The new Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown is less than three weeks away and it received a major boost yesterday when news emerged that superstar Champion Hurdler Faugheen is on track to make a comeback in the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle.
That is part of what will be a massive €1.5 million prizemoney weekend and there are stars lining up for a tilt at the main prizes from across Ireland and the UK’s powerhouse stables.
The Dublin Racing Festival is a gathering together of what was previously three race days with the Champion Hurdle, the Unibet Irish Gold Cup and the Coral Hurdle all moving from standalone days across January and February to a single two-day meeting on February 3rd and 4th.
There is plenty to attract visitors away from the track as well with Damien Dempsey headlining a strong Music Festival element to the weekend, a Dublin Wit trail featuring comedians in and around the racecourse over the two days and a special emphasis on Dublin food and drink as well.
This is a big statement of intent by Leopardstown and Horse Racing Ireland. The prize money for the equivalent races is up 50 percent on where it was last year and the plan is to keep going with an ambition to have €100,000 minimum prize money for every race over the two days in 2020.
Horse racing over the Winter and Spring has grown to be increasingly dominated by the big Festival meetings at Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown.
This statement of putting on a big event to rival them, at a time to fit with trainers preparation plans for the entire season, looks like a real winner and the impact will be felt across the city with high numbers expected to travel for the weekend.
With Ireland kicking off their Nat West Six Nations campaign in Paris on Saturday evening there are already plans to show the game and the pre-match analysis on big screens after the racing. The choice then will be whether to watch Damien Dempsey live or Conor Murray at the Stade de France.
Join us on Thursday morning at the Marker Hotel for Breakfast with sporting and business leaders as we look ahead to the Sporting Year with Paraic Duffy of the GAA, Pat Keogh of Leopardstown Racecourse, Sue Ronan of the FAI, Diarmaid Murphy of the GAA and with Kelli O’Keeffe of Teneo PSG delivering insight on the relationship between sport and the Irish public. Reserve your place here.