Leopardstown Dublin Racing Festival Betting Tips – 2nd & 3rd February 2019

Racehorse and Jockey in the Leopardstown Parade Ring
Photo: stereoroid, flickr

Early February see's Leopardstown host their excellent annual two-day Dublin Racing Festival. Held across both days of the weekend there's some quality jumps races and some top class performers looking for a share of almost £2 million in prize money.

With only around six weeks or until the mighty Cheltenham Festival bursts onto the scene once again, this fixture provides something of an appetiser for the main course. Expect many of the runners on display to rock up at Prestbury Park in March, with Cheltenham clues likely to be in plentiful supply. This is far more than a Cheltenham Trials Day however, with these races well worth winning in their own right.

About the Dublin Racing Festival

Horse Landing After a Jump at Leopardstown Racecourse
Photo: stereoroid, flickr

When it comes to racing, Ireland is an incredibly important country. We often talk of horses that have been trained in Ireland, to say nothing of the trainers themselves and the jockeys that ride said horses being the pride of the emerald isle. Such the importance of the Irish invasion at the Cheltenham Festival, the battle of the Irish against the English even has a trophy associated with it. The Prestbury Cup runs from the first race of the week until one of the two nations has fourteen winners or more.

For all of the the importance of the Irish contribution to the world of racing, many of the races that take place there never seem to get the same coverage as the likes of Kempton, Aintree and the aforementioned Cheltenham. One of best-known racecourses is Leopardstown, so it’s little wonder that that’s the venue for one of the country’s biggest events, the Dublin Racing Festival. Taking place at the start of February every year, the Festival enjoyed its debut in 2018 when a host of top-class races were brought together.

Race List

The fixture takes place over a Saturday and Sunday and welcomes the best and brightest of Irish racing to the course which lies just outside of Dublin. Just as the Irish tend to come over for the big races in the UK, so too do the British jockeys, trainers and horses travel over for the biggest races here.

As you might expect from a Festival with two days of racing, some of the contests on offer are a little more noteworthy than others. That’s not to suggest that the other races aren’t any good; there’s still plenty to get excited about across the board. The Irish Gold Cup for example will cause plenty of interest further afield than Leopardstown itself.

RacePrize MoneyAgesObstacles
Day One
Novice Hurdle €125,000 5 years old + 11 Hurdles
Irish Champion Hurdle €175,000 4 years old + 8 Hurdles
Ladbrokes Hurdle €125,000 4 years old + 8 Hurdles
I.N.H. Flat Race €87,500 4-7 years old None
Dublin Chase €125,000 5 years old + 11 Fences
Arkle Novice Chase €125,000 5 years old + 11 Fences
Goffs Handicap Chase €125,000 5 years old + 11 Fences
Day Two
Mares Handicap Hurdle €87,500 4 years old + 9 Hurdles
Spring Juvenile Hurdle €125,000 4 years old 8 Hurdles
Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle €125,000 5 years old + 8 Hurdles
William Fry Handicap Hurdle €78,500 4 years old + 12 Hurdles
Flogas Novice Chase €125,000 5 years old + 14 Fences
Irish Gold Cup €225,000 5 years old + 17 Fences
Leopardstown Handicap Chase €125,000 5 years old + 14 Fences
I.N.H. Mares Flat Race €87,500 4-7 years old None

The Major Races

Race Leaders at Leopardstown Racecourse
Photo: stereoroid, flickr

There's than enough across the two days to pique almost anyone’s interest, including two Irish National Hunt (I.N.H.) flat races. Here’s a little look at those more noteworthy races, exploring all that you need to know about them:

Irish Champion Hurdle

Open to horses aged four and over, the Irish Champion Hurdle takes place over about two miles and features eight hurdles. It sits alongside the Punchestown Champion Hurdle as an example of a race that is seen to be an equivalent of the Champion Hurdle that takes place during the Cheltenham Festival. Hurricane Fly won both this and the Champion Hurdle in 2013.

The race has enjoyed a number of high-profile sponsors over the years, including AIG Europe for fifteen years from 1993 and Toshiba in 2009 and 2010. It’s perhaps no surprise that Hurricane Fly won it and the Champion Hurdle in the same season, given he won this race five times consecutively from 2011 until 2015. Four of those wins came for Ruby Walsh, helping him to equal Charlie Swans’ six wins as a jockey. They all came for Willie Mullins, making him the most successful trainer with six victories.

