The Dublin Racing Festival is a two-day National Hunt meeting held each year in early February at Leopardstown Racecourse. Leopardstown itself is situated in the Foxrock area of the Irish capital, around six miles south-east of the city centre.
Created only in 2018, the Dublin Festival brought together a number of established races which were held across multiple meetings in the new year. Racing punters will be keeping a keen eye on which horses are in prime form across the Irish Sea ahead of the Cheltenham Festival.
The meeting takes place over the first weekend in February and although there is only two days of racing, both are crammed with quality chases, hurdles and Irish National Hunt flat races. Of the 15 contests, eight are Grade 1s, two are Grade 2s, one is a Grade A and four are Grade Bs.
Here we will preview each or the races when the runners have been finalised as well as detailing the history of the major races and the meeting.
Day One: Saturday
|1:05||Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Novice Hurdle||Grade 1||2m6f|
|1:35||Ladbrokes Dublin Chase||Grade 1||2m1½f|
|2:10||Irish Arkle Novice Chase||Grade 1||2m1½f|
|2:45||Matheson Handicap Chase||Grade B||2m1½f|
|3:15||Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle||Grade 1||2m|
|3:50||Ladbrokes Hurdle||Grade B||2m|
|4:25||Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H Flat Race||Grade 2||2m|
The advent of the Dublin Racing Festival has been brilliant news for Irish racing and fans of jumps racing everywhere. It has quickly become one of the best jumps meetings of the season and the strength both of the races for the 2021 renewal looks as impressive as ever.
1:05 Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors ‘50k Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff’ Novice Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m6f
The Dublin Racing Festival gets off to a great start with a Grade 1 novice hurdle which has attracted a field of 13 runners. As with many of the races over the weekend at Leopardstown, Willie Mullins has cornered the top of the betting market with both Gaillard Du Mesnil (2/1) and Stattler (5/1) expected to run well.
It is the favourite, who must rate as a very smart prospect. The five year old was a disappointment in his Irish debut at Punchestown but he was much better at Leopardstown last time out on ground that wasn’t quite as heavy. The only concern for favourite backers here is that he may be better suited to shorter trips owing to his pace. Those worried about that should instead consider an each way bet on Gentlemansgame who is so far unbeaten for Mouse Morris.
Gaillard Du Mesnil to win 2/1, Gentlemansgame each way at 10/1
1:35 Ladbrokes Dublin Chase
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m1½f
Timing is hugely important in the world of sport and it is timing that makes the Dublin Racing Festival such a great event. It is not too close to the Cheltenham Festival for connections to worry about running even their star horses but close enough for the form to be valuable. In that regard, it will be very interesting to see what the betting markets for the Champion Hurdle do after the Dublin Chase if Chacun Pour Soi wins as is expected.
Willie Mullins and owner Rich Ricci have admirably entered the excellent Min in the race to very much keep the Chacun Pour Soi up to his work. Min (4/1) is seen to best effect over slightly longer than this trip though and will do very well to improve upon his second place to Chacun Pour Soi in this race 12 months ago. At 4/9, you’ll need a lot of money to get rich backing Chacun Pour Soi and some will be put off by his sometimes challenging attitude but as long as he encounters no problems in running he should win this without too much bother.
Chacun Pour Soi to win at 4/9
2:10 Patrick Ward & Company Solicitors Irish Arkle Novice Chase
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m1½f
Shiskin’s win last weekend at Doncaster hardened his position at the head of the betting for the Arkle at Cheltenham Festival. It will take an almighty performance to get the better of Nicky Henderson’s charge in March and perhaps the only horse capable of laying down a serious challenge is Energumene.
If that is the case and the seven year old does make a real race of it when he comes over to England then he should have little trouble justifying his short odds for the Irish equivalent of the Arkle. Energumene won’t quite get the heavy ground that he relishes at Leopardstown but he put in a very strong performance to beat the dangerous Captain Guinness and it is unlikely that form will be reversed when they meet again on Saturday.
The bookies rank Unexcepted as the main danger at a general price of 4/1 compared to the 4/5 available about the favourite. He actually won a race in which Captain Guinness pulled up in October but don’t be surprised if he finishes behind that rival.
Energumene to win at 4/5
2:45 Matheson Handicap Chase
Leopardstown, Grade B, 2m1½f
The prize money at the Dublin Racing Festival is impressive enough to ensure a high number of entries for the handicap races. The Matheson Handicap Chase is a great example of this with 20 runners set to run in what is shaping to be a very competitive race.
