Leopardstown racecourse has enjoyed three hugely successful race meetings so far this year; the January Jumps weekend featuring the Boylesports.com Handicap Hurdle, the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle and the highly acclaimed Hennessy Gold Cup.
Year after year, these races have provided racegoers with informative clues as to potential winners in Cheltenham. The Road to Cheltenham series invited racegoers to come and see some of the leading contenders go into battle during the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival.
Traditionally this race meeting has been used by many trainers to finalise racecourse work on some of their principle contenders in preparation for hopeful Cheltenham glory and this Sunday is no exception with a competitive seven card meeting.
The feature race, The Carrickmines Handicap Steeplechase at 4pm presents a dozen runners with the weights headed by recent Hennessy Cognac Gold Cup runner-up, Roberto Goldback, while last year’s Irish Grand National hero, Organisedconfusion and the promising Ted Walsh trained novice, Colbert Station, are also in the line-up.
Two more interesting runners are last season’s Punchestown Guinness Gold Cup winner, Follow The Plan, and the Tony Martin-trained Montan, who has been running consistently well over fences and hurdles this season.
In other races, the Ballsbridge Hurdle has attracted seven competitors to face the starter and here the Charles Byrnes trained Pittoni clashes with the Dermot Weld trained New Phase while other interesting runners in a tight contest are the 2008 Cheltenham Champion Hurdle runner-up, Osana, the useful Won In the Dark and the smart mare, Oilily.
The concluding Killiney Pro-Am Flat Race sees the Jessica Harrington trained Jezki bid to follow up his winning debut effort over this course in late January.
Finally, in the Irish Stallion Farms E.B.F. Steeplechase, Noel Meade’s recent Grade 2 Navan winner, Donnas Palm is likely to start favourite to follow up.
For rugby fans, you won’t miss the action at Stade de France. Leopardstown will bring a little of ‘Les Blues’ and of course ‘Les Verts’ to the racecourse where racegoers can watch the match on the large screens around the racetrack, Tote hall and numerous bars. There will also be a little French gastronomic flavour to the day with French-themed food offerings including:- ham and cheese croissant with coffee for €5, French baguette with roast beef, brie, onions and blue cheese dressing for €5.60 and finally for the foodie, beef bourguignon with a glass of wine for €14.
After the last race, some of the Cheltenham festival-bound horses will school on the track including; Lucky William, Forpadydeplasterer, Barel of Laughs, Lord Windermere, He’llberemembered, Moon Dice, Becauseicouldntsee, Realt Dubh, Silverhand, Fisher Bridge, Dylan Ross, The Midnight Club, White Star Line, Deal Done, Rick (FR), Chill, Magnanimity, His Own, Quiscover Fontaine, Prince de Beauchene, Allee Garde, Soll, Boxer Georg, Sir Des Champs, Blackstairmountain, Raptor, Up the Beat, Call the Police, Your Busy, Daffern Seal and Merchant Royal.
The schooling will also be shown on the big screen and every horse will wear a numbered saddlecloth, making the commentary easy to follow.
Pat Keogh, CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse said: – “This Sunday will be a great sporting occasion as Leopardstown delivers fantastic live racing action and the perfect location for the sport enthusiast to watch the Rugby, our caterers are have come up with French-themed food offering too. It should be a fascinating day when opinions and tips will be flying right, left and centre. Quite simply it is the perfect pre-Cheltenham experience.”