CLOSE on 14,000 racegoers thronged the enclosures at Greenmount Park on the opening day of the four-day Shannon Airport Limerick Christmas Racing Festival on St Stephen’s Day.
An official attendance of 13,742 enjoyed pleasant winter sunshine as Limerick’s National Hunt racing bonanza got off to a memorable start in contrast to 12 months ago when the opening day of the fixture had to be cancelled after the track became unraceable due to heavy rain.
Betting turnover with the on-course bookmakers at Greenmount Park reached an impressive €195,000. There were a total of four winner favourites over the course of the afternoon.
The feature race on the card, the Grade 2 Shannon Airport Novice Chase of €44,500 was won by the Willie Mullins-trained Bellshill under jockey Paul Townend. The winner was returned at odds of 4/9 favourite.
Winning trainer Mullins went on to complete a Limerick double to add to his three winners at Leopardstown when saddling Miss Sapphire, a Blue Blood Racing Club owned mare to win the concluding bumper at odds of 4/11.
Limerick-born trainer and former leading National Hunt jockey Andrew McNamara enjoyed festival success at the Patrickswell venue when the Croom native saddled Val de Ferbert to win the Signsplus Hurdle, benefitting from the penultimate flight fall of leader Runfordave.
The four-day festival will boast €450,000 in total prize money, which is the biggest celebration of the year in Munster of National Hunt racing.
Racing continues on Tuesday, December 27 which is ‘Sporting Limerick Day’ with an opportunity for punters to receive a free €5 betting voucher if they wear their club colours. The first race on another seven race National Hunt card is due off at 12 noon.
Wednesday, December 28 includes the Sunway Holidays’ Most Stylish Ladies Day, which will see a holiday for two also up for grabs, while Thursday, December 29 concludes with a special family day event, including face-painting, party games and much more.
Children under 16 years will enjoy free admission to the races on all four days of the festival.
Further details available from www.limerickraces.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org.