Four horses – Entoucas, Epson Du Houx, Pont Aven and Aramax – are available at 6/1 or shorter. Five of the last 10 winners of the race went off at no bigger than 6/1 and of those favourites, it is Entoucas who makes the most appeal at 5/1. Joseph O’Brien’s seven year old is running off the same mark of 138 from which he finished second to Sizing Pottsie in December and stayed on well for fourth in a similar event at Fairyhouse last month so looks ready for a big run. From further down the betting and right at the bottom of the weights, Scheu Time looks a good each way bet at 14/1.
Entoucas to win at 5/1, Scheu Time each way at 14/1
3:15 Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m
The Irish Champion Hurdle is a rare big race at Leopardstown in which Willie Mullins doesn’t train the favourite. The master of Closutton has to make do with second favourite Sharjah who at 2/1 only narrowly trails Honeysuckle at 11/8. Given that Honeysuckle is the defending champion in this race and is in receipt of the seven pounds mares’ allowance, that says a lot about just how much Sharjah loves running at Leopardstown. With the excellent Rachel Blackmore on board and positive noises about her going for the Cheltenham equivalent of this race, Honeysuckle is the right favourite even if she will need her very best.
The market suggests that this is going to be a cracking battle between the top two but the Gigginstown team are quietly confident that Abacadabras will turn up in much better shape after he scoped badly following a disappointing run last time out at this track. At 10/1, Abacadabras makes each way appeal as he may just be able to crash the top two’s party.
Abacadabras each wat at 10/1
3:50 Ladbrokes Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade B, 2m
The penultimate race of Saturday at the Dublin Racing Festival is another highly competitive handicap which is so attractive that it has been oversubscribed. Winning favourites are very rare in the Ladbrokes Hurdle with none in the last 10 years and six double-figure priced winners in that time.
What you’re looking for in such a big field is a reliable horse who won’t be spooked by facing off against so many rivals. Gabynako fits that bill nicely. Gavin Cromwell has kept his six year old very busy this season and while he’s only won once in five starts he’s also yet to finish worse than third. He won’t have any problem with the soft ground and should be able to grind out another place at a generous price of 16/1.
Gabynako each way at 16/1
4:25 Goffs Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H Flat Race
Leopardstown, Grade 2, 2m
As the lead rider for Willie Mullins, Patrick Mullins often has very difficult decisions to make about who he rides. His choice is certainly tough in Saturday’s final race as the master trainer has three potential winners in the field. The jockey has gone for Kilcruit who is also the bookies’ favourite at 7/4 but may find himself playing second fiddle to stablemate Ramillies.
Mullins admitted that he was surprised by the six year old’s win at Leopardstown at the end of December which came after a year-long absence from the track. It looked as though Ramillies still had a few more gears to move into when winning that day and he should come on for the run so 5/1 looks a good price.
Ramillies to win at 5/1
Day Two: Sunday
|1:10||Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle||Grade B||2m2f|
|1:40||Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle||Grade 1||2m|
|2:10||Chanelle PHarma Novice Hurdle||Grade 1||2m|
|2:40||William Fry Handicap Hurdle||Grade B||3m|
|3:10||Flogas Novice Chase||Grade 1||2m5½f|
|3:40||Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup||Grade 1||3m½f|
|4:10||Leopardstown Handicap Chase||Grade A||2m5½f|
|4:40||Mares I.N.H Flat Race||Grade 2||2m|
Sunday at the Dublin Racing Festival is every bit as high class and exciting as the first day of the meeting. Some of the biggest stars of Irish racing are set to compete in the four Grade 1 contests on the card while there is quality and competitive racing everywhere you look throughout the Leopardstown extravaganza. This is a huge weekend of sport with a number of massive contests in football, rugby, cricket, golf and NFL but for racing fans all eyes will be firmly on Leopardstown.
1:10 Irish Stallion Farms EBF Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade B, 2m2f
The second day of the Dublin Racing Festival begins with what looks to be a fiendishly difficult handicap to unpick. The full complement of 20 horses are set to compete and with the last 10 winners coming from odds between 100/30 to 20/1 it’s clear that this is a race which can be won by horses from all over the market.
