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Katie Walsh: Festive calendar an exciting time


Colbert Station and Tony McCoy

Colbert Station and Tony McCoy

Colbert Station and Tony McCoy

While most people will be winding down in work today, in racing Christmas is one of the most hectic times of the year but a fantastic time of that and everyone will be relishing what is on offer over the coming weeks.

In just four days we'll have nine meetings in Ireland alone and plenty of horses making the trip across to England as well and unlike Cheltenham and the bigger Festival's later in the season, the Christmas period offers an opportunity for nearly every calibre of horse and every trainer loves having runners at this time of year.

I suppose when you talk about Christmas racing, everyone will think of St Stephen's Day when you've loads of meetings on but really the Christmas racing extends to the four-days at Leopardstown and Limerick and what is Boxing Day at Down Royal and further than that onto Punchestown on New Year's Eve and Tramore and Fairyhouse on New Year's Day.

In truth the Christmas racing period probably goes all the way to the Grade One Slaney Hurdle day at Naas so there's plenty of time for everyone to have a runner.

The crowds at the meetings will be savage, with Leopardstown going to be packed, Limerick always get a great local crowd and Down Royal will be absolutely wedged as if there is no racing on anywhere else so it's a great week to be a part of to be honest.

But I can assure you, be it a Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, a Paddy Power Chase or a Hunter Chase at Limerick or a bumper at Down Royal, there is no easy race to win next week.

You'll have trainers making plans for horses that revolve around Christmas for a long time and while some of them will fall by the wayside, it is all well and good thinking you can pick out a nice race at Christmas until you go and try and win it.

Dad is only likely to have a couple of runners this Christmas with Foxrock and Colbert Station both being aimed at the Paddy Power Chase and maybe one or two others running as well but like everyone else they'll do a bit of work early next week and plans will become more solid then.

Gallops the length and breath of the country will be a hive of activity next Monday and Tuesday and trainers will be flat to the boards getting organised and giving horses bits of work and a final school or whatever the case may be but it's a great time of year and we all love it.

There's plenty of high class racing to look forward to and there was no real surprises when the entries for the week were released over the last couple of days so now you just have to cross your fingers and hope that all the big names line up and make it the fascinating spectacle that it is every single year.

Down Royal stage a decent card on St Stephen's Day, while the four days at Limerick are the highlight of their year with some top horses finding their way down there and for those who won't be going racing and watching on RTE, there will be the added bonus of catching some of Limerick as well as Leopardstown this year and that's a great move as the likes of Sir Des Champs and Faugheen have all gone to Limerick in recent years on their way to winning at Cheltenham later in the season.

I suppose looking at Fairyhouse tomorrow and Un De Sceaux is having his Christmas run there.

He would have been an ideal candidate for some of the good races over Christmas but after falling at Thurles where else could he go so hopefully he'll keep his mind on the job tomorrow and get from A to B and maybe set himself up for something like an Irish Arkle in January.

Willie Mullins also sends Clondaw Warrior back to England to contest the Ladbroke and everyone is obviously happy with him to be sending him back after the Greatwood at Cheltenham where he ran well to finish third but probably would have preferred a stronger gallop.

If they go a bit quicker tomorrow and he is in the best of his form he could be hard to beat and it would be a nice pot to take the weekend before Christmas.