Everything you need to know about Leopardstown racecourse
Last updated & tested: 2019-12-31
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Leopardstown racing dates back to the 1880s and this left-handed galloping oval-shaped course in Ireland, south of capital city Dublin is said to be based on Sandown in the UK. Like that British track, it is home to both National Hunt and Flat meetings throughout the year. Leopardstown horse racing is thus significant in both spheres and is second only to The Curragh across the other side of Dublin on the level. Over jumps, Leopardstown results can have influence over events later in the season as there are a number of key trials during the winter months there for the spring festivals on both sides of the Irish Sea.
As home to the first of two days on Irish Champions Weekend, meanwhile, there is also top-class Flat action at Leopardstown races 2020 with two Group 1 races the highlight. There are more than a dozen Grade 1 National Hunt events, including those at the recently created Dublin Racing Festival in early February. There is now more than one Leopardstown Festival 2020 in the calendar to go with the Christmas action that remains the jumps highlight of the year. In case you’re wondering, Leopardstown in Ireland is named after a former leper colony founded in the area during medieval times when those with leprosy were kept apart from other people to prevent the disease from spreading.
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More on the Leopardstown horse racing you can bet on
With more than 20 Leopardstown racing days in a year, and both Flat and National Hunt action to enjoy, there’s plenty of opportunities to get a bet on. Let’s lift the lid on that and learn all about the main events in the horse racing calendar that you bet on at Leopardstown in Ireland…
Dublin Racing celebrated with new Leopardstown Festival 2020
The most recent innovation at Leopardstown is the introduction of the Dublin Racing Festival in 2018. Alterations to the Irish racing calendar in effect combined two different meetings at this venue into one superb weekend of top-class jumps action. Seven Grade 1 races take place across the first Saturday and Sunday of February.
Kicking this superb two-day card off is a 2m 6f novice hurdle previously named in honour of Golden Cygnet – an Irish trained hurdler whose career was cruelly ended prematurely. Hidden Cyclone and Outlander are among the most famous winners of this race, upgraded and increased in distance just for the Dublin Racing Festival.
The 2m 1f Grade 2 Dublin Chase was newly inaugurated for this event in 2018 with the aim of being a final trial for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in the Irish jumps calendar. This is similar to the Grade 1 Irish Arkle for novices over fences and the same course and distance. That latter test for 2m chasers has been won by the horse it was named after, the mighty Arkle, and in more recent years Kicking King, Un De Sceaux and Douvan.
Prior to the day one feature, the Irish Champion Hurdle, is a Grade B handicap chase over Irish Arkle and Dublin Chase distance. As Ireland’s equivalent of the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, there’s an illustrious roll of honour which includes Hatton’s Grace (1950), Flyingbolt (1964), L’Escargot (1969), Captain Christy (1973) and Dawn Run (1984).
Besides those National Hunt legends, there have also been a few notable multiple Irish Champion Hurdle heroes. Brave Inca had to wait three years to taste victory a second time after first landing the spoils in 2006. Istabraq won the race four times in a row between 1998 and 2001, while Hurricane Fly land five consecutive renewals from 2011 to 2015.
Not to be confused with the Ascot Hurdle which is also sponsored by Coral, there’s a 2m Grade B handicap hurdle attached to that bookmaker’s name at the Dublin Racing Festival. In its early days, this race was called the Irish Sweeps Hurdle transferred to Leopardstown racecourse from Fairyhouse in 1971 that used to be in December and not a handicap.
Persian War, Comedy Of Errors and Night Nurse all won this race when it was a major Champion Hurdle trial back in those days. A Grade 2 bumper or National Hunt Flat Race rounds off the first day of Leopardstown horse racing action at this meeting and does likewise on the Sunday.
There are three handicaps on the second day of the Dublin Racing Festival – a 2m 2f hurdle for mare, 2m 5f chase and 3m hurdle for stayers. The Spring Juvenile Hurdle is a 2m four-year-olds only race won by the likes of Commanche Court and Footpad in the past.