Razzle Dazzle Love is a tempting option providing that things work out easier for her than last time out at Fairyhouse. She enjoys running from the front and will try to run the legs out of her rivals at Leopardstown. That wasn’t possible at Fairyhouse with the way the contest panned out and some slightly dodgy jumping which saw her go left far too often. A return to a left-handed track should suit and even if Razzle Dazzle Love is unable to hold on to win, a place is within her grasp at the very nice price of 12/1.
Razzle Dazzle each way at 12/1
1:40 Tattersalls Ireland Spring Juvenile Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m
There is some good recent form on show in this juvenile hurdle but it is a horse who hasn’t been seen since the end of October who tops the betting. It could be argued that he wasn’t really seen in a race that day at Down Royal because of just how easy he found things when sent off as the 1/16 favourite. As the cliche goes though, you can only beat what’s put in front of you and Quilixios did so by pulling away quickly and decisively having set the sedate pace.
As you would expect, Willie Mullins has a strong hand with which to tackle the Gordon Elliott-trained favourite. That team is headed by French Aseel (2/1) and Youmdor (9/2) who come into the race in differing form, with the former winning at the end of December but the latter falling at Fairyhouse last month. They will work Quilixios harder than before but hopes are high about the 5/4 favourite and he should get the job done.
Quilixios to win at 5/4
2:10 Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m
Jack Kennedy has a number of big hopes for the Dublin Racing Festival. Although he knows that Ballyadam will need to improve from his showing in the Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas, the jockey believes that showing was far from the six-year-old’s best.
The challenge for Ballyadam, second favourite for the Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle, is that he’ll have to make up 16 lengths on Appreciate It from their recent meeting. Ballyadam will be better and Irascible has a chance to lay down a challenge but Appreciate It’s billing as the 4/6 favourite doesn’t seem unfair. For all that Willie Mullins was surprised with the nature of his win, he believes he will be better over further and when sent chasing, so Appreciate It should be a cut above the competition.
Appreciate It to win at 4/6
2:40 William Fry Handicap Hurdle
Leopardstown, Grade B, 3m
Anybody who saw Damalisque’s win at Navan at the end of January would not be surprised to see the eight-year-old sent back out nice and quickly. Eddie Harty wasn’t sure that his charge would be able to handle the heavy ground at Navan that day so was especially delighted with the win. There is no question that he won in the manner of a horse who is a long way ahead of his handicap mark and that may still be the case at Leopardstown where he runs off 135.
The challenge for Damalisque is that he is untested over 3m. That’s enough to put some punters off from backing him at 5/1. Those punters would do well to consider the 10/1 available about Dandy Mag who can utilise his class to follow a win last time out (for which he has been penalised 8lb) with at least another place. He gets this trip and won’t mind the ground so 10/1 is a price worth snapping up.
Dandy Mag each way at 10/1
3:10 Flogas Novice Chase
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 2m5½f
Sometimes a very good horse won’t get the wins that their talent probably deserves because they find themselves running into the same superior rival time and time again. Connections of Latest Exhibition know all about this. The Paul Nolan-trained eight-year-old has already been beaten into second place twice by Monkfish this season and the bookies’ odds suggest it’ll be more of the same on Sunday.
Monkfish heads into the race as the 8/13 favourite. Willie Mullins’ seven-year-old is just about hanging on to even money for the RSA Chase at Cheltenham but that will surely go if he wins as expected at Leopardstown. His run will be one of the most eagerly anticipated of the entire meeting and it’s difficult to imagine him being beaten unless something untoward takes place in running.
Monkfish to win at 8/13
3:40 Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup
Leopardstown, Grade 1, 3m½f
The partnership between jockeys and certain horses is one of those elements of horse racing that is difficult to properly quantify. Those in the sport are adamant that certain jockeys are able to get the best out of some horses, with Gordon Elliott a firm believer that Delta Work is at his very best when Jack Kennedy is on board.
Kennedy partnered Delta Work to success in last year’s edition of the Irish Gold Cup but is more used to riding him in a more serene setting as he rides the eight-year-old most days at Elliott’s Cullentra House base. Kennedy will need to pull out all the stops in order for Delta Work to beat Minella Indo, Kemboy and Melon on Sunday though, with all three rated as better prospects by the bookies. That is by no means out of the question though and this incredibly talented horse does look a very good price for a second Irish Gold Cup at 9/2.
Elliott also trains the outsider of the race, 16/1 shot The Storyteller. This might look a reach for the 10-year-old on paper but he is in the form of his life and with a bit of luck he could just sneak second place. The bookies are taking each way bets despite there being only five confirmed for the race and small stakes support for The Storyteller may be in order.
