Willie Mullins leads the praise as Leopardstown launches Dublin Racing Festival

Mon 25 Sep 2017

Willie Mullins hailed the Dublin Racing Festival as a "great initiative" at the official launch for Ireland's new jumps racing event on Monday morning.

The inaugural fixture, which takes place over the weekend of February 3 and 4, brings together the BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle and the Unibet Irish Gold Cup on what promises to be an enthralling two days of National Hunt action at Leopardstown.

Full cards for both days were unveiled at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, with the Irish Champion Hurdle the centrepiece of Saturday's meeting along with the Frank Ward Solicitors Novice Chase - better known as the Irish Arkle - and the new Coral Dublin Chase, a Grade Two run over two miles and a furlong.

Saturday's card also features the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors Novice Hurdle, which this year carries Grade One status, and a Grade Two bumper sponsored by Goffs.

Mullins, who was joined at the event by his stable jockey Ruby Walsh as well as fellow trainers Tony Martin and Arthur Moore, said: "I think that this festival is a great initiative by Leopardstown.

"The Irish Champion Hurdle and the Irish Gold Cup are two great races to build a new festival around, backed up by a host of top-class races that will showcase the jumping talent on this side of the Irish Sea."

The Irish Gold Cup is one of eight races scheduled to take place on the Sunday.

The other Grade Ones on the afternoon are the Tattersalls Ireland 4yo Spring Juvenile Hurdle, the Deloitte Novice Hurdle and the Flogas Novice Chase.

The action concludes with a Grade Two bumper for mares.

The minimum value for the 15 races is €75,000 and the total prize money across the weekend amounts to €1.5million.

Walsh has won the Irish Champion Hurdle six times, steering Leopardstown legend Hurricane Fly to four of his record five victories in the race.

He said: "Hurricane Fly is up there with my top 10 memories. From the day he won his first Irish Champion Hurdle to the day he won his fifth title and set that world record of 22 Grade Ones - those days are special.

"I love competing and winning the big ones and it doesn't get any better than seven Grade One races over a weekend."

Leopardstown's chief executive Pat Keogh said: "We are very excited about the potential of this festival: for the racing fan, who will get to see some of the biggest National Hunt races of the year in one weekend. For the Festival fan, the entertainment will include cultural elements that make Dublin one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in Europe.

"This is a unique sport with beauty and drama in abundance and we want to bring this sport to as wide an audience as possible, whether they be ardent racing fans or new to the sport.

"The UK audience is also a key target as we provide them with an experience that showcases the very best that Dublin has to offer in a top-class racing festival."

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