Now established as the most-important race meeting in Ireland between September and Christmas, the BarOneRacing.com Winter Festival at Fairyhouse once again last year produced a fixture that was laced with quality winners, ones that continue to impact upon other key races.
Chief amongst those winners were Envoi Allen, who landed the Grade 1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle, and Honeysuckle, winner of the Grade 1 Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, both contests sponsored by BarOneRacing.com.
On January 5th at Naas, the Gordon Elliott-trained Envoi Allen then confirmed himself as the best novice hurdler in Britain or Ireland by winning the Grade 1 Lawlor’s of Naas Novice Hurdle.
The Royal Bond runner-up, Abacadabras, also trained by Gordon, has since won the Grade 1 Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown (on December 27th).
Honeysuckle, trained by Henry de Bromhead, hasn’t run since her Hatton’s Grace success, but the horse that finished third to her at Fairyhouse, Apple’s Jade (Gordon Elliott), winner of the Hatton’s Grace in 2016, 2017 and 2018, returned to form with a 17-length win in the Grade 1 Frank Ward Memorial Hurdle at the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown on December 28th.
The third of the Grade 1 races at Fairyhouse on December 1st, the BarOneRacing.com Drinmore Novice Chase, was won by Fakir d’Oudairies (Joseph O’Brien), who confirmed his top-class novice status by finishing second to Notebook in the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Chase at Leopardstown on December 26th.
For good measure, the 2018 Drinmore winner, Delta Work (Gordon Elliott), leapt firmly into the Cheltenham Gold Cup picture by winning the Grade 1 Savills Chase on December 28th, the most-valuable race at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.
Also, Cerberus (Joseph O’Brien), winner of the Grade 3 €30 Free Bet BarOneRacing.com Juvenile Hurdle at Fairyhouse, finished second to Allmankind at Chepstow in the Grade 1 Coral Finale Juvenile Hurdle on December 27th.
Furthermore, Eric Bloodaxe (Joseph O’Brien), winner of the bumper at Fairyhouse on December 1st, the Royalhousedraw.com INH Flat Race, confirmed his status as this year’s leading performer in that sphere in Ireland by following up his Meath success at Leopardstown on December 29th.
His win provided further evidence, as if it is now needed, that the Winter Festival meeting at Fairyhouse, sponsored by BarOneRacing.com, is a hugely-important meeting in the racing calendar.
Further confirmation of this could emerge at the Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown on February 1st and 2nd, a fixture that contains no less than eight Grade 1 races. Honeysuckle, along with a host of other stars, is among the horses earmarked for two days of superb action that will carry €2.125million in prize-money.
With Fairyhouse having laid down the midseason markers, mark the dates in your diary – February 1st and 2nd at Leopardstown – for two of the best days of racing you are likely to witness this season.
****The attendance-figure for the two-day Winter Festival at Fairyhouse last year increased by an impressive 10% to 9,772, with 6,782 in attendance on Sunday.