The period between Christmas and New Year’s is an exciting time for National Hunt Racing fans, with a busy schedule that includes some of the most prestigious races of the year.
In the United Kingdom, the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day and the Welsh Grand National at Chepstow on December 27 are a couple of the standouts.
On the other side of the Irish Sea, the Leopardstown Christmas Festival runs from Boxing Day to December 29 — and features seven eagerly anticipated Grade 1 races.
The best horses from the top yards in the country will be on display at the Dublin track, so let’s take a look at some of the standout early entries for the four-day festival.
Facile Vega – Racing Post Novice Chase
A horse that is sure to attract a lot of interest in the betting UK on Boxing Day is fan-favourite Facile Vega.
There’s plenty of hype surrounding the Willie Mullins-trained horse after he went unbeaten in bumpers and won his first two races over hurdles.
However, he flattered to deceive in the Tattersalls Ireland Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown in February and he failed to bounce back in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the Festival the following month.
Facile Vega did round off the season with a convincing win in the Champion Novice Hurdle at Punchestown, and he made a winning start over fences on his reappearance in a Beginners Chase at Navan.
This will be his first Grade 1 test over the larger obstacles, and he could go on to meet Supreme rival Marine Nationale in the Arkle Chase at Cheltenham.
El Fabiolo – Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase
Another Mullins stable star that’s sure to garner a lot of attention at the Christmas Festival is El Fabiolo in the Paddy’s Rewards Club Chase on December 28.
The Simon Munir and Isaac Souede-owned six-year-old is unbeaten over fences and is set to go off as short as 1/2 — which could prove to be good leverage in your odds calculator.
El Fabiolo had a flawless season when switched to the bigger obstacles last campaign, winning all four of his chases — including three successive Grade 1s.
This will be his first race outside of novice company, and he could face a whole host of stablemates — including Appreciate It and Blue Lord.
The six-year-old is a firm favourite for the Champion Chase at Cheltenham, a win here would see him shortener further than 7/4.
Fastorslow – Savills Chase
Martin Brassil might not be in charge of one of Ireland’s top stables, with the roughly 25 horses he has in his yard a fraction of what the likes of Henry de Bromhead, Gordon Elliott and Mullins have.
However, Fastorslow looks primed to have a fantastic season for the County Kildare trainer — which could culminate with the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The seven-year-old got the better of the reigning Gold Cup champion Galopin Des Champions in the Punchestown Gold Cup in April and beat the aforementioned Appreciate It to land the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase on his reappearance recently.
That saw him be installed as the 3/1 favourite for the prestigious Savills Chase on December 28, and another top-level win will surely see his Gold Cup odds slashed from 18/1 to something much shorter.