Leopardstown is one of the most important racecourses anywhere in Ireland or Britain.
Recognised as the top dual-purpose racecourse in Ireland, Leopardstown hosts genuinely top-class action on the Flat and over jumps, making it very similar to Ascot in that sense.
The track is well situated too. Only 8km away from the centre of Dublin, Leopardstown is the venue for an almost constant flow of Graded National Hunt action in the cooler months, and Group races during the summer including Irish Champions Weekend in September.
With the Curragh hosting half of Champions Weekend, Leopardstown hosts the all-important Irish Champion Stakes which has been won by some of the world’s best horses over the years.
- Address – Leopardstown Racecourse, Foxrock, Dublin, Ireland.
- Owner – The Leopardstown Club Limited.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
The surface at Leopardstown is excellent and, with action over both codes taking place, is maintained all year round.
Leopardstown is a left-handed oval, wide in nature, and fairly long at 1¾ miles around. It is known to be pretty level although there is a small rise starting from the final bend.
The turns are sweeping and pretty easy to take, meaning it suits galloping types. Speed is important in most races, but isn’t the essential factor at Leopardstown. The track is basically fair, so if your horse is the best in the race and sees out the trip, they remain the key factors.
Flat Track Analysis
From a Flat jockey’s point of view, Leopardstown has always been popular. Riders tend to say the track is stiffer than we all think, something we perhaps don’t recognise via TV, with the slight but constant rise from the bend to the line ensuring a real test of horses.
While over longer distances things remain very fair here, jockeys tend to want a low draw in sprints, especially over the six-furlong trip as the bend comes up very quickly meaning runners can get out of position fast if they are not careful.
The jumps course too is wide and left-handed, again close to a mile and three quarters around.
Once again, the track is pretty level and features easy turns, with that steady rise present once more from the final bend up to the winning line.
In the jumps scene Leopardstown is known to provide a good test for horses, so make sure yours has the requisite stamina. Three of the fences situated up the back come up very quickly in succession, so a sound jumper is also needed.
On the inner is a lesser-used hurdles course which is much sharper and can test speed much more, so keep a sharp eye on which track is being used.
Jumps Track Analysis
National Hunt riders are among those to have also praised Leopardstown. The words ‘excellent’ and ‘brilliant’ are not in short supply when listening to jocks, with the galloping nature of the course lauded.
Jockeys tend to label this is a fair track meaning if something goes wrong, it’s down to the horse or the jockey and not simply circumstance or luck.
The fences are given plenty of respect here by top jockeys as they agree that they are quite stiff, with the better ones knowing to ride for stamina as the straight provides a bigger test than many believe.
Rather than simply hanging around Dublin, you could get across to Leopardstown before the races. Known also as Baile na Lobhar, or ‘Town of the Lepers’, Leopardstown is essentially a Dublin suburb near the Dublin Mountains, the racecourse being its most important feature.
How to Get to Leopardstown Racecourse
Driving across to Leopardstown is simple enough. Once you’re onto the nearby M50, take exit 15 and look for signs to ‘Leopardstown Racecourse’.
From the centre of Dublin, take the N11 Stillorgan dual carriageway going southeast. Turn right onto the R113 signed for Leopardstown. Once you’re at the track, parking is free but is essentially first come, first served.
Many people fly in for major race meetings at Leopardstown, the nearest airport being Dublin. The track is keen to point out that extra time should be given to getting from the airport to the track as at peak times traffic is very congested. The airport is 35km away via the M50 and at quiet times should take around 30-35 minutes.
There is an Aircoach service from Terminal 1 and 2, operating 24 hours a day every 15 minutes. To Leopardstown from the airport, bus route 700 works for race days with the last stop needed at the Clayton Hotel.
Once there, the hotel also runs a shuttle bus to the racecourse on more popular race days, with availability confirmed directly by them. Return buses to the airport can be boarded either at the Clayton Hotel, or on Burton Hall Road.
There is also a LUAS option, or ‘tram’. There is a regular LUAS service from the centre of Dublin to Sandyford with a journey time of around 20 minutes. From there, the racecourse is just a short stroll with a shuttle bus also provided in race days.
The shuttle service runs from half an hour before gates open at the track until 30 minutes after the bars close at the track – a much better timetable than simply ended after the last race!
Where to Stay
Rooms are available outside of Dublin, including in and around Leopardstown, but really given the easy links to the track the vast majority of people choose to stay in the middle of Dublin.
Major Events at Leopardstown
Leopardstown is very important to Irish racing. Its events have a wider importance too, the very best races also attracting runners from Britain and also France.
