Up The Yard Challenge Race Checklist
16 December – Submit eligible nominees to firstname.lastname@example.org
20 December – Notify 16 riders and 4 reserves who are drawn to take part
24 & 26 January – RACE assessments pre-arranged with riders by Punchestown
February – Riders to contact valets to arrange race safe standard equipment. Contact details supplied.
13 February 12 noon – Deadline for entries to email@example.com or 045 897704
17 February – Declarations
19 February – Up The Yard 2023
The Rider Criteria:
- Nominated riders must be 18 years of age and over.
- Nominated riders must not have ridden under rules on the track/point to point in any jurisdiction prior to the event.
- Riders must be 12st or under with an allowance of 5lbs for mares.
- From the nominees, twenty riders will be selected. There will be sixteen participants and four reserves.
- Riders must qualify to ride by passing a charity race one-day competency assessment in January at RACE in Kildare. This will be organised with the riders by Punchestown.
- Nominees must be submitted by email with sign off by the trainer whose yard the rider will represent.
Nominations (including name, date of birth, contact number, nominating yard) for riders that meet the above criteria must be submitted by Friday 16th December to Leona Hughes on firstname.lastname@example.org
PUNCHESTOWN – SUNDAY, 19th FEBRUARY, 2023
CLOSING 12 NOON MONDAY 13th FEBRUARY
The Up The Yard Challenge Race
(This Race will adhere to the Rules of Racing)
For four years old and upwards which have run at least three times under the Rules of Racing or the I.N.H.S Rules, of which at least one of these runs must have been since 1st February, 2022 (Point to Point Steeplechases excluded)
About 1 mile 7 furlongs
Weights: 4-y-o 11st 11lbs
5-y-o and up 12st
Fillies allowed 5lbs
Penalties – (to count from 1st January, 2022)
Winner of a *race to carry 3lb extra for each race won.
(Maximum penalty 9lb)
*Including any race under any National Hunt Rules or Rules of Racing
Riders: To qualify as a Rider to participate in this race you must you must pass a Challenge Race one day Competency Assessment at R.A.C.E.
Riders shall not have ridden under any Rules of Racing in any jurisdiction previously on the racecourse to be eligible.
It is strictly subject to attaining the above qualifications that a Rider’s entry will be accepted.
N.B. The mandatory percentage deductions shall not apply to this race. A horse which has won a Private Sweepstakes shall not on that account incur a penalty or be debarred from claiming any allowance or from taking part in any race. Horses that run in this race do not lose their eligibility to run in Point-to-Point Steeplechases.
The winning Rider will receive a Perpetual Cup
The groom in charge of the winning horse will receive €100 and the groom in charge of the best turned out horse will receive €100
Please note that the Organising Committee reserve the right to accept or reject any application.
No horse shall be permitted to wear Blinkers, Visor, Hood, Eye Shield, Eyecover, Sheepskin Cheekpieces or any similar device.
Horses that require to be led to the start will not be permitted to take part.
NOT MORE THAN 16 RUNNERS WILL BE PERMITTED TO RUN IN THIS RACE. IN THE
Mullins six “all intended runners” in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown this weekend
A glittering array of talent looks set to line up in the inaugural Grade 1 hurdle of the season, with champion trainer Willie Mullins confirming that all six of his entrants “are intended runners” in Sunday’s Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle (in memory of Michael Rafferty @AnalogsDaughtr), the feature of Punchestown’s weekend Winter Festival.
That provides the mouth-watering prospect of Closutton’s highly-touted Triumph Hurdle winner, Vauban taking on his Ballymore Novice Hurdle-winning comrade Sir Gerhard in the opening Grade 1 hurdle of the season. Mullins could also unleash the Punchestown Grade 1 Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle winner State Man, with the trio all representing different owners.