On top of that, there’s novice hurdle and chase action on day two of the meeting. The Deloitte Novice Hurdle over 2m 2f has a rich history and past winners include Istabraq, Brave Inca and Champagne Fever, plus ill-fated duo Vautour and Nichols Canyon. As it’s between the distances of the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, those that do well can go for either Cheltenham Festival event.
The Flogas Novice Chase over 2m 5f can be a trial for either the JLT Novices’ Chase or the RSA Chase depending on the staying credentials of winning horses. Dorans Pride, Florida Pearl and Native Upmanship are some of the most notable victors here. And so to the Irish Gold Cup, once known as the Irish Hennessy, it’s one of the leading staying chases in the Irish racing calendar.
Florida Pearl is the only four-time winner of this valuable race, while Jodami and Beef or Salmon have three Irish Gold Cup victories on their CV. Three horses have gone on to land the Cheltenham equivalent with the most recent being Sizing John – a rare successful seven-year-old.
Classic Trials the spring showpieces
Flat action then takes over at Leopardstown racing wise. A meeting held in late March or early April contains trials for the English Guineas that are traditionally held during the first weekend in May. Colts and geldings aged three only go in the Listed 7f Leopardstown 2000 Guineas Trial. Although an official trial like the Group 3 Leopardstown 1000 Guineas Trial for fillies, neither has a great record of producing subsequent Classic winners.
The Group 3 Ballysax Stakes for all three-year-olds, however, has been won by top Flat horses including Galileo, High Chaparral, Yeats, Harzand and Rekindling this century. Those thoroughbreds being aimed at the Epsom Derby or Irish equivalent at The Curragh are most likely to race over this 1m 2f trip, however, than those destined for Newmarket’s Rowley Mile and the English Guineas Festival.
In May, meanwhile, usually on the middle Sunday there’s more Classic trials at Leopardstown. Before those take centre stage, however, older horses get a rare chance early in the Flat seasons to go up against the three-year-olds in the Group 3 Amethyst Stakes over 1m. There are two triple winners of this contest; Burden of Proof in the late 1990s and Famous Name in the early 2010s.
The Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial – another Group 3 contest over 1m 2f – is another chance for horses with Classic hopes to have a prep run. It’s no surprise to see the honour roll contain many Ballysax winners of this event which was initially founded in 1971 – the year after Nijinsky became the last colt to win the English Triple Crown of thoroughbred Flat racing. You can add Sadler’s Wells and Dylan Thomas to the above names that have delivered in the Derrinstown.
With the Irish 1000 Guineas not taking place at The Curragh until the end of May, three-year-old fillies get one last outing before that Classic in another Derrinstown sponsored trial over 1m. This hasn’t proved as strong as the other Group 3s for the colts in producing subsequent heroines but the form should still be respected.
Rounding out the springtime racing at Leopardstown is a card towards the end of May and sometimes in early June on a Friday that has as its feature, the Listed 1m 6f Saval Beg Stakes. Irish trained horses that are older and heading for stayers’ events like the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and the Curragh Cup often use this as an outing to see how they fare.
The mighty Order Of St George won the Saval Beg three times in a row for Aidan O’Brien, while further back in time other notable victors of thus staying test include Vintage Crop – the first-ever overseas winner of the Melbourne Cup – and Vinnie Roe, European champion stayer in 2002.
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While away summer Thursdays at with some Leopardstown racing
One of the great things about horse racing at Leopardstown is during the summer months they put on several evening cards midweek during the summer months that take advantage of the extra daylight. You can get involved in this on Thursdays throughout June, July and August.
The Group 3 Ballycorus Stakes is a 7f test for three-year-olds and up that takes place in mid-June at this venue usually about halfway between the Epsom Derby Festival and Royal Ascot. Joining this is as a summer feature contest at Leopardstown is the 1m 6f Group 3 Stanerra Stakes now restricted to fillies and mares only from 2016 onwards. Previously known as the Challenge Stakes it was open all horses aged three or over, but was changed when an initiative by horse racing authorities to improve the stayers’ programme for females was launched.