The Storyteller each way at 16/1
4:10 Gaelic Plant Hire Leopardstown Handicap Chase
Leopardstown, Grade A, 2m5½f
A full field of 22 runners will compete in a strong looking renewal of this handicap chase. Before Glamorgan Duke won this at 33/1 last year the biggest priced winner in 10 years went off at 12/1. Such is the strength of the field that long shots cannot be written off this time around, with Myth Buster looking to have a chance of leading a challenge at the very big price of 25/1.
However, the most likely winners are clustered towards the top of the betting. That’s where you will find Treacysenniscorthy (9/1) for Robert Widger. The nine-year-old reached the level of his hurdle form when winning a similar handicap to this at Cork at the start of the year and although that has come with a significant penalty he is still getting better as a chaser and can step up well to this level.
Treacysenniscorthy each way at 9/1
4:40 Coolmore N.H. Sires Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares I.N.H Flat Race
Leopardstown, Grade 2, 2m
A National Hunt contest race brings an end to Sunday’s racing at Leopardstown. There isn’t much form to go on from the young horses in the field but it’s clear that there are some highly promising types in the field. Willie Mullins trains the top two in the betting - Brandy Love (11/8) and Take Tea (10/3) - but it’s the Gordon Elliott horse, Hollymount, who could win this at the tidier price of 5/1.
She was a very taking winner on debut, winning by eight lengths at Carlisle. The most impressive element of that win was that it came on challenging ground but she was still able to pull away with a nice turn of foot. With further improvement expected, Hollymount looks the best value in the closer.
Hollymount to win at 5/1
A Complete History of the Leopardstown Dublin Racing Festival
Leopardstown is very proud of its newly created Dublin Racing Festival. Established in February 2018, the two-day event attracted an impressive 26,136 spectators during its first attempt. The excellent attendance figures were no surprise with punters treated to seven Grade 1 events across the inaugural meeting.
While the festival itself may be new compared to more established festivals, many of the races that form it have long welcomed some of the best jumping talents across Britain and Ireland. Most of them originally took place during three standalone meetings at Leopardstown held between late January and mid-February. The creation of the Dublin Festival saw the best of these three racedays merge to create a new meeting of supreme quality.
The Dublin Festival is not just a delight from a racing perspective though. So far, there has been a real focus on trackside entertainment, showcasing the best of Dublin’s culture, music and food. Truly a complete package on and off the course, it is little wonder why this two-day festival is so highly anticipated.
1950 – Irish Champion Hurdle founded
The Irish Champion Hurdle stands as one of the leading races of the entire Dublin Festival. It is also the oldest race of the meet too, having been established soon after the end of World War II. None other than Vincent O’Brien won the first renewal, doing so thanks to a horse by the name of Hatton’s Grace.
The contest has featured at Leopardstown every year since bar three exceptions. In 1955 and 1970 the race was called off and in 1995 it temporarily moved to Fairyhouse.
1956 – Arkle Novice Chase
Although this race began a year before Arkle was even foaled, it has long been known as the Arkle Novice Chase, or more casually, the Irish Arkle. Organisers have tweaked with the distance of the race over the years. Starting at two miles, it moved up two furlongs in 1980 and another furlong in 1992. Three year after this, the trip was reduced to its current length of two miles and one furlong.
1969 – Origins of the Ladbrokes Hurdle
Today’s Ladbrokes Hurdle has roots dating back to 1969 and the creation of the Irish Sweeps Hurdle. This initial race was part of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake, which aimed to raise funds for Ireland’s health service. After just two years, the race moved from Fairyhouse to Leopardstown. Fast forward to 1987 and the event began a new phase when it lost its sweepstake connection and turned into the Ladbroke Hurdle.
1987 –Irish Gold Cup & Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle established
One of the stars of the Dublin Festival, the Irish Gold Cup, made its first appearance in 1987. Originally named the Vincent O’Brien Irish Gold Cup, for most of its history (1991-2015) it has been known as the Hennessey Gold Cup. During this time, as a longstanding race existed in Britain with the same title, some referred to this contest as the Irish Hennessey to avoid confusion.
The same year Leopardstown also said hello to a new novice hurdles event. Initially known as the Paddy Power Hurdle, it has also been sponsored by Le Coq Hardi and Deloitte. Irish company Chanelle Pharma took over the reins in 2019, a year after the race was cut shorter in length by two furlongs.
