More than one in five tickets sold for the Dublin Racing Festival have been bought by British racing fans, according to Leopardstown's chief executive.
The two-day festival, which featured Cheltenham Festival winners Honeysuckle, Vauban, Facile Vega and Sir Gerhard last season, begins on February 4 and offers more than €2 million in prize-money.
A total of 60,478 spectators attended Leopardstown over Christmas, an increase of six per cent compared to 2019, and chief executive Tim Husbands is hoping that trend will continue next month.
"Ticket sales are tracking well at the moment," said Husbands on Tuesday. "Hopefully, there is some momentum building following the success of the recent Christmas Festival. Preparations are going well across the site and track.
"Entries for the two-day festival are set to close tomorrow and will be released on Thursday. It should be an exciting and high-quality meeting with some great match-ups."
When asked about UK interest in the festival, Husbands added that more British racegoers are travelling over for Irish meetings.
"We're seeing in excess of 20 per cent of interest in advance sales coming from the UK," he said. "This is reflecting increasing trends where UK race enthusiasts are currently looking for better value-for-money options.
"We have top-quality, competitive jump racing here at Leopardstown, and I think people are beginning to see it as an alternative rather than the traditional annual Cheltenham visit."
Ground issues have proved a point of contention at the Dublin Racing Festival in recent seasons, but racing manager Jane Hedley is certain there will be no post-Christmas hangover to contend with.
"The ground has gone back really well since the Christmas Festival," she said. "We're delighted with the way it is right now. It puts us in a great position before the Dublin Racing Festival. We've got a nice grass cover and thankfully there wasn't much damage done over Christmas considering that we had some big fields run over the four days. We're pleased that we have some fresh running lines."
Last year was the first time that crowds could return in full following two years of Covid-enforced restrictions, and organisers have drawn encouragement from the volumes of ticket sales, which are close to being sold out.
"It's great to be back in a full capacity and we're really looking forward to it," Hedley said.
"It's brilliant that people have the space again to be able to make plans with certainty, and that will hopefully be reflected in the attendance. We're hoping to build on what was a very good Christmas and are looking forward to seeing the entries which will come out later this week."
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