As well as the young gun Vauban, the only four-year-old in the field, Rich Ricci may have his famous pink and lime green spotted colours carried by previous Unibet Morgiana Hurdle winners Saldier and Sharjah, the latter triumphing here in 2018 and 2021 and his stablemate having scored in 2019. The undoubtedly classy Vauban is embarking on a Champion Hurdle path that few Triumph Hurdle winners can navigate but Sunday’s Punchestown highlight is the obvious starting point. “We are always well represented in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle because it comes at a perfect time in the calendar for our horses,” Mullins said. “It allows us to go on to Christmas and continue the season from there then before we come back to Punchestown in April.”
Of his runners, Mullins added: “At this stage, all six are intended runners. Vauban is an exciting prospect after his win in the Triumph Hurdle last year but it is difficult for four-year-olds to win this race. I said if we’re going to make a Champion Hurdle horse out of him then let him take on good horses in the Morgiana.
“I’m going back over hurdles with Saldier for the first time in a while, when he disappointed at Gowran Park last February and he’s bound to be a little ring rusty. “Like Saldier, Sharjah won the race before and I think the ground is going to suit him so we’re looking forward to getting his season going after missing the spring following his fourth Matheson at Leopardstown. “Sir Gerhard has been doing things right at home. I’m very happy with him, while State Man is a horse that’s been improving all through last season. If he keeps improving, he’s the right age to make it into the Champion Hurdle field.”
The Mullins sextet is completed by Echoes In Rain, herself a course and distance winner at Peerless Punchestown, having won the 2021 Grade 1 eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle. “Echoes In Rain runs well around Punchestown. The two miles here might be a little sharp for her,” the champion trainer concluded.
The Unibet Morgiana Hurdle takes place on Sunday 20th November. Advance booking tickets with €5pp discount and free racecard are on sale until the day before your selected race meeting. There will be live music, bus transfers after racing, free kids entertainment and delicious food options across the weekend. Visit www.punchestown.com/fixtures/
Punchestown is host to twenty fixtures across 2023 to include;
The Punchestown Festival – Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 April 2023
Welcome Back Jumps – Tuesday 10 & Wednesday 11 October 2023
The Punchestown Winter Festival – Saturday 25 & Sunday 26 November 2023
View the full 2023 Fixture List HERE.
Punchestown Closed To The Public As Event Schedule Gets Underway
Media Notice – Thursday 7th July 2022 – Punchestown racecourse today requested that the public make alternative walking and recreation arrangements for the coming weeks as the venue’s events and show schedule gathers pace.
Since March 2020 the Punchestown gates have remained open to the community offering a safe recreation space during the pandemic. Now, in the interest of health and safety the management have turned to those who avail of the venues walking route to request that they make alternative arrangements. The entire site will be closed to the public, with the exception of HSE facilities, until further notice.
General Manager Conor O’Neill explained “We were delighted to see so many neighbours and members of the local community sharing the special space that Punchestown provides. It was a rough few years but we all did what we could to help each other out. For the most part people are so grateful and it has introduced a whole new community to the racecourse. As you can appreciate to run and maintain a venue as huge as Punchestown costs plenty so we welcome these revenue generating events to keep the show on the road and contribute to the local economy”.
O’Neill continued “As we said during the festival that was behind closed doors, we never thought we’d be asking people to stay away from Punchestown but we just need a few weeks to get back to business and request that people make alternative arrangements until further notice”.
The HSE facilities will remain unaffected by this and the public are advised to visit www.hse.ie or HSE social platforms to check out opening times.
The next event taking place at Punchestown is the FTMTA Farm Machinery Show on 13th & 14th of July 2022 from 10am to 6pm daily. Tickets can be purchased from www.ftmta.ie Children under 12 years of age go free. Regular ticket price €25. Student/OAP €20.
Paisley Park and Aidan Coleman will face seven rivals in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown on Thursday
Paisley Park team relishing Punchestown visit
The select British challenge at the 2022 Punchestown Festival is one that oozes quality and that is further emphasised by Emma Lavelle sending stable star Paisley Park to County Kildare on Thursday.
This week’s championship races just keep on giving and Thursday’s Grade 1 Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle has attracted an eight-strong field that also includes last year’s winner, Klassical Dream.