Splitting them into categories, Leopardstown’s major races are:
Major Jumps Races
|Paddy’s Reward Club Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||2m1f||December|
|Future Champions Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||December|
|Paddy Power Chase||5yo+, Extended Handicap Chase, Grade B||3m||December|
|Christmas Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||3m||December|
|Savills Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||3m||December|
|Irish EBF Mares’ Hurdle||4yo+, Mares Only, Hurdle, Grade 3||2m4f||December|
|Fort Leney Novice Chase||4yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 1||3m||December|
|Matheson Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||December|
|Novice Hurdle||5yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||2m6f||February*|
|Spring Juvenile Hurdle||4yo Only, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||February*|
|Irish Arkle||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 1||2m1f||February*|
|Irish Gold Cup||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||3m½f||February*|
|Future Stars INH Flat Race||4-7yo Only, National Hunt Flat Race, Grade 2||2m||February*|
|Moriarty Novice Chase||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 1||2m5½f||February*|
|Dublin Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||2m1f||February*|
|Leopardstown Handicap Chase||5yo+, Handicap Chase, Grade A||2m5½f||February*|
|Irish Champion Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||February*|
|Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle||5yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||February*|
|Irish EBF Mares’ Flat Race||4-7yo Mares Only, National Hunt Flat Race, Grade 2||2m||February*|
*Dublin Racing Festival.
The extreme number of major races at the Dublin Racing Festival has helped Irish-trained horses thrive at the Cheltenham Festival in March. In going for such major races at Leopardstown, they are fully tuned up and race fit when they reach Cheltenham, unlike some horses which are kept off the track from Christmas onwards.
Major Flat Races
|2000 Guineas Trial||3yo Colts & Geldings, Listed Race||7f||April|
|1000 Guineas Trial||3yo Fillies, Group 3||7f||April|
|Ballysax Stakes||3yo Only, Group 3||1m2f||April|
|Heritage Stakes||4yo+, Listed Race||1m||April|
|Cornelscourt Stakes||3yo Fillies, Group 3||1m||May|
|Derby Trial Stakes||3yo Only, Group 3||1m2f||May|
|Amethyst Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m||May|
|Levmoss Stakes||4yo+, Group 3||1m6f||May|
|Glencairn Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m1f||June|
|King George V Cup||3yo Only, Listed Race||1m4f||June|
|Ballycorus Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||7f||June|
|Nasrullah Handicap||3yo+, Premier Handicap||1m2f||July|
|Stanerra Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 3||1m6f||July|
|Meld Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m1f||July|
|Silver Flash Stakes||2yo Fillies, Group 3||7f||July|
|Tyros Stakes||2yo Only, Group 3||7f||July|
|Ballyroan Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m4f||August|
|Desmond Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m||August|
|Vinnie Roe Stakes||3yo Only, Listed Race||1m6f||August|
|Ingabelle Stakes||2yo Fillies, Listed Race||7f||September*|
|Champions Juvenile Stakes||2yo Only, Group 2||1m||September*|
|Matron Stakes||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Group 1||1m||September*|
|Boomerang Mile||3yo+, Group 2||1m||September*|
|Irish Champion Stakes||3yo+, Group 1||1m2f||September*|
|Paddy Power Stakes||3yo+, Group 3||1m4f||September*|
|Pentingo Handicap||3yo+, Premier Handicap||1m5f||September*|
|Sovereign Path Handicap||3yo+, Premier Handicap||7f||September*|
|Killavullan Stakes||2yo Only, Group 3||7f||October|
|Trigo Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||1m2f||October|
|Knockaire Stakes||3yo+, Listed Race||7f||October|
|Eyrefield Stakes||2yo Only, Group 3||1m1f||October|
*Day one of Irish Champions Weekend. Second day run at the Curragh.
About Leopardstown Racecourse
The racecourse sits within Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, around 8 kilometres from the city centre of Dublin. As you can see from the list of major races above, Leopardstown is extremely important.
With the Curragh hosting Flat racing only and Punchestown kept for jumps racing, Leopardstown is easily the biggest dual-purpose race track in Ireland.
The racecourse was built by Captain George Quin. Despite being left-handed, Leopardstown was initially modelled on Sandown Park in England. It was completed in 1888 and after growing year-on-year, decade-on-decade, was eventually purchased by the Horse Racing Board of Ireland in 1967.
Leopardstown top races, especially the Irish Gold Cup over the jumps and the Irish Champion Stakes on the Flat, have been won by some of the best horses to have ever graced the turf.
Winners of these events include Florida Pearl, Beef Or Salmon, Kemboy, Sadler’s Wells, Dr Devious, Pilsudski, Giant’s Causeway, High Chaparral, New Approach, Sea The Stars, The Fugue, Golden Gorn, Roaring Lion, and Magical.