Moving on to the Meld Stakes, another Group 3 contest over 1m 1f, this race used to be further and at The Curragh, but they’ve got enough top notch Flat action there to let Leopardstown have this one. Older horses have had a much better record in this event in recent years since it switched venues.
On the final Thursday in July are a couple of Group 3 events and a Listed affair. The Silver Flash Stakes and Tyros Stakes are the former with both being restricted to two-year-olds only – the Silver Flash for juvenile fillies. It’s the Tyros that boast the more illustrious list of winners, however, with Teofilo and New Approach among those to land this and go on to have successful careers at sires in the thoroughbred breeding world.
Dual Guineas heroes Gleneagles and Churchill were also victorious as juveniles in the Tyros. The Vinnie Roe Stakes, meanwhile, is the Listed three-year-old only race over 1m 6f which may be an early indicator for the St Leger events on either side of the Irish Sea.
Moving into August and the Group 3 Ballyroan Stakes over 1m 4f. Vinnie Roe won this race twice as prep for two of his four Irish St Leger successes. The Desmond Stakes, meanwhile, is a similar grade affair at one mile and also open to horses aged three-and-up that is named after the 1913 champion sire.
Irish Champions Weekend part one stellar stuff in September
As you may have gathered, Irish racing big end of season Flat extravaganza is set over two days in mid-September and a couple of racecourses. The first of those is Leopardstown which is home to the Irish Champion Stakes – a 1m 2f Group 1 that gives top middle-distance horses one last chance at glory.
Many who contest the 10 furlong Champion Stakes have won or raced in valuable events in the UK like the Coral-Eclipse at Sandown or the Juddmonte International during York’s Ebor Festival. Dylan Thomas is the only dual Irish Champion winner, which highlights how difficult in recent years it’s been for horses aged four and over to come back and take it to the three-year-olds with weight-for-age as ever in play.
The Matron Stakes, meanwhile, is another Group 1 event, but for fillies and mares only. It’s over 1m and has proved to be one for three-year-olds in a similar vein to the Irish Champion. There’s also a mile Group 2 contest to crown the Champion Juvenile in Ireland and another open age event for three-year-olds and up called the Boomerang Stakes over the same distance.
A Group 3 with similar entries allowed over 1m 4f sponsored in recent years by Paddy Power adds even more top class action to this card. Irish Champions Weekend at Leopardstown also contains some Premier Handicaps – one for stayers over 1m 5f and another over the much shorter trip of 7f.
In the autumn, this track also hosts some most more juvenile events of note. Towards the end of October, the Group 3 Killavullan Stakes over 7f having previously been restricted to fillies when it was run elsewhere. Around the same or in early November, meanwhile, there’s a rare staying test at 1m 1f for two-year-olds in the Group 3 Eyrefield Stakes which in 2017 threw up the subsequent winner of the following year’s Irish St Leger in Flag Of Honour.
Christmas Festival fast and furious for National Hunt fans
Leopardstown is best known for the festive horse racing over jumps that takes place across four days right after Christmas. The National Hunt action comes thick and fast at that time of year with Kempton Park hosting the King George VI Chase during its own two-day meeting in England and the Welsh Grand National scheduled to take place at Chepstow.
Boxing Day, or St Stephen’s Day as it’s called in Ireland, is a huge date in the horse racing calendar and may be the busiest day in the sport during the year. Leopardstown’s card contains The Grade 2 Knight Frank Juvenile Hurdle for three-year-olds only is a 2m test most famously won by the ultra-tough mare Apple’s Jade in 2015, but the big race on Boxing Day is over fences.
A Grade 1, the 2m 1f Racing Post Novice Chase has been won by some of the most exciting jumps prospects in the British Isles. Willie Mullins trained duo Footpad and Douvan have added their names in recent years to a roll of honour that includes Sizing Europe, Moscow Flyer and Native Upmanship.
Day two of this Leopardstown Festival 2020 includes an extended 3m Grade B handicap chase sponsored by leading Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, who also have their name attached to a 2m 1f Grade 1 over fences. Papillon and the aforementioned Moscow Flyer are dual winners of that latter event, but Big Zeb is unsurpassed as a three-time victor.