Paisley Park has been a gallant third in the last two editions of Cheltenham’s Stayers’ Hurdle, a race he won in 2019 and the popular 10-year-old adds more than a sprinkle of intrigue to Thursday’s feature.
Lavelle is excited about her rare Punchestown raid. The Marlborough-based trainer said on Tuesday morning: “Touch wood, he’s in really good order, looks great and we’ll see how it goes.
“It’s something we haven’t tried before but he’s certainly in good order and we’re looking forward to running him at Punchestown.
“I think Cheltenham is a track that suits him really well because of the stiff finish and he’s had a good year. He was third in the Long Walk and he won the Cleeve again and we were delighted with how he ran in the Stayers’.
“It was a brilliant ride on Flooring Porter, when (Danny Mullins) slowed the field down the hill. It stops Paisley Park’s momentum and it takes him a long time to get back going again. It was just one of those things and was his usual, genuine, staying finish.
“I think Punchestown, which is a big, galloping track should suit him. He seems in really good shape, so we’ll see what happens.”
Paisley Park has carried his claret and blue colours of West Ham fan, Andrew Gemmell to distinction and Lavelle said the owner, who also has horses in training in Ireland, was keen to make the journey across.
“He has definitely been up for it. I think it’s perfect to try it this time but I’m sure that if I said we were gonna try it three years ago Andrew would have been even happier! We just had to warm to the task and eventually we got there, but I think it’s the right time to have a go.
“We’re going to come over on Wednesday and go home on Friday. Whether or not we make it to the races Wednesday, we’ll definitely be there all day Thursday, and hopefully nursing some sore heads on Friday!”
As is the case in so many races this week, Willie Mullins is taking a strength in numbers approach and Klassical Dream is joined by his fellow Closutton residents, Melon, Burning Victory and Concertista.
Patrick Mullins was on board as Klassical Dream defied a lengthy lay-off to win this race last year. Paul Townend has been in the saddle ever since and maintains the partnership this week.Speaking ahead of the start of this year’s Punchestown Festival, Mullins Jnr said of Klassical Dream: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing.
“I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win at Punchestown.”
Gordon Elliott’s week is littered with decent chances but one of his leading chances looks to come in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle as Liverpool Hurdle winner Sire Du Berlais add significant depth to the three miler.
Sire Du Berlais lowered the colours of Flooring Porter in Aintree 17 days ago and lines up here alongside the fellow JP McManus-owned runner Thedevilscoachman, who will be ridden by Sean Flanagan for trainer Noel Meade.
Gavin Cromwell has opted to drop his Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier back over hurdles and the field is completed by Gentlemansgame for Mouse Morris and Rachael Blackmore, the Jessica Harrington-trained Ashdale Bob (Robbie Power) and the Daryl Jacob-ridden Concertista for Willie Mullins.
Cromwell’s bold play to supplement Gabynako for the Arkle Novice Chase at Cheltenham paid dividends as the seven-year-old took the silver medal behind Edwardstone on that occasion and along with the Mick And Molly Syndicate he’ll be hoping the seven-year-old can go one better in Thursday’s Grade 1 Barberstown Castle Novice Chase.
Once again, Willie Mullins holds a strong hand with Blue Lord (Paul Townend), Gentleman de Mee (Mark Walsh), Haut En Couleurs (Bryan Cooper) and Saint Sam (Sean O’Keeffe).
Thursday also features the historic Mongey Communications La Touche Cup over Punchestown’s famous Cross Country course.
The 17 runners will tackle 4m2f of Punchestown terrain with a host of different banks and obstacles to negotiate and last year’s winner Singing Banjo is back for Philip Rothwell, while local trainer Peter Maher will saddle 2019 winner Ballyboker Bridge who is now a 15-year-old.
Vauban will bid to complete the Cheltenham/Punchestown double as he heads the entries for the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle on Saturday
Leading juveniles set for Festival Finale
The Punchestown Festival and Irish jumps season will end on Saturday by potentially unearthing some stars of the future as the Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle brings the curtain down on Grade 1 races this term.