1989 – Dr P.J. Moriarty Novice Chase begins
Leopardstown rolled out a new event named ‘Le Coq Hardi Novices Chase’ in 1989. Nine years later the official title of the race changed to the Dr P.J. Moriarty Memorial Novice Chase to honour the life of Paddy Moriarty. The former chief executive of the ESB (Electricity Supply Board), who died months earlier, was also on the board of Leopardstown Racecourse. For most of you, you will know this race by its sponsored title, the Flogas Chase, which has existed since 2015.
1994 – Spring Juvenile Hurdle debuts
In 1994, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle replaced the Le Coq Hardi Hurdle, which was another two-mile contest. It initially began with Listed status but has enjoyed three successive promotions since, moving to Grade 3 in 1995, Grade 2 in 2003 and Grade 1 in 2010.
1994 – Jodami in Gold Cup hat-trick
The Irish Gold Cup quickly established a reputation for having a number of runners who won the event more than once. Within the first decade of its creation, Carvill’s Hill and Nick the Brief had both won the contest twice and Jodami bagged himself three wins in a row. Not only did Jodami become the first to do so in 1994, but a year earlier he become the first to win the Irish Gold Cup and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the same season. This latter achievement was later managed by Imperial Call (1996) and Sizing John (2017).
1998 – Florida Pearl scoops elite double
With the Flogas Novice Chase just three furlongs shorter than the RSA Chase, it can act as useful preparation for the Cheltenham contest. Florida Pearl became the first horse to win both events in 1998. It is a double that has been attempted several times since but only Cooldine (2009) and Boston Angel (2011) have successfully pulled it off, as of 2020.
1999 – Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle introduced
Months before the new millennium, Leopardstown added new race to their January schedule, the Waterford Crystal Novice Hurdle. Four years later the race name was changed to commemorate Golden Cygnet, a horse who tragically died due to an injury sustained in the 1978 Scottish Champion Hurdle. Although his hurdling career lasted less than five months, at the time Vincent O’Brien declared that he was the best hurdler he had ever seen.
From 2016, the contest has been run as the Nathaniel Lacy and Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle.
2001 – Istabraq’s legendary status grows
Istabraq will long be remembered as one of the most talented hurdlers of a generation. Sold off as a youngster, his career was revived by John Durkan and later Aidan O’Brien following Durkan’s death. In 1998, 1999 and 2000 he managed to win the Irish Champion Hurdle, become the first horse ever to win it three times. Each time he did so, he also won Cheltenham’s Champion Hurdle weeks later.
Not content with just breaking the record, O’Brien wanted an unprecedented fourth victory in the Grade 1 hurdle event. He got exactly that in 2001 with Istabraq making light work of what was a fairly weak field, guided by usual jockey Charlie Swan. This ended up being Istabraq’s final Grade 1 victory before his retirement in April 2002.
2001 – Ladbroke Hurdle splits
The race known as the Ladbroke Hurdle was effectively cloned into two identical contests. One ‘clone’ moved to Ascot and is known as the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap Hurdle, held in December. The other remained at Leopardstown but adopted a name new, the Pierse Hurdle. Due to their similarity, both these contests can be seen as a continuation of the original Ladbroke Hurdle.
The contest that remained at Leopardstown has run as the Boylesports Hurdle and the Coral Hurdle since. It ended up coming full circle in 2019 though when the ‘Ladbrokes Hurdle’ name returned.
2004 – Florida Pearl enters Irish Gold Cup history
We have already mentioned Jodami’s hat-trick of victories in the Irish Gold Cup but Florida Pearl managed one better than this. Having won the Grade 1 event for a third time in 2001, aged nine years, a record-breaking fourth win seemed to be very much on the cards. Surprisingly though, he was badly beaten as a 6/4 favourite in 2002 and pulled up when the third favourite in 2003.
Undoubtedly on the decline by this point, retirement beckoned for Florida Pearl. On his final start however, in February 2004, the Irish-bred horse rolled back the years to win a fourth Irish Gold Cup title. By ending a near two-year winless run, he became the all-time leading horse in the race.
2015 – No taming Hurricane Fly
As one of the all-time great hurdlers, Hurricane Fly was no stranger to success. He won 24 races over the obstacles across just 32 attempts, resulting in truly phenomenal strike rate. The biggest individual portion of his success came in Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Hurdle, a race he won more than any other.