The other Grade 1 traditionally held on December 27 is the 2m Future Champions Novice Hurdle. This has certainly lived up to its name, with the likes of Istabraq, Hurricane Fly, Jezki and Sizing John all going on later in their careers to land Cheltenham Festival glory in the Champion Hurdle or Gold Cup.
Christmas is the theme on day three of this meeting. It may be three days after the big day itself, but two very valuable and prestigious Grade 1 are on offer. The Christmas Hurdle over 3m, not to be confused with a race of the same name and status run at Kempton on Boxing Day, is a stern test for stayers won in consecutive years by mares in 2016 and 2017.
As for the Christmas Chase over 3m, it has attracted some of the most lucrative sponsorship outside of the horse racing bubble with sports car manufacturers Lexus and telecom giants Ericsson before its merger with Sony among them. It’s a serious trial for the Cheltenham Gold Cup with the likes of Best Mate, Denman and Synchronised going on to win in it the same season.
On the fourth and final day of this meeting is a Grade 3 mares hurdle over 2m 4f that can be used by those aiming for the David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham. There’s also the Grade 1 Neville Hotels Novice Chase over 3m for horses looking to contest the RSA Chase. It’s the other Grade 1, the 2m Ryanair Hurdle that is the main attraction, though, as these Leopardstown results must be taken very seriously form wise for the Champion Hurdle.
Which bookie is your best bet when taking a punt on Leopardstown races 2020?
With so much horse racing going on at Leopardstown, and a vast amount of choice when betting online, how can you be sure which bookmaker goes that extra mile to offer its customers value on the National Hunt and Flat action here? Here at OpenOdds, our experts have a recommendation to make. Paddy Power sponsor high-profile races at Leopardstown across both spheres, so that shows their commitment.
Whatever you think of that firm and its sometimes edgy advertising, it makes sense than an Irish bookie offers more on a course like Leopardstown in Ireland. Price boosts on horse racing and extra places for each-way betting are just some of the basics you’ll get at Paddy Power, alongside non-runner no bet insurance and the best odds on all UK and Irish races guaranteed. Their Rewards Club will give you bonuses for placing a certain cumulative amount of bets in a week. There’s acca insurance if you’re putting your selections for a card together in one bet. At major times in the horse racing calendar like Irish Champions Weekend and the Leopardstown festivals at Christmas and in February, Paddy Power also have a whole host of specific offers to entice you into joining up if you’re a new customer. It’s a great all-round package that cannot be ignored.
All the Leopardstown racecourse betting tips you need and more
Getting good betting tips can be tricky. There’s so many so-called experts out there and all they give you is a name. For the casual punter that may be enough, but the OpenOdds team always get a fuller picture from their tipsters. We used horse racing fans who aren’t afraid to put their money with their mouths are. Our detailed betting tips contain three selections; these are either the NAP, next best and top each-way bet on a racecard, or when we look at an individual race preview the selection, danger and each-way angle.
Horse racing at Leopardstown is usually hotly competitive, so it warrants closer inspection. Looking deeper into the races means you can know where the dark horses are. You can’t get that from a single name. Sometimes our tipsters side with favourites, but they’re perfectly happy to take them on if they look vulnerable to rivals or improvers. Each-way betting is important to us here because in big field handicaps and group or grade races where there’s a hot favourite, the better value can be found on those finishing in-behind. All our recommended wagers here are rated on a risk scale from one to 10 and we’ll point you to where the best odds were at the time of writing, but please remember markets are subject to change!
Tips for races at Leopardstown
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Know expert advice is at hand to support your betting
Want somebody to help you make sense of what the latest Leopardstown results mean? That’s where the news section of OpenOdds comes in. We take a betting first approach to the latest stories and developments, weights and entries for major horse racing events and set all of that in its proper context. In other words, what does it mean for the market? This is particularly important if you’ve taken ante post punts in search of extra value on a long-term gain. Our experts keep their fingers on the pulse of horse racing news and can help keep you in the know.
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