Arkle Novice Chase

A version of this race was first run back in 1956 when it took place over two miles. It was won by Arkle in 1963, hence the fact that the current iteration of the event is named in his honour. When Arkle won it it was called the Milltown Novice Chase. Extended by two furlongs in 1980 then to two miles and three furlongs in 1992, it dropped down to two miles and one furlong in 1995 and it’s remained that length ever since.

Sometimes called ‘The Irish Arkle’ to differentiate it from the Arkle Challenge Trophy the takes place at Cheltenham during the Festival, the race is specifically for move chasers. The competitors have to jump eleven fences before they’ll reach the finish line and it’s for horses aged five and up. Horses that do well in this often go on to be competitive in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, with Un de Sceaux and Footpad being examples of horses that have won both races in the same season.

Spring Juvenile Hurdle

Restricted to four-year-olds, the Spring Juvenile Hurdle takes place over two miles and has eight hurdles to be negotiated. It was run for the first time in 1994 and was a Listed race, coming in to replace the Le Coq Hardi Hurdle, which was a Grade 3 novices hurdle for three-year-olds that was ran over two miles.

The Spring Juvenile Hurdle became a Grade 3 offering in 1995 and moved up to Grade 2 eight years later. It was made a Grade 1 race in 2010 and has maintained that grading ever since. Obviously no horse has ever won it more than once, but the same cannot be said of the jockeys that have taken part in it over the years. The likes of Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell and Paul Carberry have all won it more than once, with the latter doing so three times between 1994 and 2004.

Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle

Established in 1987, the Novice Hurdle has enjoyed a number of sponsors over the years. Both Paddy Power and Le Coq Hardi took the honour in its more formative years, whilst Deloitte have done so since 1992. It’s even to the extent that it is often referred to as the Deloitte Novice Hurdle as though that’s the race’s official name. Between 1992 and 2003 it was the Deloitte and Touche Novice Hurdle, with the ‘and Touche’ being dropped in 2004.

Currently run over two miles having been over two mile and two furlongs until 2018, the race features eight hurdles. It’s specifically for novice hurdlers and can be seen as a good indicator of how horses will do in two Cheltenham Festival offerings. The likes of Istabraq, Brave Inca and Champagne Fever have all gone on to win one of either the Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle or the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after achieving victory in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown first. With six wins apiece prior to 2018, Paul Carberry and Willie Mullins are the race’s most successful jockey and trainer respectively.

The Flogas Novice Steeplechase

The official name of the race is the Dr P. J. Moriarty Novice Chase, which it has had attached to it since 1998. It was first run nine years earlier and horses that do well in it often go on to be competitive in the Cheltenham Festival’s RSA Chase. Florida Pearl was the first horse to win both races, doing so in 1998, with the likes of Cooldine in 2009 and Bostons Angel in 2011 following suit.

The race was a Grade 2 offering in 1998 and was upgraded to Grade 1 four years later. Since 2015 the winner has received the Dr P. J. Moriarty Trophy. Run over two miles and five furlongs and with fourteen fences to be negotiated during its running, the fact that it’s for novice jumpers means that no horse has won it more than once. Kevin O’Brien and Ruby Walsh have not won it more than once as jockeys, as has Willie Mullins as a trainer.

Irish Gold Cup

Without question the main event of the weekend is the Irish Gold Cup, which has been taking place since 1987. Back then it had a different title, being known as it was as the Vincent O’Brien Irish Gold Cup in honour of the racehorse trainer. Hennessy began sponsoring it in 1991 and it became the Hennessy Gold Cup as a result, earning the nickname ‘The Irish Hennessy’ in order to avoid confusion with the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury.

As you might expect given the race’s title, it’s something of a hint for those that want to watch out for it for the Gold Cup that is run during the Cheltenham Festival. Jodami became the first horse to win both races during the same season when he did so in 1993, with Imperial Call achieving it in 1996. There was then something of a gap before Sizing John repeated the trick in 2017. Raced over three miles and featuring seventeen fences, no horse has won it more often than Florida Pearl with four wins between 1999 and 2004.