Always an important meeting, in recent years the Baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace meeting at Fairyhouse – or the Winter Festival as it is now known – has become even more significant.
This again came to the fore at the Leopardstown and Limerick Christmas Festivals that ran from December 26th to 29th.
Firstly, on December 26th, the Grade One Drinmore Novice Chase runner-up, Le Richebourg, was a convincing winner of the Grade One Racing Post Novice Chase for trainer Joseph O’Brien.
His conqueror at Fairyhouse, Delta Work, confirmed himself as the leading novice chaser in Ireland by winning the Grade One Neville Hotels Novice Chase at Leopardstown on December 29th by no less than eight lengths.
The Gordon Elliott-trained gelding is now 6/1 favourite for the RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Last season’s winner of that race, Presenting Percy, who is among the market-leaders for this season’s Cheltenham Gold Cup, ran at the 2017 Fairyhouse Winter Festival, where he carried top-weight to victory in the baroneracing.com Porterstown Handicap Chase.
The 2013 Drinmore Novice Chase winner Don Cossack went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2015. Will it be two Drinmore winners landing Gold Cups within five years?
Also winning at the Winter Festival that year was Espoir d’Allen, who won the Grade Three Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle for Gavin Cromwell, and he added to his graded-race haul for the stable by winning this year’s Grade Three Irish Independent Hurdle at Limerick on December 28th.
Furthermore, Aramon, who finished third in the Grade One baroneracing.com Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse on December 2nd, gained Grade One success when running out an impressive ten-length winner of the Grade One Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27th for trainer Willie Mullins.
And, on December 28th, the mare that is winning everyone’s hearts, Apple’s Jade, followed up her breathtaking Grade One baroneracing.com Hatton’s Grace Hurdle win at Fairyhouse on December 3rd by running out a 26-length winner of the Grade One Squared Financial Christmas Hurdle on December 28th.
Apple’s Jade strikes again giving @jackkennedy15 & @gelliott_racing a double on today’s card following a brilliant win in the @SquaredF @SquaredFinan Christmas Hurdle #LRCChristmas pic.twitter.com/duYUkvKK1u
— Leopardstown RC (@LeopardstownRC) December 28, 2018
Once again, the Gordon Elliott-trained mare raised the roof as she registered what was her ninth Grade One success.
We have been involved with this meeting since 2006 and have seen it grow into a high-class and valuable fixture. Of course, it has always been valuable and prestigious but it now carries around €700,000 in prize-money and contains four graded contests, three of them Grade Ones.
The increased excitement that the meeting now generates is clearly evident and the numbers back this up, with a crowd of nearly 7,000 being in attendance this year, a fixture that was also covered by RTE.
It’s a story that reflects well on all concerned, not least Peter Roe and his team at Fairyhouse, and long may it continue.
It is, no doubt, a meeting to warm the winter.