Triumph Hurdle winner Vauban will look to do the Cheltenham/Punchestown double and one of his biggest dangers comes in the shape of a Gaelic Warrior, a horse who also carries the Rich Ricci colours and is in the care of Willie Mullins.
An almost perfectly planned plot was foiled at Cheltenham when Gaelic Warrior was denied in the Fred Winter at Cheltenham and he now gets his chance at Grade 1.
Gordon Elliott’s Fil Dor is like to take his chance and brings some very strong juvenile form to the table, while Paul Nolan is hoping there is more to come from his former Aidan O’Brien-trained challenger, Hms Seahorse, who was fourth to Brazil last time out.
Nolan said: “The false start didn’t help him in the Boodles (at Cheltenham) as a colt and he actually jumped the first hurdle.
“He has a lot of improving to do though to be competitive in this race. He’s rated 128 so he has more than a stone to find but he seems to be a consistent sort of a horse. He’s after giving his owners a right few days out, been competitive every day so I’m hoping that he’ll improve enough to run a decent race. But to be in with a shout of being in the first three, he’ll have to improve a stone.
“I do think he’ll like the better ground. That means they’re jumping at a faster pace as well so you’d like to feel that he’d be getting away from the back of his hurdles a bit quicker and that will help too.”
Earlier on Saturday, Nolan will also saddle Mrs Milner in the Coolmore Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle. The seven-year-old was a fast-finishing third in the Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle having encountered some traffic difficulties late on and renews rivalry with the winner of that race, the Nicky Henderson-trained Marie’s Rock in what looks an ultra-competitive renewal of the €125,000 contest. Henderson has also left Epatante in at this stage as he mulls his options for the former Champion Hurdle winner who could also appear here against Honeysuckle on Friday.
Nolan said of Mrs Milner: “She ran a stormer at Cheltenham. We haven’t been hard on her this season. We hard our plans made out to go to Cheltenham and then Punchestown. It didn’t happen at Cheltenham but I thought she was unlucky.
“She’s in good form. Ground-wise, she’s very versatile but she has to improve. The two mares that fell in that race, Indefatigable and Telmesomethinggirl were going okay so we don’t know but she was unlucky. She was nearly brought to a standstill at the second-last and brought out wide as well and I thought that the way she came home, on that basis, she’d have definitely been fighting out the finish anyway. If Epatante runs, she will definitely have to improve again but she’s in good form.”
The Coolmore Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle is the next port of call for Telmesomethinggirl who represents team Honeysuckle, Henry de Bromhead, Kenny Alexander and Rachael Blackmore.
De Bromhead said: “Telmesomethinggirl was travelling well and just beginning to make her move when brought down in the Mares’ Hurdle at Cheltenham at the second last. Rachael had nowhere to go and it was a nasty enough fall but there wasn’t a bother on her after.”
Willie Mullins has left Burning Victory, Concertista, Dysart Diamond, Echoes In Rain, Shewearsitwell and Stormy Ireland in at today’s latest forfeit stage, while Paul Hennessy’s stable star Heaven Help Us is also left in at this stage.
It’s been a while. Too long, but good times are back with a bang today at Punchestown! The Punchestown Festival, one of Ireland’s favourite social and sporting events returned today and it certainly did not disappoint.
Here are some of today’s highlights;
Gordon Elliott had a four timer Party Central, Mighty Potter, Felix Desjy and Absolute Notions.
Willie Mullins won the feature race the William Hill Champion Chase of €275,000 with Energumene ridden by Paul Townend in the colours of Tony Bloom.
The Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase of €125,000 was won by Capodanno owned by JP McManus, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Mark Walsh.
Dee Ahearn from Kilcullen, Co. Kildare won the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady Competition on the opening day of the Punchestown Festival. Wearing a stunning turquoise dress she designed herself and had made by local dress designer Liz Byrne a couple of years ago when Hilary Clinton was visiting Barretstown where Dee is the Chief Executive Officer. She teamed the dressed with a stunning Prada bag, Nine West heels and a headpiece she hired from Marinot Millinery at the Osprey Avenue, the shopping village area of the Style Quarter onsite at the Punchestown Festival. She is fast tracked to the final on Friday where she can wear the same outfit or choose to change it up!
