CHRISTMAS came early for Dundalk Stadium this week as the Dowdallshill venue was named racetrack of the year at the HRI's annual awards bash in Dublin.
The all-weather facility beat off stiff competition from all the major grass tracks to scoop the coveted award.
CEO Jim Martin revealed the track won't be resting on its laurels either, as he revealed plans to lay a new all-weather jumps track adjacent to the existing flat course.
On the track last Friday Antiquus responded well to a strong drive from champion jockey Joseph O'Brien to take the Crowne Plaza Leading Jockey & Trainer Championship Rated Race under the Dundalk lights.
Joanna Morgan's four-year-old got a hefty nudge from the winner when beaten into second over course and distance last month and was sent off the 100-30 favourite to gain compensation.
She was badly drawn on the outer, but O'Brien got her away smartly and after she raced in second for most of the way, she challenged at the two pole and ran clear of Under Review to win by a length and a half.
The jockey completed a double in the first division of the www.dundalkstadium.com Handicap when driving James Nash's Our Manekineko (5-1) two and a half lengths clear after leading inside the final furlong.
The money suggested Willie Browne's juvenile American Hope would step forward from his unplaced debut at the track last month and so it proved in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden.
Settled in third by Seamie Heffernan, the 4-1 shot chased Chiclet into the final furlong and grabbed her on the line to score by a short head to give the trainer his first win in 10 years.
Mick Halford's juvenile Pretty Angel was dropped into handicap company after four unplaced outings and made the most of her mark to take the Christmas Party Packages At Dundalk Stadium Nursery.
The favourite Fight U For It led into the straight, but Shane Foley had his measure on the 9-2 winner and forged three-quarters of a length clear inside the final furlong.
Missile Command was checked in his run in the Crowne Plaza Hotel Race & Stay Handicap but Jane Foley's 9-2 shot quickened through a gap under Gary Carroll to score by three-quarters of a length, and the jockey doubled up when 3-1 favouriteMiller Beach readily took the second division of the mile handicap by two lengths.
Crowne Plaza Leading Jockey and Trainer 2013
E. Lynam 19
M. Halford 18
A.P. O'Brien 15
G. Lyons 13
D. Marnane 10
S. Foley 24
J.P. O'Brien 18
P. Smullen 17
C.D. Hayes 16
W.M. Lordan 14