The highly-anticipated Leopardstown Christmas Festival, which runs from St Stephen's Day, December 26 to December 29, boasts an increase this year in prize-money for eight feature races, including all seven Group 1s alongside many supporting races. Overall, the total increase in prize-money over the four days is €160,000 which is a 12% increase compared to 2017.
The increase in prize money was announced today in Gordon Elliott's yard where some of the 2017 Leopardstown Christmas Festival Grade 1 winners are trained including Apple's Jade (the 2017 3m Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle winner), Shattered Love (2017 3m Neville Hotels Novice Chase winner) and Mick Jazz (the 2017 2m Ryanair Hurdle winner). One of the horses being aimed at this year’s festival is Coeur Sublime, the highly-rated three year old who has raced twice and won twice. He is owned by Chris Jones and Elliott will aim him at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival.
The Racing Post Novice Chase is the Grade 1 feature on St Stephen's Day, Wednesday, December 26 and sees its prize-money increased to €100,000 from €90,000. The two miles, one-furlong event was won last year by the Willie Mullins-trained Footpad who went on to land Grade 1 races over the same course and distance at the inaugural Dublin Racing Festival in February, the Cheltenham Festival the following month and the Punchestown Festival in April.
On the same afternoon, the value of the Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle rises from €45,000 to €50,000.
Both Grade 1 races on the second day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival on Thursday, December 27 are up in value with the Paddy’s Rewards Club ‘Sugar Paddy’ Chase rising €25,000 to €125,000. The race went for export in 2017 with the Nicky Richards-trained Simply Ned landing the spoils under Mark Walsh.
The Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle becomes another race with a six-figure prize fund with an increase of €15,000 bringing the overall value to €100,000. Willie Mullins won the most recent renewal with the Luke McMahon-owned/David Mullins-ridden Whiskey Sour.
Day three of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival is focused on the stayers and the Grade 1 Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle over three miles will now also be worth €100,000, an increase of €15,000 on last year. The Gordon Elliott-trained Apple’s Jade and Davy Russell beat Supasundae to win the race in 2017.
Total prize-money of €175,000, an increase of €25,000, is on offer for the inaugural running of The Savills Chase on the third day of the Festival which carries the banner of ‘Savills Day at Leopardstown’. The race has been won in the past by the likes of Denman, Beef or Salmon, Synchronised, Tidal Bay and Bobs Worth and last year, the Noel Meade-trained Road To Respect added his name to the roll of honour when winning under Sean Flanagan who recently started his season well winning the Gr1 Champion Chase at Down Royal.
The final day of the Leopardstown Christmas Festival on Saturday, December 29 features two more Grade 1 races. The Ryanair Hurdle was won by Mick Jazz for owner George Mahoney, trainer Gordon Elliott and Davy Russell last year and this race sees its value rising to €125,000 from €100,000.
The Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase goes up from €85,000 to €100,000. The race saw Gordon Elliott land a 1-2 last year with the mare Shattered Love, winner of the Grade 1 JLT Novices´ Chase at the Cheltenham Festival subsequently, beating Jury Duty which made the headlines in October with his success in the American Grand National at Far Hills, New Jersey.
There are further improvements to the prize-money on offer for all the higher quality handicaps at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival. The opening day’s ‘Bet Through the Racing Post App’ Handicap Chase is now worth €30,000 (from €27,500), Paddy Power ‘Enough of the Nonsense’ Handicap Hurdle on the second day is up to €30,000 (from €28,500), the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle on day three of the Festival rises to €30,000 (from €26,500) while The Irish Daily Star Christmas Novice Handicap Hurdle is now a €20,000 race (from €17,500). The opening race on the final day, Saturday, December 29 is the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Chase and its value goes up from €18,000 to €20,000.
In addition, over the four days of the Christmas Festival, Leopardstown Racecourse is delighted to announce the minimum value for all I.N.H. Flat Races will rise to €12,000. All hurdle races will have a minimum value of €15,000 and all steeplechases will see their minimum values rise to €17,500.
Pat Keogh, Chief Executive of Leopardstown Racecourse, said:“It is with thanks to the generosity and support of our sponsors and HRI that we can announce these significant prize-money increases today. We are delighted for the owners, who are so important, that the increases are across the board and include virtually all 28 races over the four days. The quality of racing at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival is second to none and we strive to build on our success year-on-year. Its wonderful to see horses that run here in December returning just six weeks later for Dublin Racing Festival before going on to compete and win at the big Spring meetings.”
Gordon Elliott commented: “We are really looking forward to being in the thick of things this Christmas and hope to be able to win some of the big races again this Christmas. Coeur Sublime will be targeted at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and we plan to aim as many of our good horses at the festival as possible.”