The first day’s highlight will be the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle, once won for five consecutive years by the great Hurricane Fly, immortalised at Leopardstown in a lifesize bronze sculpture. Then on Sunday, the Unibet Irish Gold Cup, Ireland’s equivalent of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, takes centre stage. In all, there will be 15 races over two days, seven of them at grade 1 level. With the total prize money adding up to €1.5m, no race will be worth less than €75,000.
Bets can be placed on some of the best steeplechasers and hurdlers in training. Two to watch out for are the brilliant novice chaser Footpad, owned by the fund managers and financiers Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, and the equally exciting novice hurdler Getabird, who runs in the colours of Susannah Ricci, wife of the flamboyant former Barclays banker Rich Ricci. The pair are both trained by Ireland’s champion trainer Willie Mullins and strongly fancied to go on to further triumphs at the Cheltenham Festival, which begins on Tuesday March 13.
The Dublin Racing Festival will also enrich the experience on the day by showcasing city highlights – from its culture, fashion and food to live bands and comedians. A Premium Level pass costs €110 in advance for the weekend, or €60 for the day. There are still hospitality options available in the Leopardstown Pavilion, and the 1888 Restaurant has tables for €175 a head, including admission. Dublin’s five-star Merrion Hotel is offering a special Dublin Racing Festival rate of €280 per room, bed and breakfast, including general admission tickets.