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The Leopardstown Christmas Festival brings four days of top quality action over the festive period. The race cards on the day will be full of top quality animals, with at least one Grade One race taking place on each day of the meeting, Expect to see clues for the two big Spring festivals, the Cheltenham Festival and the Punchestown Festival. With the action taking place from Boxing Day, the entire meeting is in between Christmas and the New Year, a time when many people are off work and are looking for something to do. This leads to huge crowds at the track, with a lot more watching at home on TV and having a bet on the races taking place.
What to Expect at the 2019 Leopardstown Christmas Festival
We have seen some big names earmarked for the 2019 festival in the build up to it, adding further intrigue and excitement for those who are looking forward to attending the track and placing their bets on the races. Perhaps the biggest name to run here by the time the festival finishes will be Chacun Pour Soi, a horse who has ran just three times for Willie Mullins but is already amongst the favourites for the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March. With Altior likely to go elsewhere, the door is open for a new star to take the 2m chasing division by storm and this could be the horse to do it. He looks set to run in the Live For Rewards Chase on day two.
He will not be the only Willie Mullins star on the track either, with the likes of Laurina, Min, Klassical Dream, Melon, Faugheen, Footpad, Un De Sceaux and Benie Des Dieux among the possible runners at this meeting. Rival and fellow heavyweight of Irish jump racing Gordon Elliott will bring an equally impressive string with him, and his stable stars Samcro, Apple's Jade and Envoi Allen will lead the way for him. With these names being banded around as possible runners, it is easy to see why this meeting attracts so much interest and why fans of the sport look forward to it every year.
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The Leopardstown Christmas Festival
There are a total of seven Grade One races over the four days here, with one on the opening day and two each day for the remaining three. we have smaller graded contests to support the main races, some top handicaps and of course many novice races in which we may see some stars of the future.
Day One - 26th December
The first day of the meeting takes place on Boxing Day, and is the a slightly lower quality day compared to the other three, although it still has a Grade One heading the action, with the Racing Post Novice Chase taking centre stage. Elsewhere, the main support comes in the shape of the Grade Two juvenile hurdle, a traditionally strong trial for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival in March. A couple of handicaps, two maiden hurdles and a flat race round things off on day one, getting us excited about what is to come over the next three days.
Day Two - 27th December
The Future Champions Novice Hurdle and the Live For Rewards Chase are the two highlights of day two, both races are Grade One races and both run over the distance of two miles. We are likely to see some of the biggest names in Ireland targeting these two races each year, with the hope that they can win here then go on to run at the Dublin Racing Festival, Cheltenham Festival, Punchestown Festival or all three. We see big Irish trainers such as Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins use these big meetings to get their stars on the track, so don't be surprised to see some impressive fields going to post on this day.
Day Three - 28th December
The Savills Chase heads the action on day three and for many, this is the race of the meeting, with potential Cheltenham Gold Cup stars taking to the track to try and stake their claim for the big prize in March. With the King George VI Chase taking place just a couple of days earlier at Kempton, this is a huge few days for those trainers who have Gold Cup contenders in their yard. Elsewhere on the card we have a Grade One hurdle over 2m2f for those that may be thinking of taking in the Irish or English Champion Hurdle later in the season, so this is another race that will be worth following over the next few months in the form book.
Day Four - 29th December
The final day of the festival has a further two Grade One contests, with a two mile hurdle and a three mile novice chase, again races where we can expect to see stars of the national hunt game lining up. There is also a Grade Three mares hurdle on the card, one that is worth keeping an eye on as the Irish have dominated the mares races at recent festivals, we could well see another festival winner in this one.
Betting at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival
One of the great aspects of big horse racing festivals like this one is that the bookmakers will have special offers available for punters to take advantage of. With many big races taking place across the four days, plenty of people will be betting and watching the action unfold and to make this even better, try and find yourself a betting offer you can take advantage of. We are likely to see many enhanced place terms on the big field races here, especially the handicaps on the card so look out for those. This may mean getting paid out on five or six places in a race instead of the standard four, something bookmakers offer on a regular basis at big meetings like this one.
Something else to look out for will be enhanced prices on the big name favourites each day. During a big meeting like this we often see some of the bigger bookmakers giving enhanced prices out, either to their new customers who want to place a bet on one horse or to existing customers in the form of enhanced doubles and trebles where you put the big runners together on the same day. Which ever you look for, enhanced prices mean more profit for you, so they are always worth looking out for.
What Happened at the 2019 Christmas Festival?
On day one of the festival in the two maiden hurdles that open the card we saw two Cheltenham winners win those races. Klassical Dream took the first race before going on to win the Supreme Novice Hurdle at the festival while City Island took the second race before winning the Ballymore Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham.
On day two, we saw an electric performance from Sir Erec, which put him at the top of the pile when it came to four year old hurdlers. Unfortuantely he suffered a life ending injury at the Cheltenham Festival in March when he was sent off favourite to win the Triumph hurdle. Elsewhere, Footpad was beaten by Simply Ned in the two mile chase while Aramon won the Grade One novice hurdle, but only went on to finish sixth at Cheltenham behind Klassical Dream who won the day before.
Kemboy delivered a star performance on day three of the festival to win the Savills Chase. He fell in the Cheltenham Gold Cup but went on to win the Aintree Bowl and Punchestown Gold Cup after that to round off a very impressive season. Apple's Jade took the Christmas Hurdle by 26 lengths in what was probably the most impressive margin of victory at the meeting.
Delta Work was the star of the final day, winning the three mile novice chase before going on to finish third in a very hot RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival and first in the Punchestown Champion Novice at their festival in April.
We will be hoping to see more performances like those when the meeting takes place in 2019, hopefully giving punters plenty of clues about the remainder of the season.