Leopardstown Christmas Festival is an Irish institution. Jumping out of bed on St Stephen's Day, catching a lift to Leopardstown and celebrating like you still have a week left of Christmas holidays, there's nothing quite like it.
Day 1 of the Festival has long been a favourite but the action continues through the week with seven Grade 1 races to sink your teeth into during everyone's favourite week of the year. So, with all that in mind, here are eight reasons why you won't want to miss out on the craic at Leopardstown Christmas Festival this year.
1. Day 1 of Leopardstown Is Essentially Day 2 of Christmas
St Stephen's Day at Leopardstown - like oysters in Howth or Bloomsday - is one of those great Dublin institutions. The capital wakes from its post-Christmas stupour to the raw glow of a fine winter's day and the promise of great racing. It is not simply the racing - though the racing is amazing - at Leopardstown Christmas Festival, people from all walks of Irish life assemble to be merry and celebrate life.
2. The Racing Post Novice Steeplechase Is A Cracker This Year
The highlight of Day 1 of Leopardstown Christmas Festival is always the Grade 1 Racing Post Novice Steeplechase. It's especially exciting this year.
The Willie Mullins trained Footpad leads the early betting markets and looks likely to follow Douvan and Min in making it a three in a row for Mullins. However, there's sure to be plenty of competition in the form of the ominously-named Gordon Elliot trained duo of Death Duty and Tombstone
3. SEVEN Grade One Races in Total Across The Four Days
Leopardstown Christmas Festival always runs from December 26-29. The Novice Steeplechase may be the highlight of Day 1 but the racing action just gets better and better from there. So many of the past, present and future greats of Irish racing will be on hand: Min, Un De Sceaux, Mengli Khan and more. 2017 was a momentous year for Irish racing so why not see the year out in the company of our great horses?
Which leads us on to...
4. The Chance To See Faugheen In Full Flow
After 22 months off the track, Faugheen dominated the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown in November. 16 lengths clear of Jezki in second, it was as emphatic a re-appearance on the track as you're ever likely to see. And the good news for Christmas Festival racegoers is that Willie Mullins' stable star has an entry for the Grade 1 Ryanair Hurdle on Day 4 of the festival.
Faugheen will of course go off as a hot favourite but there's plenty of interest throughout the rest of the field. From Mullins' own yard, Melon, Cilaos Emery and Yorkhill could all give Faugheen a test while Apple's Jade and My Tent or Yours also hold entries.
However, with that run at Punchestown already under his belt, much of the interest is simply in the sheer joy of watching Faugheen do his stuff in front of a packed Leopardstown grandstand on December 29th.
5. A Proper Reason to Break Out The Christmas Clothes
So Santa Claus has brought you the fancy attire you've been dreaming of - well. there's no better opportunity to show it off than at Leopardstown, whether it's lads, ladies or families.
Thursday December 28th is ladies day at Leopardstown this Christmas, and fashion is a massive part of the Christmas Festival. Here were the finalists in the Most Stylish Lady prize at Leopardstown during Christmas 2015.
This punter sadly won no prizes for his snowflake suit.
It's not ONLY racing that makes Leopardstown sing. On top of fabulous food options at Leopardstown, the likes of Mundy (photographed above) and Conor McKeon band have been lined up to play during the Festival. It'll be the only place in Ireland where it'll be July in Decemeber.
7. Meeting People Like This Chap
The hat ✓
The glasses ✓
The extravagant shirt ✓
The Brussels sprout suit ✓
A feverish love of Irish racing ✓
The physical embodiment of everything that Leopardstown Christmas Festival is all about. Bravo. Or if you'd prefer someone slightly less charismatic, you might meet this man, who is an avid visitor of Leopardstown at Christmas.
Or you might meet the President.
Or the president of Waterford.
8. The Chance To Witness Ireland's Best Jockeys Work Their Magic
The racing, the hospitality, the atmosphere: that's all guaranteed to be top-notch at Leopardstown Christmas Festival. The weather, however, is trickier to forecast. If it's late December, it's likely there'll be a bit of mud on the track, which provides the chance for Ireland's best jockeys to prove their brilliance. Above is a photo of Paddy Mullins aboard A Toi Phil after a particularly wet Maiden Hurdle victory in 2015. Rest assured that no matter what the conditions are on the track, the horses and jockeys will deliver.
Here's a flavour of some of the mud that you might be able to expect.
And with all that said, here's your opportunity to win a Christmas Cracker package to Day 1 of the Christmas Festival at Leopardstown. Simply head on over to the Facebook post below and enter the competition.