Punchestown Returns with The Homecoming Festival
Media Release : They’re coming home! The winners, the heroes and the champions return to the home of Irish jump racing for the grand finale of the season as the 2023 Punchestown Festival returns from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th April.
Organisers anticipate an attendance of 110,000 people across the five-day event that attracts visitors from throughout Ireland, the UK and further afield. The main attraction is the prestigious top-class racing that showcases the very best of Irish racing talent including Rachael Blackmore, Willie Mullins , Henry de Bromhead and Paul Townend. Visiting trainers from the UK are an integral feature of the festival with regulars such as Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and new comer Olly Murphy sending horses across. A fully subscribed sponsorship portfolio of 50 event partners delivers an impressive prize fund of over €3.3 million on offer across forty races including twelve grade one contests. The entries for the flagship races are now closed and feature equine superstars including major festival players Galopin Des Champs, Energumene, Bravemansgame and Envoi Allen.
People make Punchestown and key to all great celebrations is the combination of guest list, live entertainment, delicious food, amazing style and this is where the Punchestown Festival delivers in spades. Over 17,000 hospitality clients from 795 companies, 158 of which are UK based, will enjoy delicious seasonal menus prepared and served by 60 chefs, 420 catering staff and 280 bar staff. Catering for this number means large scale and three tonnes of fresh vegetables, over 60 kilos of artisan cheeses and 15,000 portions of petit four desserts and canapes will be enjoyed over the five days. Throughout the pavilions, bars and enclosures the atmosphere builds with live music, street theatre and DJ sets running alongside shopping village and full entertainment programme.
The Bollinger Best Dressed competition is one of Ireland’s most prestigious style contests in the country with finalists chosen across the first four days progressing to the final on ladies day, Friday 28th April. Open to all, the fresh take on race day style encourages racegoers of all ages to be creative, sustainable and brave in a bid to win the ‘money can’t buy’ prize to Paris and The Bollinger Chateuax in Champagne region. An all-star cast featuring some of Ireland’s most popular style names make up The Style Council who will select the winners.
As one of Ireland’s largest events the Punchestown Festival is big business bringing a massive boost to the local economy with over €25 million generated through tourism, leisure and associated spends. However, the event also plays a significant community roll working alongside local GAA clubs and charities to generate funds through volunteer schemes and fundraising initiatives. The Punchestown Kidney Research Charity race, now in its 32 year, has raised close to €2 million and is joined this year by charities Barretstown, Samaritans, Cara Girls Project and Cystic Fibrosis Ireland.
Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill looked ahead to the event: “The Punchestown Festival is a combination of so many moving parts. A showcase of Irish sporting excellence, one of the largest corporate events in the country, a huge social occasion, an essential fundraiser and a gathering of 100,000 people of all ages, urban and rural who will share in a memorable experience. People make Punchestown and we look forward to welcoming friends old and new to the home of Irish racing for the last week of April”.
For further information please contact:
Shona Dreaper, Punchestown Racecourse
Contact: 045 897704 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th April.
Tickets from €35pp are available at www.punchestown.com Pre-booking is advised.
Discount group deals are available online.
Concession senior and student tickets are only available to purchase on the day.
Contactless payment available throughout the venue. Cash accepted but visitors are advised to collect cash in advance of their arrival to avoid queues.
Energumene will have five rivals in the William Hill Champion Chase as he bids for a second consecutive Cheltenham-Punchestown double following declarations for Tuesday’s opening leg of the five-day Punchestown Festival, which boasts prize money of €3.3m throughout the week. Tony Bloom’s brilliant two-mile chaser would be winning at the festival for the third year in a row were he to prevail but his trainer, Willie Mullins has certainly not spared him in terms of opposition.
The soon-to-be 17-time champion trainer also saddles open Grade 1 winners Blue Lord, Gentleman De Mee and Chacun Pour Soi, the latter announcing himself as a force at the festival in 2019 when galloping to victory in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase, which was won two years later by Blue Lord. That season, Chacun Pour Soi added the William Hill Champion Chase to his record and he finished runner-up last term to Energumene. Gentleman De Mee missed out on Cheltenham and will be the freshest of the quartet as a result and while Mullins admitted in his Punchestown preview this week that it would be hard to see Energumene beaten on his favourite soft ground, Gentleman De Mee’s seven-length defeat of Blue Lord in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown in February illustrated his ability on a sounder surface. He is the likely pace angle in the race.
Henry de Bromhead’d Magic Daze is also likely to be prominent and travelling exertions excepted, should be relatively fresh too having been left at the start in the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham. She had been an impressive winner of a listed mares’ chase at Naas before that. The declaration of Rebel Gold is an interesting one and trainer Pat Foley admits that he is chasing some prize money with a progressive horses who he expects to see the best of next season. Foley has enjoyed a tremendous campaign, scoring at a strike rate of 19 per cent and Rebel Gold has been his flagbearer, winning the Dan & Joan Moore at Fairyhouse before securing the Grade 3 Newlands Chase at Naas with Denis O’Regan in the plate on each occasion.
