Leop­ard­stown may make St Stephen’s Day all-ticket

Lengthy queues on the open­ing day of fes­ti­val this year prompt­ing a re­think

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Racing Programes, Results And News - Racing Cor­re­spon­dent Brian O’Con­nor

Leop­ard­stown will con­sider mak­ing next year’s St Stephen’s Day fix­ture all-ticket for race fans.

The open­ing day to last week’s Christ­mas fes­ti­val at the Dublin track saw lengthy queues out­side the course at one point and it forced the au­thor­i­ties there to open the gates and let some peo­ple in for free.

Leop­ard­stown’s chief ex­ec­u­tive Pat Keogh es­ti­mated up to 400 cus­tomers got free en­try. The of­fi­cial at­ten­dance on St Stephen’s Day was 13,281.

Ex­tra scan­ners

Keogh de­scribed the long queues last Wed­nes­day as un­ac­cept­able and ad­mit­ted the track au­thor­i­ties were sur­prised by the de­mand for tick­ets at the gates. Ex­tra scan­ners had been put in place to al­low eas­ier ac­cess for those who had pre­paid for en­try.

The Leop­ard­stown team plan to ex­am­ine all el­e­ments of the meet­ing and an all-ticket fix­ture for the tra­di­tional Dublin­ers day out on St Stephen’s Day in 2019 is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion.

“We will have to sit down and think it through but all-ticket is in our think­ing. There are a num­ber of fac­tors to take into ac­count. Any­one un­der 18, if they’re with an adult, gets free ad­mis­sion as we want to en­cour­age the next gen­er­a­tion. It’s the same with stu­dents.

“We would like to get as much tick­et­ing as pos­si­ble.

“We didn’t count ev­ery­one that got free en­try on St Stephen’s Day. Ev­ery­one who was in the queue at that time were left in. I would say that would be about 400 peo­ple,” Keogh said.

Over­all at­ten­dance for the four days at Leop­ard­stown reached 56,322 which was slightly down from 2017’s cor­re­spond­ing fig­ure of 56,617. Satur­day’s crowd of 11,106 was the low­est of the four days but was up slightly on last year’s 10,907.

Satur­day’s Tote fig­ure of ¤339,662 was down from ¤714,384. To­tal Tote bet­ting over the four days at Leop­ard­stown was ¤1,606,297 – a fall of al­most ¤1 mil­lion on 2017.

Book­maker bet­ting for the four days reached ¤3,250,376 af­ter Satur­day’s to­tal of ¤571,425. That was a drop from last year’s to­tal of ¤3,415,065.

Wil­lie Mullins was lead­ing trainer at Leop­ard­stown with six win­ners while Mark Walsh was top jockey with five.

Satur­day’s fi­nal day ac­tion saw Mullins land the fea­tured Ryanair Hurdle with Shar­jah, rid­den by his son Pa­trick. The part­ner­ship quick­ened from last to first to de­ci­sively beat Su­pa­sun­dae.

The 66-1 out­sider Tomb­stone filled the frame in third which left Michael O’Leary’s Gig­gin­stown Stud team scratch­ing their heads over the 6-4 favourite Sam­cro.

Racing’s one time great white hope cruised up to Tomb­stone, who was ef­fec­tively Sam­cro’s pace­maker, early in the straight but cut out dra­mat­i­cally and faded to fifth. Some ini­tial book­maker reaction was to lengthen Sam­cro’s his Cam­pion Hurdle odds to 20-1.

In con­trast Shar­jah’s Cham­pion Hurdle odds were cut to 10-1 as he con­tin­ued his rapid progress through the ranks.

“He might just go straight there [to the fes­ti­val]. We nor­mally get nice ground in Chel­tenham. The ground is cru­cial to him. It made all the dif­fer­ence. Pa­trick said he’s so good on the ground.

“He looks to be an im­prov­ing horse. He’s only five, he’s a very young horse . . . he has im­proved more than I an­tic­i­pated,” Mullins Snr said.

Ten win­ners

Shar­jah’s vic­tory com­pleted a three-timer for Mullins on the day and helped bring his Christ­mas haul across the four days of Leop­ard­stown and Lim­er­ick to ten win­ners. Henry De Brom­head was an­other top trainer in good form over the Christ­mas pe­riod with eight win­ners.

Gordon El­liott notched five vic­to­ries over the four days and looked to iden­tify a prime RSA hope for Chel­tenham when Delta Work made it two Grade One wins in a row in Satur­day’s Neville Ho­tels Novice Chase.

Davy Rus­sell rode Delta Work to land the Drin­more at Fairy­house at the start of the month and was again on board as the horse led home a Gig­gin­stown clean sweep.

“Davy­said he’s gone very idle and wasn’t do­ing a whole lot from the sec­ond last un­til af­ter the last when he gave him a thump. He said the ground was as quick as he wanted it,” said El­liott.

“I put the hood on him and he’s ac­tu­ally gone very re­laxed now which is great. We were lucky Joseph’s horse [Mor­tal] made a mis­take at the last but Davy was happy enough he still had plenty left in the tank.

“I’d imag­ine he’ll come back here [Dublin Racing Fes­ti­val]. That looks the ob­vi­ous route and I’d imag­ine he’ll go down the RSA Chase road.”

Gordon El­liott: notched five vic­to­ries over the four days of the fes­ti­val

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