In Pictures: 'Unprecedented number' attend first day of Leopardstown Christmas Festival

With dry weather and clear skies, thousands snubbed the sales and headed to the first day of the annual Leopardstown Christmas Festival today.

With huge demand on the door, gardai were forced to open the side gate at the entrance of Leopardstown Racecourse to alleviate the large crowd queuing to get in to the St Stephen’s Day meet.

CEO of Leopardstown Racecourse Pat Keogh said that there was unprecedented demand on their cash turnstiles, as they expected more people to buy online ahead of time.

Some punters said they had been waiting between thirty minutes to over an hour to make it inside the race ground.

Mr Keogh told there was not enough turnstiles for the large crowds waiting to pay in and acknowledging the long waiting time, let those stuck in the line in for free.

“We took a view that there was a big crowd, it was unacceptable in the queue and we took a decision to let those people in. We let those people in for free, we had to relieve the crowd that was there. It was a very big crowd and we accept we didn’t have much turnstiles there to facilitate them so we said, ‘right it’s our mistake so let’s relieve those people and let them in free’.

“It was an unprecedented number today, the crowd that turned up. We will look at it after and maybe the solution is to make it an all-ticket day that may be the way to do it,” he said.

“I am very upset over it and I am very sorry it happened. We try to put on a good show and we work very hard at it and it is just a pity we didn’t get this one right.”

The rest of the day went off without a hitch, with Le Richebourg the big winner on the day in the The Grade One Racing Post Novice Steeple Chase.

Owner JP McManus’ daughter Annmarie said she was “thrilled” with the success, attending the day looking suitably festive with her three daughters in matching red outfits.

And while celeb-spotters were disappointed Bono and the Edge did not make their annual showing at the races, jockey Ruby Walsh was not at the Dublin track either.

He headed to the Limerick Christmas Racing Festival for the first time in 22 years. It ended in disappointment though as a final fence blunder from odds-on favourite Getabird saw him narrowly lose out to Gordon Elliot’s Hardline in the feature race of the day.

The Leopardstown festival continues tomorrow with all eyes on the Paddy Power Chase worth €200,000.

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