This year’s Leopardstown Christmas Festival has launched and is bringing the heat this winter for seven Grade One races over the festive period.
The four day festival saw 131 entries for the seven Grade One races this year with €1.3m prize money on offer. Those races include the Racing Post Novice Chase, the Leopardstown Christmas Chase, the Ryanair Hurdle, the Neville Hotels Novice Steeplechase, the Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle, the Paddy’s Rewards Club Steeplechase and the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle.
Day One: Tuesday 26 December
The €90,000 Racing Post Novice Chase looks to be a race to savour with 18 eighteen entries including the impressive Navan winners Footpad and Al Boum Photo heading Willie Mullins’ challenge along with the Punchestown winner Bon Papa, while Death Duty and Dinaria Des Obeaux, first and fourth respectively in the Grade 1 Bar One Racing Drinmore Novice Chase at Fairyhouse, lead the Gordon Elliott team.
Day Two: Wedenesday 27 December
Samcro might well put his unbeaten record on the line in the €85,000 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle for which trainer Gordon Elliott has also entered his impressive Grade 1 Bar One Racing Royal Bond winner Mengli Khan. In opposition could be the Willie Mullins-trained Next Destination, Real Steel, Carter Mckay and Sharjah while another that could play his part is the Henry De Bromhead-trained Trainwreck.
There is a total of 15 entries in the €100,000 Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase. The Willie Mullins-trained trio of Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Min are among the stand-out entries in a race that has also attracted Henry De Bromhead’s Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Special Tiara, the Gordon Elliott-trained Ball D’Arc, Jessica Harrington’s Woodland Opera and Simply Ned which has been placed for trainer Nicky Richards in each of the last three renewals of this race.
Day Three: Thursday 28 December
Cheltenham Festival winners Jezki and Supasundae are two high-class performers for Jessica Harrington that will go into battle in the €85,000 Grade 1 Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle. The race has attracted two entries from Britain in the shape of the Harry Fry-trained Unowhatimeanharry and Nick Williams’ Agrapart and a strong team from both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. The champion trainer has the likes of Nichols Canyon, Shaneshill, Yorkhill and Limini to choose from while Elliott might fancy his chances with a squad that includes Apple’s Jade and Prince Of Scars, successful in the race two years ago. The Gavin Cromwell-trained Jer’s Girl is another entry of note.
Dual Cheltenham Festival winner Yorkhill heads the early entries for the €150,000 Grade 1 Leopardstown Christmas Chase, which is one of the highlights of the Festival.
Successful in the Neptune Investment Management Novices´ Hurdle in 2016 and the JLT Novices´ Chase in 2017, the seven-year-old is a four-time Grade 1 winner. Other strong entries from Willie Mullins include Djakadam, Acapella Bourgeois and the long-absent Killultagh Vic. Jessica Harrington’s Sizing John, the first horse to win three Gold Cups in one season and crowned Horse of the Year at the annual Horse Racing Ireland Awards has also been entered. He is another seven-year-old and he scored an unforgettable triumph in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup at Cheltenham, as well as landing the Stan James Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and the Punchestown Gold Cup. Yesterday, Sizing John made a hugely promising return to action at Punchestown with an impressive win in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase.
Gordon Elliott has a strong team to choose from and among his entries are last year’s winner Outlander, already successful at the highest level this season in the JNwine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal. Elliott has also entered his Troytown Handicap Chase winner Mala Beach and Ball D’Arc, which is certainly ready for a step up in class after his impressive display in the Poplar Square Chase at Naas. Among Noel Meade’s entries are the highly-regarded Disko and Road To Riches, winner of this race in 2014. Minella Rocco, runner-up to Sizing John in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, could yet represent Jonjo O’Neill in the €150,000 contest.
Day Four: Friday 29 December
There is a total of 21 entries for the €85,000 Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase which was won last year by Jessica Harrington’s Our Duke and Robbie Power. Gordon Elliott’s entries total 11 and include Death Duty and Dinaria Des Obeaux as well as Jury Duty and Dounikos. Henry De Bromhead’s Monalee won plenty of admirers when victorious at Punchestown and would be an intriguing contender.
A high-class renewal of the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle is certainly on the cards with Faugheen topping the 10 entries for trainer Willie Mullins who has also put Melon in the €100,000 two-mile event. Star mare Apple’s Jade could fly the flag for Gordon Elliott while British trainers Nicky Henderson and Dan Skelton could be represented by My Tent Or Yours and Ch’tibello respectively.