Leopardstown forced to go behind closed doors for Christmas Festival

Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival will take place behind closed doors after rising Covid-19 case numbers left the track with a diminished team of staff.

The four-day meeting includes seven Grade One races and is headlined by the three-mile Savills Chase, where A Plus Tard is an intended runner after his brilliant reappearance in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

Owners will still be able to attend along with industry personnel and members, but there will be no general admission and all advance tickets will be refunded.

“We have seen the rising case numbers nationally and locally reflected in our staff over the past few days, a situation that has become increasingly concentrated over the past 24 hours and has forced us to make this late decision,” said Tim Husbands, chief executive of the course.

“It makes it impossible for Leopardstown to provide a safe and enjoyable experience for the general public and has led us to make the difficult call to close the festival to the general public.

A Plus Tard winning last year's Savills Chase
A Plus Tard winning last year’s Savills Chase (Niall Carson/PA)

“I know this will be hugely disappointing news to all of those who had purchased tickets in advance, as it is deeply disappointing to the team here who have worked so hard in putting a fantastic festival together. Our team will process refunds as soon as possible and will be in touch with all customers.”

He added: “We have managed to deploy staff from other racecourses and we’ve had colleagues from Horse Racing Ireland who answered the call and kindly volunteered to work at Leopardstown over Christmas.

“However, that still hasn’t been sufficient as we have not been able to keep pace with the volume of staff who, in particular, have been identified as close contacts. In addition, we know that our experience with cases and close contacts has been replicated in our third-party suppliers which by itself would have had implications next week.

“Thankfully we still have the staff necessary and expertise to put on four brilliant days of racing from Sunday, and can ensure industry professionals, owners, our members and our sponsors representatives, that they will be safe at Leopardstown for what unfortunately will be a pared-back festival.”

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