Attendances were slightly behind on 2019 figures however, presales and all indication signs are pointing for it to build as the week continues.
The Punchestown Festival is a showcase of jump racing is in store with 12 grade one contests and over €3.3 million in the purse. It offers a tremendous mix speed merchants with stamina stars. Seasoned campaigners compete shoulder to shoulder with rookies and new names. This is where champions are crowned and fresh talent emerges. It is truly a fitting homecoming for our horses, trainers, jockeys and owners who have flown the flag with such success to deserted grandstands and silent stadiums in recent years.
Few sporting experiences compare with the raw energy of horse racing. In Ireland horse racing is where sport and culture combine. It is inherent in Irish culture and heritage. It is fast, it is tough, it is fiercely competitive but it is exhilarating, thrilling and passionate in equal measure. The energy from the track feeds the enclosures where the atmosphere is unbeatable. The soundtrack of cheering, chat, live music and bustling bars injects that festive spirit. Punchestown is proud to retain its title as Ireland’s largest corporate sporting event. This is where two worlds collide with business running in tandem with a relaxed fun day.
Over 17,000 corporate hospitality guests will enjoy delicious seasonal produce at Punchestown this year. Impress clients, guests and friends in our selection of restaurants, pavilions, bars and private suites and rest assured that you will relax and enjoy the very best of Irish sport with delicious seasonal food and beverages in a wonderful famous setting.
Finally, an occasion to dress up for! The prestigious Bollinger Best Dressed Competition will run each day from Festival Tuesday 26th April to the grand final on Ladies Day, Friday 29th April. The all-expenses paid 5 star VIP trip to the Home of Bollinger is the coveted money cannot buy prize on offer this year. The new addition of The Style Council demonstrates a fresh take on all thins fashion at Punchestown. All finalists from Tuesday to Friday will receive a Bollinger goodie bag complete with gorgeous, hand-picked luxury products from Bellamianta, AYU, Declaré, Kotanical, Bollinger and race tickets from Punchestown.
So dress up or dress down, network in corporate hospitality or meet friends in the bar but most importantly gather, gather to celebrate the return of good times. The Punchestown Festival runs from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. Race & Dine Hospitality packages from €149pp. Tickets from just €30 with group concessions available. Visit punchestown.com
Nine Runners go for Punchestown Gold in Wednesday’s Showpiece
A field of nine runners, all of whom are Grade 1 winners and with a total of 26 Grade 1 races won between them, will fight it out for Wednesday’s Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.
Last year’s winner Clan Des Obeaux, who is partly owned by Sir Alex Ferguson, returns in a bid to try and repeat his Aintree/Punchestown double from 12 months ago for Paul Nicholls. The English raider will face dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Al Boum Photo and last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup victor Minella Indo for Henry de Bromhead.
Robbie Power renews his association with Minella Indo who had to settle for second place behind stable companion A Plus Tard in his Cheltenham Gold Cup defence last month.
“He ran a great race in the Gold Cup to be a clear runner-up,” trainer Henry de Bromhead said. “He’s been great since. He’s in really good form and seems to thrive at this time of year. We’re really looking forward to getting him out.
“He beat Allaho a couple of years ago in the three-mile novice hurdle at Punchestown but missed out on following up on his Cheltenham Gold Cup win last year with a stone bruise.
“We know he likes the track and that he enjoys this time of year. He’s tough out so I think it might even benefit him to be coming back to Punchestown.”
Even with Al Boum Photo in the mix, Ryanair Chase winner Allaho arguably leads the Willie Mullins assault on the race, as part of a team that also includes Ryanair Chase runner-up Janidil, King George winner Tornado Flyer and Kemboy, who memorably gave Ruby Walsh the final winner of his illustrious career on this very stage in 2019.
The Joseph O’Brien-trained Fakir D’oudairies returns to three miles after his Aintree romp earlier this month, while Savills Chase winner Galvin, will try to give Gordon Elliott a second win in the race, seven years after Don Cossack triumphed.
