AN unprecedented year for racing in Ireland but there is nothing unprecedented about the quality of the 2020 Leopardstown Christmas Festival as the 2020 Grade 1 & Paddy Power Chase entries were released today with many of the big names entered to serve up a Christmas to remember.
DAY ONE: Racing Post Day, Saturday, December 26
€80,000 Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase
Danoli (1996), Moscow Flyer (2001), Sizing Europe (2009), Douvan (2015), Min (2016) and Notebook (2019) have all been successful in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase on the opening day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and a glittering entry of 19 horses, up three on last year, has been made for the 2020 renewal. Gordon Elliott has one win in the race to his name (Clarcam, 2014) and he’s not short of contenders with Envoi Allen, Felix Desjy, Andy Dufresne and Conflated all entered. Willie Mullins has put nine in the race with Asterion Forlonge, Blackbow, Janidil and Yukon Lil among his team. Last year’s winning trainer Henry de Bromhead has entered Captain Guinness, Benruben and Popong while Darver Star is there for Gavin Cromwell.
DAY TWO: Paddy Power Chase Day, Sunday December 27
€150,000 Paddy Power Chase (Handicap)
An entry of 71 horses, an increase of 10 on 2019, has been received for the Paddy Power Chase which was won in such memorable fashion by Roaring Bull last year. He’s among the 14 horses entered by Gordon Elliott this time and the Cullentra trainer can also call upon the likes of Milan Native, Monbeg Notorious and the JT McNamara Munster National winner Aforementioned. Chavi Artist, trained by Tom Mullins, Barry Connell’s Massey’s Wood, John Ryan’s Paddy Power Cork Grand National winner Dromore Lad, and Paul Nolan’s Fitzhenry, runner-up in the race last year, and the Noel Meade-trained Daly Tiger are interesting entries along with the recent Kempton winner Lock’s Corner and The Butcher Said, which have been entered by Jonjo O’Neill and Olly Murphy respectively. Castlebawn West, Class Conti, Fan De Blues and Livelovelaugh are among Willie Mullins’ entry of 11 when Henry de Bromhead’s seven entries include last year’s third Plan Of Attack and former Leopardstown Christmas Festival winner Ellie Mac. The weights for the Paddy Power Chase will be published Monday, November 30.
€100,000 Grade 1 Paddy’s Rewards Club Steeplechase
The first of two Grade 1 races on the second day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival is the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase and it’s set to be a cracker. Last year’s winner, the Henry de Bromhead-trained A Plus Tard and and runner-up, Willie Mullins’ Chacun Pour Soi, head the early entry of 17 horses. De Bromhead has also entered the star mare and Cheltenham specialist Put The Kettle On along with Notebook and Paloma Blue while the Willie Mullins team is completed by Min, Melon, Annamix and Cash Back. Gordon Elliott has Battleoverdoyen and Samcro in the early line-up, while Joseph O’Brien’s Le Richebourg and Fakir D’oudairies and the Pat Fahy-trained Castlegrace Paddy all add to the intrigue.
€80,000 Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle
The Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle is the first of three top-level hurdle races at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Willie Mullins won with Hurricane Fly in 2008 and was successful in the race for four straight years from 2015 to 2018. Ferny Hollow, Appreciate It, N’golo and Shewearsitwell are among his 13 entries while Gordon Elliott, successful last year with Abacadabras, has four to choose from, including Ballyadam and Call Me Lyreen. A winner with Sizing John in 2014, Henry de Bromhead has Bob Olinger and Irascible among his six entries while Emmet Mullins has Sneaky Getaway, Arthur Moore has Sea Ducor and Cask Mate and Flanking Maneuver are on a team of four from trainer Noel Meade who has won the race on two occasions in the last 15 years.
DAY THREE: Savills Day, Monday December 28
€150,000 Grade 1 Savills Chase
Monday’s Grade 1 Savills Chase is sure to be a Festival highlight and an entry of 23 horses is headed by last year’s winner Delta Work, trained by Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins’ Kemboy, the hero in 2018 and fourth in the race last Christmas. Both trainers have made multiple entries, with Presenting Percy, The Storyteller, Battleoverdoyen, Samcro and Shattered Love completing the Elliott team while Allaho, Acapella Bourgeois and Easy Game are among Mullins’ contingent. The last-gasp RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase winner Champ, trained by Nicky Henderson, looks set to make his seasonal reappearance in the race which has also attracted Monalee, A Plus Tard and Minella Indo, a powerful team from the Henry de Bromhead stable.
€100,000 Grade 1 Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle
Stayers take centre stage on day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival with both the Grade 1 Christmas Hurdle and the Grade 1 Savills Chase to be run over three miles. Apple’s Jade won the race for the third year running in 2019 and her former trainer Gordon Elliott has four early contenders, Sire Du Berlais, The Storyteller, Fury Road and Cracking Smart. Willie Mullins matches that number with Bacardys, Bachasson, Bapaume and Great White Shark while Noel Meade has two entries, Beacon Edge and Sixshooter. Olly Murphy’s is also doubly represented with Thomas Darby and The Worlds End while Ronald Pump, the Cheltenham Festival Stayers’ Hurdle runner-up, is there for Matthew Smith.
DAY FOUR: Matheson Day, Tuesday December 29
€100,000 Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle
Star mare Honeysuckle, winner of the PCI Irish Champion Hurdle over this course and distance at the Dublin Racing Festival in February, is among the 11 horses entered for the Grade 1 Matheson Hurdle on the final day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. Her trainer Henry de Bromhead has also entered the hugely promising four-year-old Aspire Tower which made a stunning return to action when beating Gordon Elliott’s Abacadabras to win at Down Royal at the end of October. The latter could also be facing into a rematch with the Willie Mullins-trained Saint Roi after they finished first and second respectively at Grade 1 level at Punchestown since. Mullins’ entry is made up of Sharjah, winner of this race for the last two years, Saldier and Concertista. The Tom Symonds-trained Song For Someone gets an entry after his Grade 2 victory at Ascot last Saturday.
€80,000 Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase
Gordon Elliott is on the hunt for a fourth consecutive win and his fifth in total in the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase. He won with Battleoverdoyen last year and is responsible for seven of the 23 entries this time, boasting a squad of horses that includes Envoi Allen, Andy Dufresne, Easywork and Pencilfulloflead. Willie Mullins has a team of five, including Monkfish, Colreevy and The Big Getaway while Latest Exhibition could represent Paul Nolan and Assemble and Sempo could carry the hopes of Joseph O’Brien.
Tim Husbands MBE, Leopardstown CEO said of the 2020 Leopardstown Christmas Festival: “In a year of many changes and disruptions to life and racing, it’s great to see that the quality of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival remains as strong as ever. We are very grateful to the trainers, owners & our sponsors for their continued support of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival despite the challenging times. We look forward to the day when racegoers can return to Leopardstown but for now, until it is safe to do so, we can try and take some comfort that at least people can enjoy quality racing at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival, safely at home.”