Leopardstown Dublin Racing Festival: Race List & Meeting Info

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

March and April may be the months most commonly associated with National Hunt racing festivals, and understandably so considering the huge popularity of both the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National Meeting. These multi-day events do take place throughout the campaign though, both on home soil, and on the other side of the Irish Sea.

They do love a racing festival over in Ireland, and not content with the Leopardstown Christmas Meeting, Galway Festival, and Punchestown offerings, 2018 saw the Irish add another string to their harp, with the introduction of the high-class Dublin Racing Festival.

Taking place on a punter-friendly Saturday and Sunday slot in early February, this meeting has already proven to be a huge hit with Irish racegoers who flock to the Leopardstown venue in their droves. And what a treat they have in store, with no less than 15 cracking contests on offer, including a rather impressive haul of eight top class Grade 1 affairs.

 

Day One Races - Dublin Racing Festival

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Novice Hurdle Grade 1 2m6f £150,000 5 years old +
Dublin Chase Grade 1 2m1f £150,000 5 years old +
Arkle Novice Chase Grade 1 2m1f £150,000 5 years old +
Matheson Handicap Chase Grade B 2m1f £100,000 5 years old +
Irish Champion Hurdle Grade 1 2m £200,000 4 years old +
Ladbrokes Hurdle Grade B 2m £150,000 4 years old +
Goffs Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race Grade 2 2m £100,000 4-7 years old

Novice Hurdle

Grade 1, 2m6f

Run in association with Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors at the time of writing, the Golden Cygnet Novice Hurdle is run over two miles and six furlongs. It was established in 1999 and is named after Golden Cygnet, a racehorse that was trained by Edward O’Grady and died when racing in 1978. Made a Grade 3 race in 2003, it was upgraded to Grade 2 in 2008 and then Grade 1 in 2018 when it was also extended to its current distance.

A race for horses aged five and over, it features twelve hurdles and lasts for about five and a half minutes when the Going is Good to Soft. The prize money is €150,000 and for the 2020 running there was a €50,000 Cheltenham bonus on offer for stable staff. By the time that that year’s running came around, Ruby Walsh held the record for most wins as a jockey with four, whilst no trainer had won the race more times than Willie Mullins’ six.

Dublin Chase

Grade 1, 2m1f

A Grade 1 steeplechase for horses aged five and over, the Dublin Chase is run over two miles and one furlong. There are eleven fences that must be negotiated during its running, which normally takes a little over four minutes to complete if the Going is Good to Soft. The race was established in 2018 when the new Dublin Racing Festival was created, being a Grade 2 race initially and then being upgraded to Grade 1 the following year.

Arkle Novice Chase

Grade 1, 2m1f

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, Douvan and Footpad being examples of horses that have won both races in the same season.

Matheson Handicap Chase

Grade B, 2m1f

The Matheson Handicap Chase is a Grade B event for horses aged five and over that have a rating of between 0 and 150. Run over two miles and one furlong, it has eleven fences between the starting point and the finishing line. It boasts prize money of €100,000 and takes horses about four minutes and fifteen seconds to get to the home straight when the Going is Good to Soft.

Irish Champion Hurdle

Grade 1, 2m

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.

Ladbrokes Hurdle

Grade B, 2m

There is a good history to this race, which evolved out of the Irish Sweeps Hurdle that took place for the first time in 1969. That was one of a number of races that were part of the Irish Hospitals’ Sweepstake. It was originally run at Fairyhouse, moving to Leopardstown in 1971 and run in December. It became known as the Ladbrokes Hurdle in 1987 and took place in January until 2000, at which point it was moved to Ascot .

The year after the move it was renamed as the Betfair Exchange Trophy Handicap, leaving the way open for a race known as the Pierse Hurdle, which was identical in format to the Ladbrokes Hurdle, to be renamed. Run over two miles and featuring eight hurdles, the event has had numerous sponsors over the years and is for horses aged four and over with a rating of between 0 and 150. A Grade B race, the prize money sits at about €150,000.

Goffs Future Stars I.N.H. Flat Race

Grade 2, 2m

Run in association with Goffs at the time of writing, this race looks for future stars of the sport and is therefore limited to horses aged between four and seven. A Grade 2 event, it is run under Irish National Hunt rules but is a flat race, sometimes called a bumper. Taking place over two miles, it takes about three minutes and fifty seconds to complete when the Going is Good to Soft. The race boasts a prize pool of around €100,000 at the time of writing.

 

Day Two Races - Dublin Racing Festival

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Mares Handicap Hurdle Grade B 2m2f £100,000 4 years old +
Spring Juvenile Hurdle Grade 1 2m £150,000 4 years old
Chanelle Pharma Novice Hurdle Grade 1 2m £150,000 5 years old +
William Fry Handicap Hurdle Grade B 3m £100,000 4 years old +
Flogas Novice Chase Grade 1 2m5f £150,000 5 years old +
Irish Gold Cup Grade 1 3m £250,000 5 years old +
Leopardstown Handicap Chase Grade A 2m5f £150,000 5 years old +
Mares I.N.H. Flat Race Grade 2 2m £100,000 4-7 years old

Mares Handicap Hurdle

Grade B, 2m2f

Sponsored by the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders’ Fund and known as the Paddy Mullins Mares Handicap Hurdle, this race is run over two miles and two furlongs. As the name suggests, the race is limited to mares and is a Grade B event. Horses need to be four or over to take part in the race, which takes horses about four and a half minutes to complete when the Going is Soft. The prize pool sits at the €100,000 mark and there are nine hurdles to jump.

Spring Juvenile Hurdle

Grade 1, 2m

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

Grade 1, 2m

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 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle or the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle after achieving victory in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown first. With six wins, Paul Carberry is the race's most successful jockey with Willie Mullins are the race’s most successful trainer on 7 victories.

William Fry Handicap Hurdle

Grade B, 3m

The William Fry Handicap Hurdle takes place over three miles and boasts twelve hurdles during its running. It normally lasts for over six minutes if the Going is Soft, with the Grade B race inviting a large field more often than not. It’s for horses aged four and over with a rating of between 0 and 150. At the time of writing the prize pool for the event is €100,000.

Flogas Novice Chase

Grade 1, 2m5f

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

Grade 1, 3m

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.

Leopardstown Handicap Chase

Grade A, 2m5f

Sponsored by Gaelic Plant Hire at the time of writing, the Leopardstown Handicap Chase is for horses aged five and over. A Grade A event, it’s run over two miles and five furlongs and features fourteen fences. Expect the horses to hit the home stretch after about five and a half minutes if the Going is Soft, with this steeplechase being competitive thanks to the €150,000 prize pool on offer for those that do well.

Mares I.N.H. Flat Race

Grade 2, 2m

Sponsored by Coolmore for the 2020 renewal, the final race of the Festival is a flat race that is run under Irish National Hunt conditions. Run over two miles and open to horses aged between four and seven, this bumper is limited to mares. It’s also run in association with the Irish European Breeders’ Fund and has a prize pool of €100,000 for the horses to compete over. The race’s official title is named in honour of the horse Deep Run and it is a Grade 2 event.

 

About the Dublin Racing Festival

Race Leaders 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.