“Galvin is in great form,” said Elliott. “We had him on Mornington beach at the weekend just giving him a day away and keeping him fresh, but he seems to be in good order since Cheltenham.
“This is a proper Gold Cup on Wednesday and it’ll be a tough race but since he won at Punchestown at the start of the season and went on to win the Savills at Christmas, Galvin has earned the right to be a Gold Cup horse.
“My best day at Punchestown was when we won the Gold Cup there with Don Cossack and look, hopefully Galvin will run a big race, if he was to win it would be a great way to end the season but we are looking forward to seeing how he goes.”
The big clashes come thick and fast on Wednesday as The Nice Guy, winner of the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham heads the 11-strong field for the Grade 1 Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle. Minella Cocooner, who was second to The Nice Guy on that occasion will try to turn the tables, while recent Fairyhouse winner Bronn and Ramillies form a formidable team for champion trainer Wille Mullins.
Minella Crooner is an interesting contender having missed Cheltenham following a setback.
“It was disappointing that Minella Crooner missed Cheltenham but it was just a minor issue and he didn’t miss much time, he just ran out of time before Cheltenham,” Elliott said. “He’s in good nick and it’s good to have him going there on Wednesday. Hopefully he runs his race.”
Elliott also runs Hollow Games, while Paul Nolan will saddle the progressive Daily Present and John McConnell’s Bardenstown Lad also brings strong form having been third to The Nice Guy and Minella Cocooner at Cheltenham.
The field for the opening Grade 1 on day two of the Punchestown Festival is completed by Good Time Jonny and Meet And Greet.
In the Grade 1 Race & Stay At Punchestown Champion Bumper Facile Vega and American Mike renew their rivalry in what promises to be a Champion Bumper to remember. Two of the best bumper horses of the season with two of the best amateurs Patrick Mullins and Jamie Codd go head-to-head with seven other rivals.
Willie Mullins saddles five of the runners with Madmansgame, Redemption Day, Seabbank Bistro and Viva Devito all declared alongside Facile Vega.
The Paul Nolan-trained Sandor Clegane, the Paul Hennessy-trained Ocean Of Mercy and Stuart Crawford’s Carnfunnock add plenty of intrigue to the only Grade 1 bumper run in Ireland.
Crawford also saddles the impressive looking Lily Du Berlais in the Grade 3 Weatherbys GSB EBF Mares’ bumper, taking on two-time winner The Model Kingdom for Noel Meade.
Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi go head-to-head once more in William Hill Champion Chase
Sir Gerhard and Bob Olinger also feature on day one of the Punchestown Festival
The five-day Punchestown Festival will begin with a feature race to savour as stable companions Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi lock horns in the Grade 1 William Hill Champion Chase.
Declarations for the opening day of Irish jump racing’s biggest fixture were made this morning and will see Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Energumene try to fend off his six-time Grade 1 winning neighbour Chacun Pour Soi in a race that has attracted five runners.
Opposition to the two Willie Mullins runners at the head of the field will be eyeing an upset and Henry de Bromhead saddles the five-time Grade 1 winner Envoi Allen and the course and distance winner Captain Guinness, while Gordon Elliott is represented by the Cheltenham Festival runner-up Andy Dufresne.
Speaking this morning, de Bromhead declared that he was looking forward to the challenge at the start of another important week for the Waterford trainer.
“We were delighted with Envoi Allen in Cheltenham,” de Bromhead said on Sunday morning. “He jumped really well, travelled well. His wind just isn’t as good now as it was so I’d say the ground just caught him out. We’re hoping the better ground will suit him. He’s in super form.
“He is so classy, I think any trip would nearly suit him to be fair. He’s got such a high cruising speed, and he showed that at Cheltenham that jumping and travelling at that pace isn’t a problem. We’re really happy with him.”
Captain Guinness will also take his chance on Tuesday and de Bromhead added: “The extra half mile in Aintree caught him out so we’ll go back to two miles with him. We’re happy to go again to Punchestown. It’s always a chance but he seems in good form so we’re happy to give it a lash and see. There is great prize money on offer, as is the case throughout the week.”
