The Christmas period in Britain brings one of the top staying chases of the entire season in the form of the King George VI Chase and Ireland is no different with the Savills Chase on day three of Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival.
The race’s first running took place in 1986 as a 2 mile 4 furlong contest with the trip upped to 3 miles in 1992. The race had for many years been known as the Lexus Chase due to a long running sponsorship deal with the car manufacturer but has had various names changes since its inception and is now called the Savills Chase.
Some familiar favourites have taken this race in the past including Beef or Salmon, Best Mate, Denman and Tidal Bay.
Savills Chase Course Map (Jumps Course)
Savills Chase Past Winners
|Galopin Des Champs
|A Plus Tard
|Henry De Bromhead
|Road To Respect
|Road To Riches
|A P McCoy
|What a Friend
|Beef or Salmon
|Beef or Salmon
About the Savills Chase: Christmas Festival Highlight
Irish racing fans certainly aren’t short changed when it comes to high quality racing festivals – particularly over the jumps – with the Irish racing programme laying on a whole host of excellent events over the course of the year. And what better time to celebrate the jumping game than at Christmas? Step forward Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. Kicking off on Boxing Day, this four-day offering provides a real feast of hurdling and chasing excellence.
Each of the four days has its feature contests, but for many it is this Grade 1, three mile chase affair, held on the third day, which acts as the centrepiece for the whole meeting. First run in 1986, when taking place over the shorter trip of two of a half miles, and known as the Black & White Whisky Champion Chase, the distance was first increased to three miles in 1992. The contest has benefitted from strong sponsorship over the years, with Ericsson and Lexus having lent their support in previous years. Property firm Savills are the latest to add their name to this list having taken over sponsorship of the race ahead of the 2018 edition.
The famous maroon silks with the white star of Gigginstown House Stud have become one of the most recognisable sights in Irish – and indeed British – racing in the 21st century, with the owner/breeder operation tasting huge success in many major events. Success which has certainly been felt in this particular contest.
It did take Gigginstown a little while to claim top spot here, with the owners racking up five seconds and two third places between 2005 and 2013. Breaking their duck with Road To Riches in 2014, they have been tough to keep out of the winners enclosure since.
Between 2014 and 2019, Gigginstown registered five wins, three seconds and three third placed finishes – including a famous 1-2-3 in 2017.
Three Courses Of Success For Beef Or Salmon
The fact that five-time winner Michael Hourigan is the most successful trainer in the history of this race, is largely down to just the one horse, with the hugely popular Beef Or Salmon being responsible for no fewer than three of those victories.
Beef Or Salmon wasn’t the greatest of travellers – never really making his presence felt in the major British contests – but was a formidable chaser in his homeland. His hat-trick of wins in this race in 2002, 2004 and 2005, being just three of a career haul of ten Grade 1 triumphs.
Beef Or Salmon in the Leopardstown December Chase
Michael Hourigan’s star may not have shown his best in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but that hasn’t been true of all previous winners of this, with Imperial Call (1997), Best Mate (2003), Denman (2007), Synchronised (2011), Bobs Worth (2013), A Plus Tard (2020) and Galopin Des Champs (2023) each also boasting a win in the Cheltenham Festival showpiece on their CV.
Elder Statesmen Up Against It
This race may be open to all chasers aged five years and older, but, as of 2023, none so young has ever managed to come home in front. That is perhaps not too surprising, with it being pretty rare for a chaser to hit their peak at so young an age.
Of more significance is the poor record of those aged nine and older, with only three from that age bracket managing to enter the winner’s enclosure. Special mention must therefore go to Tidal Bay who defied his 11 years when landing the prize for Paul Nicholls in 2012.
Overall six to eight years of age has been the place to be, with over 91% of the winners up to and including the 2023 edition falling within that range.