Colm Kinsella talks to Limerick Racecourse manager Russell Ferris about this year’s Christmas Festival
LIMERICK Racecourse will host Munster’s biggest annual racing festival and one of the highlights of the annual sporting and social calendar when the Christmas Festival of Racing is staged at Greenmount Park from December 26 to 29.
More than 35,000 patrons are expected to throng the enclosures at the state-of-the-art training facility which is hosting its 12th annual Christmas Festival since opening in October 2001. The four-day National Hunt racing bonanza will boast a total prizefund of more than €350,000. Racing gets underway each day between 12.20pm and 12.40pm. Gates open each day at Greenmount Park at 10.30am.
Limerick Racecourse general manager, Russell Ferris says it is all systems go at the track ahead of the showpiece event.
“St Stephen’s Day is definitely the pinnacle of the four days. You look forward to it for 12 months,” Russell Ferris said.
“The four-day Festival is the highlight of our racing year. The weather forecast is looking very positive this year. There is no frost due at this stage which is a major plus and we have some top class racing in store. The big race of the week is the €37,500 Grade 2 Greenmount Park Chase on St Stephen’s Day. It was won last year by Michael O’Leary’s Sir Des Champs who went on to win at both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Festivals. Sir des Champs is now one of the ante-post favourites for the 2013 Cheltenham Gold Cup. The attendance figure we would like to think we could achieve over the four days is over 35,000.”
St Stephen’s Day is traditionally the biggest day of the Christmas holiday festival with a prizefund of €110,000 and the top day’s racing regularly attracts attendances of more than 12,000 racegoers. The €40,000 Grade B Tim Duggan Memorial Handicap Steeplechase takes centre stage on December 27.
The race was won 12 months ago by the Ted Walsh-trained Seabass, who went on to finish third in the Aintree Grand National. The €27,500 Grade 3 Liberty Insurance Doran’s Pride Novice Hurdle is the feature race on the third day of the Festival. Racing concludes on Saturday, December 29 when the highlights of an attractive seven-race card will include the Family Fun Day Handicap Steeplechase of €14,500.
While much of the focus will centre on the on-track activities at Greenmount Park, there will also be plenty of off-track entertainment provided over the days. Friday, December 28 is Ladies Day at Greenmount Park, featuring a best-dressed competition.
Stylist judges who will have the difficult task of picking a winner will be Bairbre Power, Fashion Editor with the Irish Independent, Irish Designers, Aisling Maher and Marion Murphy Cooney, of the Design Atelier Limerick. Judges will mingle in the crowd to select the finalists who shall enjoy a warming hot port reception kindly sponsored by Diageo Ireland. The top prize for the most stylist lady is a fantastic weekend for four in The Limerick Strand Hotel. Prize includes a 2 night stay in a luxurious Junior Suite which has a spacious seating area and a glass enclosed balcony for top panoramic views across Limerick City. The winner will enjoy bubbly on arrival and dinner on one evening in the award winning River Restaurant. The prize also includes a City Escape Package at Urban Escape Day Spa, Radiance Facial, Back Massage, and Manicure & Pedicure for each person. Dinner on the second night at the exclusive Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry with executive car transfer included by PK Travel.
For the first year in the Limerick Races Ladies Day, a judging panel of stylists will choose Ireland’s ‘Best Tressed’ lady in association with Herbal Essences! Judges will be looking for a lady with naturally beautiful hair that not only ‘swishes’ and shines, but evokes the new limited edition Herbal Essences ‘Herbally Ever After’ range, themed around romance and fairytales.
The ‘Best Tressed’ winner will receive a fantastic year’s supply of Herbal Essences products and a VIP appointment with Ireland’s top hair stylist, Dylan Bradshaw, Dublin 2 On arrival in Dylan Bradshaw’s studio, the winner will enjoy a champagne reception, before a full consultation with Dylan himself.
They will then enjoy a nourishing hair treatment, before Dylan works his magic with an expert cut and style. The winner can also have their hair coloured and receive a head-turning blow dry.
Limerick will also host a family fun day on December 29, including the Greenmount Grotto. The Family Fun day will feature a live puppet show, kids disco, bouncy castle and Front Runner Kids Racing Club.
Children can see racing equipment used by jockeys, learn about silks and saddles and have a go on a horse simulator. Children under 16 years can enjoy free admission to the races on all four days of the festival.
Sports fans can enjoy two great sporting events on Saturday, December 29 - horse racing and rugby in Limerick. Patrons can enjoy seven National Hunt races at Limerick Racecourse before taking the bus to Thomond Park for the glamour RaboDirect PRO12 clash of Munster and Ulster, which kicks off at 5.30pm. Patrons can enjoy a combination ticket to include racing, bus and rugby for €40 per person.
Live musical entertainment will be provided by the ever popular Acoustra after racing in the Munster Suite between December 26 and 28.
One of the exciting and popular additions to the Greenmount Christmas Festival in recent times has been the Guinness and Ladbrokes Christmas marquee. Here patrons can enjoy a covered viewing area of the big screen, hot whiskey pod and access to the Ladbrokes betting marquee.
Free car parking is available at Greenmount Park for 2,000 vehicles or alternatively racegoers can avail of the bus service operated by Hynan Coaches which will operate from the Augustinian Church in Limerick city
General admission prices for the for days are €20 for both December 26 and 27 and €15 for the 28th and 29th. Concessions are available at €15 on the first two days and €10 on the final two days for students and senior citizens. A four-day admission pass can be purchased online for €50.
Numerous hospitality packages are available at Limerick Racecourse this festive season. Racegoers can enjoy the comforts of the panoramic restaurant from €70 per person or avail of the Christmas Cracker Package for €30 per person to include admission, hot whiskey and a hog roast roll. An old favourite, the winter wonderland package, is available for €40per person, along with the reserved enclosure package from €25 per person which offers a reserved seating area to view the racing. Group and early booking discounts are now available and further details are available from www.limerickraces.ie