his chance in the Unibet Gold Cup, and Rhinestone, who goes for the Goffs Future Stars Bumper on Saturday."
Members can read the latest exclusive interviews, news analysis and comment available from 6pm daily on racingpost.com