Festive feast at Leopardstown

SOME of the top National Hunt stars in Ireland and Britain will be coming to Leopardstown next month for the 2010 renewal of the course’s Christmas Festival.

Although final decisions have yet to be made about the participation of some of racing’s top stars, National Hunt fans will certainly not be disappointed by the quality of the fare on offer.

Details of the Festival meeting were unveiled yesterday morning in the Enniscorthy, Co Wexford yard of Paul Nolan, and the trainer reported that despite the current cold snap, some of his stable stars such as Joncol, Noble Prince and Shinrock Paddy were “fighting fit” and ready for action at Leopardstown .

Some of the top two-mile novice chasers in the country are set to clash in the Grade 1 Bord na Mona With Nature Novice Chase, the feature event on Stephen’s Day, the opening afternoon of the meeting.

Reigning Champion chaser Big Zeb looks set to return to Leopardstown on December 27 to contest the Grade 1 Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase, while Zaidpour, already as short as 12/1 second favourite behind Cue Card for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham in March after just one run over hurdles, heads a top-class entry for the Paddypowerpoker.com Future Champion Novice Hurdle.

Denman is an entry for Tuesday’s Lexus Chase, although Paul Nicholls has indicated he will not run prior to the Gold Cup at Cheltenham in March.

Paul Nolan is hoping Joncol can put behind him a disappointing reappearance when he returns in the Lexus.

The seven-year-old was below par when only fourth to Big Zeb at Navan earlier this month, but Nolan reports him to be back on song.

Joncol finished third behind What A Friend in the Lexus last December.

“We were a bit disappointed (at Navan) though it (the trip) was a bit short for him and he wasn’t himself,” said Nolan.

“He seems 100% now. Unfortunately the John Durkan comes too soon so we are looking at the Lexus now.

“There’s the Hennessy at Leopardstown after that which he won last year. They are the two main aims for the season. We’ll see what happens after the Hennessy.

“Whether he would handle Cheltenham I’m not sure.

“With his action he will handle better ground, but whether he will handle the undulations of Cheltenham is another thing.”

Solwhit, impressive on his seasonal debut when landing a Grade 1 at Punchestown last month, heads an all-star list for the Leopardstown Golf Centre December Festival Hurdle.

Leopardstown General Manager, Tom Burke, commented: “The Leopardstown Christmas Festival always attracts top National Hunt horses from home and abroad and we are very pleased with today’s early stage entries for our featured races. The track is in excellent condition at the moment and we are looking forward to a great Festival of highly competitive racing.”

The four-day extravaganza runs from December 26-29 and is expected to attract an attendance in excess of 50,000 over the four days.

General Enclosure tickets are just €20, when purchased online, and give access to the entire racecourse enclosure, including the first and second floors of the grandstand. Book online www.leopardstown.com

A flexi ticket can also be bought. The flexi is an advance-purchased ticket that guarantees the bearer admission to any one of the four racedays. At €22 it offers the receiver total flexibility — they decide when to race.

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