The small bay horse first clinched champion status in 2011 and he successfully defended his title on four consecutive occasions. On the last attempt, in 2015, Hurricane Fly set off at odds of 11/10, the longest he had ever been for this race. Although Jezki was expected to run him very close, the Willie Mullins runner made fairly light work of things, winning by more than three lengths. A fifth victory, unsurprisingly, meant Hurricane Fly became the Irish Champion Hurdle’s most successful horse, a record likely to survive for some time.
2017 – Mullins makes his mark
Patrick Mullins, son of legendary trainer Willie, had long established himself as a top amateur jockey by 2017 but he was still missing a win from a Grade 1 hurdle. This wait came to an end on 12th February 2017 as Mullins rode Bacardys to glory in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle. Not only a significant personal feat, but he also became the first amateur jockey to win the elite novice hurdle contest.
Willie also set a new record for himself this year, by winning a sixth consecutive Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle title. Previously no other trainer has even managed more than back-to-back wins so this was some unprecedented dominance.
2018 – Dublin Chase created
Most of the major races that became part of the Dublin Festival had existed for at least a couple decades prior. Something of an exception to the rule was the Grade 2 Dublin Chase, which officially speaking was a new event. In reality, it was a rebranded version of Punchestown’s Tier Cottage Chase, won by the likes of Moscow Flyer and Sizing Europe. That two-mile contest enjoyed its final appearance in 2017 with the Dublin Chase its direct replacement.
Seven horses lined up for the first edition of the Dublin Chase with Willie Mullin’s Min proving victorious on the day. It was the same story in 2019 with the French horse again an assertive winner. There was even an ambitious hat-trick attempt 12 months later but stablemate Chacun Pour Soi denied Min what might have been a long stay in the record books.
2018 – Killiney Novice Chase makes way
One race that had every chance of being part of the Dublin Festival was the Killiney Novice Chase. Originally scheduled for late January at Leopardstown, it had held Grade 2 status before a downgrade to Grade 3 in 2017. Organisers however decided there was no space for the contest at the Dublin Festival so it was instead rehoused at Punchestown.
2018 – Changes made to the Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle
In preparation for the new Dublin Racing Festival, the Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle was bumped up in both class and distance. Previously a Grade 2 race stretching two miles and four furlongs, for the 2018 renewal it became a Grade 1 event, two miles and six furlongs in length. The stiffer competition did not faze unfancied outsider Tower Bridge who narrowly secured a 25/1 victory.
2019 – Attendance drop no cause for concern
Attendance figures for the second ever Dublin Festival revealed a drop close to 2000 across the two days. HRI’s chief executive Brian Kavanagh, remained completely unconcerned though, confidently stating the Dublin Festival was here to stay. He also praised the “terrific atmosphere” across both days at the racecourse. Leopardstown chief Pat Keogh added that overnight frost and the hangover from Ireland’s Six Nation match were largely to blame for the reduction in numbers.
2019 – Festival gets another top-rated event
The Dublin Festival began with seven Grade One races but just one year later and they had another. Responsible for putting their total up to a remarkable eight top-class events was the Dublin Chase, reclassified after only its inaugural running. At the same time, the event also received a prize money boost of €25,000, resulting in a highly lucrative €125,000 purse.
2020 – Faugheen secures ‘special’ victory
The Leopardstown crowd enjoyed a real treat during the 2020 Flogas Chase as fan-favourite Faugheen edged out stablemate Easy Game in a gripping encounter. After the race, Willie Mullins, who has witnessed some truly memorable races, called this victory a “special” one. He added that for a 12 year old horse to battle as he did, is a fantastic feat.
Mullins’ praise of an aging Faugheen was not misplaced either; 12 year old winners of Grade One contests are rare, Sizing Europe (2014) and Florida Pearl (2004) being the only two recent examples. To manage it in a novice event made the achievement all the more incredible. The win also handed Mullins a record-breaking eighth win in the Flogas Chase, his seventh since 2008.
2020 – Friday start idea shelved
The Dublin Festival secured a record-breaking crowd of 26,374 as it bounced back from the very slight disappointment of 2019. Despite the incredibly healthy numbers, Leopardstown’s new chief executive suggested that the meeting may begin on a Friday, rather than Saturday, in future. The proposal was not well received among some; Ted Walsh for one described it as “hare-brained” due to Dublin’s traffic congestion on Fridays. Lacking a strongly positive response, any rescheduling plans were put on hold.