Ideal going expected for start of Leopardstown Christmas festival

Irish trio tackle big ascot handicap

Bleu Et Rouge head a three-pronged Irish attack on Ascot’s big handicap prize on Saturday but a blank weekend at home means all eyes are on St Stephen’s Day and the start of the Christmas action.

Officials at Leopardstown predict “yielding” ground conditions for the beginning of their €1.3 million four-day festival which contains seven Grade One prizes. Final declarations for St Stephen’s Day are made on Saturday.

Over 60,000 people are anticipated to go to the Co. Dublin track over the four days with 12,000 expected on Day One.

"The ground here is yielding, good in places, and the track is in perfect condition. There might be a little rain before Christmas but I would guess we'll start on yielding going which would be ideal," said Pat Keogh, Leopardstown's chief executive.


Keogh also indicated on Friday that building contractors are likely to begin work on the next phase of Leopardstown’s €35 million redevelopment after Irish Champions Weekend in September.

Next stage

The building of a new weigh-room is central to the next stage which will take 18 months and cost €15 million. There will be no interference to the racing programme during construction.

Ground conditions at Limerick and Down Royal which also race on St Stephen’s Day are currently “heavy.”

Willie Mullins’s Min is expected to start an odds-on favourite for the Day One festival highlight, the Racing Post Novice Chase, and the champion trainer will hope for a pre-Christmas boost at Ascot.

He saddles the JP McManus owned Bleu Et Rouge in the Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle. Barry Geraghty takes the ride.

Gordon Elliott has won the race twice – Cause Of Causes (2012) and Bayan (2014) – and saddles Veinard this time while the father-son team of Tom and David Mullins rely on Top Othe Ra.

McManus’s Gold Cup outsider Coney Island is set to have his first start in almost a year in the three-runner Sodexo Chase on the same card.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column