Speaking about the William Hill Champion Chase when looking ahead to the Punchestown Festival, Patrick Mullins, who will renew his association with Chacun Pour Soi said: “He walked into the third fence (in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham) and then got back jumping. While watching the race you would say I was going well, and I probably was, I wasn’t surprised that he put down. I just didn’t feel that he was giving me the feel that I was expecting him to.
“I don’t feel he was on his ‘A game’ on the day. I’m just disappointed as he shouldn’t be making mistakes like that. It wasn’t the Chacun Pour Soi we know but look, I thought the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown was one of the races of the season last year. I thought Paul was excellent on him the way he bounced him out and that was a huge performance the way he got Allaho out of his comfort zone completely.
“He is 10 now and Energumene is in his prime at eight, so it’s probably going to be difficult for Chacun Pour Soi but I’d be expecting him to be much more like his old self next week and perhaps he might just be a better ground horse. It’ll be a fantastic race and I wouldn’t rule him out.”
Reflecting on Energumene’s Cheltenham success and a first win in the Champion Chase there for the stable, Mullins added: “In reality, the Champion Chase at Cheltenham turned into a Grade 2 but Engergumene travelled through the race like the good horse he is. We’ll take it, a Champion Chase, we never had one before but we will have to take on Shiskin again and settle it once and for all.”
While success in the William Hill Champion Chase might be something of a surprise for de Bromhead, the trainer will saddle one of the brightest stars on show this week as Bob Olinger lines up in the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.
The unbeaten chaser was a 40-length winner of the Turners Novice Chase last month although that doesn’t tell the full story with Galopin Des Champs exiting at the final fence, but de Bromhead is expecting to see a more familiar performance from Bob Olinger on Tuesday.
“I think it’s a logical progression to go to three miles with Bob,” de Bromhead said. “He seems really well again. Obviously, it was great to win but he was disappointing in Cheltenham in terms of the level of his performance but it seems good now and we’re happy with him. We’ll see where we go after learning more on Tuesday.
“He definitely wasn’t right in Cheltenham. Definitely. He had this torn muscle. It wasn’t bad but it was definitely torn and it probably ties in. Rachael (Blackmore) said he made a terrible noise after he jumped the sixth-last, where he twisted in the air. So it definitely didn’t look like him.
“We were always going to go for the three-mile race at Punchestown and as we’re happy with him now that the muscle tear has cleared up, it’s all systems go.”
Millers Bank earned Grade 1 honours in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree and is a fascinating inclusion for Oxfordshire-based trainer Alex Hales alongside Grade 1 winners in Beacon Edge for Noel Meade and the Gordon Elliott-trained Fury Road, who both wear the Gigginstown House Stud silks.
Local trainer Paul Fahey is rolling the dice at the top table with his talented mare Ballyshannon Rose and the field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Lifetime Ambition, Capodanno, who is the only runner for Willie Mullins in the three-miler.
The opening Grade 1 of the Punchestown Festival is the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle and Mullins is setting the scene for the week with another clash of two from his championship winning stable.
Five runners will go to post for a race that has thrown up winners such as Moscow Flyer, Brave Inca, Hurricane Fly, Faugheen, Douvan and Klassical Dream since the turn of the century and Ballymore Novice Hurdle winner Sir Gerhard will once again aim to show his versatility as he drops back to two miles to take on Dysart Dynamo, who was a faller in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Gordon Elliott’s Grade 1 winner Mighty Potter, who will be looking to put a line through his disappointing appearance at Cheltenham when pulling up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and his stablemate Vina Ardanza also feature alongside Gatsby Grey who would be a popular winner for Oliver McKiernan if the 15-length Naas winner could upset the odds here.
The Great Comeback is full of great racing as entries for opening three days of Punchestown Festival are revealed
The 2022 Punchestown Festival is being billed as ‘The Great Comeback’ as the grandstands are set to fill up to witness Ireland’s biggest racing meeting for the first time since 2019.
But it’s not just the public that will be packing into the famed Kildare auditorium of jump racing to reacquaint themselves with the five-day festival from Tuesday April 26th to Saturday April 30th, as equine stars such as Clan Des Obeaux, Allaho, Minella Indo, Energumene, Chacun Pour Soi, Klassical Dream and Paisley Park are just some of the household equine names also returning to Punchestown.
Today marked the forfeit stage for the opening three days of the Punchestown Festival and the Closutton clash of Willie’s Mullins’ leading two-mile chasers Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi is well and truly on in the William Hill Champion Chase, with Joseph O’Brien potentially throwing a spanner in the works with recent Aintree winner Fakir D’oudairies getting an entry although the trainer admitted a return to three miles might be on the agenda for him.
Envoi Allen and Captain Guinness may represent Henry de Bromhead, while Andy Dufresne is in the mix as well as Allaho although the latter is also more likely for Wednesday’s vintage renewal of the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.
Paul Nicholls is no stranger to Punchestown success and for the second year running will try to do the Aintree/Punchestown double with Clan Des Obeaux who heads the entries for the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup alongside the winners of three Cheltenham Gold Cup’s, Al Boum Photo and Minella indo.
Nicholls said on Thursday: “I’m really looking forward to next week. We’re always made very welcome. We love it and in the future, maybe we’ll have even more to come. If we have the right ones, we’ll be there.
“It’s about running the right horses in the right races. We thought that the Ladbrokes Gold Cup would suit Clan and that’s why we’re coming back again this year. It’s gonna be a tough old race if Allaho runs and he had a harder race at Aintree than last year but it was a career best in many ways.
“But this race suits him, the track suits him and the way he ran last year shows it suits him and you’ve got to target those races for him.”
Nicholls added: “It’s a waste of time running him around Cheltenham. He hates it, as Silviniaco Conti did but you’ve got to run them in the right races, as we did bringing two horses to Punchestown last year and they both won.”
Speaking about Fakir D’oudairies, who is among the 13 in Wednesday’s feature race as well, Joseph O’Brien said options would be kept open for now.
“Fakir is an intended runner in one of the Grade 1s, probably more likely the Ladbrokes Gold Cup over three miles than the William Hill Champion Chase over two but we’re keeping our options open,” O’Brien said.
“He has been good since winning at Aintree. We decided to sidestep Cheltenham in favour of the Melling Chase and that decision paid off and I thought he did it well.
“He has come out of the race well and we’re looking forward to lining up at the Punchestown Festival now.”
On Thursday the feature event is the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, a race Patrick Mullins commented on yesterday by saying he would be disappointed if Klassical Dream couldn’t claim back-to-back renewals. Paisley Park is a fascinating inclusion for trainer Emma Lavelle and owner Andrew Gemmell, however.
Mullins said on Wednesday: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing. I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win next week at Punchestown.”
Among his 12 potential rivals are Cheltenham Festival winner Commander Of Fleet and Aintree victor Sire Du Berlais, both for Gordon Elliott who looks to hold his strongest hand in this championship race.
“Both horses are in good form and have come out of Cheltenham and Aintree well so we’ll hopefully let them take their chance,” Elliott said.
In the novice hurdle ranks over the opening three days, champion trainer Willie Mullins will characteristically keep his cards close to his chest for now as he is responsible for eight (Bring On The Night, Dysart Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Gibraltar, Ha D’or, Kilcruit, Sir Gerhard and State Man) of the 15 entries in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle and six (Bronn, Classic Getaway, Kilcruit, Minella Cocooner, Ramillies and The Nice Guy) of the 17 that stood their ground in Wednesday’s Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Tuesday’s Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase features the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger who is the standout name in a field that also features Grade 1 winner Beacon Edge for Noel Meade.
The Barberstown Castle Novice Chase on Thursday looks a very strong contest with Aintree Grade 1 winner Gentleman De Mee potentially facing off against Arkle runner-up Gabynako for Gavin Cromwell.