The Aughabeg trainer learned his craft by the side of his late father, Tom and enjoyed some wonderful occasions at Punchestown, a track where the People’s Champion, Danoli scored three times. He cuts a realistic approach to his current star’s prospects.
“The original plan was to go to Fairyhouse for the Grade 2 but we just got a bit of a setback,” said Foley today. “After he won in Naas, Denis said it’d be no harm to give him an entry in some of the good races as they can cut up a little bit. So maybe it’s all for luck. “He had a slight muscle strain so we didn’t want to take the chance on it in Fairyhouse but we’re quite happy with the horse now and we’ll let him take his chance. The most realistic goal is probably to finish fourth but even if he finishes sixth of the six, you’re picking up prize money and on ratings, we are the lowest rated horse in it. If he’d had a proper clear run, I’d be going there hoping to beat one or two of them but we’re not going to be in any way disappointed wherever he finishes.
“We’re really looking forward to next season with him. He definitely improved this season. He’s a big, backward horse. It was my own mistake last year, trying to step him up in trip and make him a stayer, where he’s really an out-and-out two-miler. We’ll be keeping him at that trip and in graded races.
“I remember Danoli going to Punchestown and it’s been a lucky track even for myself since I started. The horses have been doing well there. It’s lovely to be going there, even if it may be a step too far for him this time, but it won’t do any harm to let people see you have a horse good enough to compete in some of these races. If he puts in a decent run we’ll all be very, very happy.”
The KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle is the first of the festival’s 12 Grade 1s and five horses have been declared, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle second and third, Facile Vega and Diverge, as well as Dublin Racing Festival Grade 1 winner Il Etait Temps representing Willie Mullins, while local trainer Oliver McKiernan saddles No Looking Back. Gordon Elliott’s Found A Fifty completes the field, with the fit-again Jordan Gainford getting the leg up. “Things just didn’t work out for Found A Fifty at Aintree,” said Elliott earlier this week. “He’s a very talented animal and we didn’t see the best of him there and he’s one to be very excited about for the coming seasons.”
There are six contestants for the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase, which sees Willie Mullins stepping Appreciate It up to three miles for the first time since winning a point-to-point when in Pat Doyle’s care five years ago. Derek O’Connor rode Appreciate It that day and he was also in the saddle when the then Ellmarie Holden-trained Sir Gerhard scored through the flags but Mullins decided to give him a try at three miles for the first time under Rules as well, to see if he can rediscover his hurdle form over the larger obstacles. James Du Berlais and Classic Getaway complete the Mullins squad. Emmet Mullins has an intriguing runner in Feronily, who has been campaigned aggressively all season, despite only winning his point-to-point – again under Derek O’Connor – last November. Since then, the Paul Byrne-owned six-year-old has been third in a Grade 2 bumper, made his hurdling debut when fourth in a Grade 2 hurdle and then finished runner-up on his chasing debut at Grade 3 level a fortnight ago. Journey With Me also has a chance for the in-form Henry de Bromhead yard, coming into the race off a good Grade 3 victory in Naas having previously been just touched off by subsequent Cheltenham victor Impervious at Punchestown.
O’Brien aiming for slice of the action with bargain buy in €75,000 Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final
After claiming significant prize money through the qualifiers, Terence O’Brien is aiming to add a “cherry on top” by targeting a tilt at the €75,000 Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series Final, which takes place on Wednesday, April 26th, the second day of the prestigious Punchestown Festival.
The Carrigtwohill trainer has been a regular participant since the series’ inauguration and his Ik’s Man is among 19 potential contenders for the final on Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup day. A €9,000 purchase at Tattersalls Ireland’s June Derby Sale in 2019, the Walk In The Park seven-year-old has been a good money-spinner for connections by being second in a couple of the qualifiers and making that initial outlay of €9,000 back from his three outings in qualifiers to date.
“The series is a great opportunity for horses that were bought at the sales under the €30,000 or €45,000 mark,” declares O’Brien. “It gives us a chance to be competitive in maiden hurdles all year. The final is another cherry on top if you can qualify for it, to give owners an opportunity to land at the festival on a big day. “We’ve won a few of the races before and were placed a good few times. The prize money is very good and it’s a brilliant series for the small trainer to be honest with you. “Ik’s Man has had three runs in the series and been placed in a couple. We’ll head to Punchestown. We’ve a good few owners involved in him and I’m sure they’ll all be delighted for a day out. If he just improves another little bit, he’ll hopefully be in the shake-up again.”
Now in its fifth year, the series was designed to create opportunities for horses bought for €45,000/€30,000 or less at store sales in Ireland and the UK, thereby giving owners and trainers an opportunity to claim some of the €395,000 in prize money on offer throughout the series.
To enter the €75,000 final at the Punchestown Festival, EBF eligible horses must have run in one of the 16 qualifiers and have not won a graded or listed race.
Paul Nolan’s Sandor Clegane is the highest-rated acceptor, having achieved a mark of 141 following a number of consistent runs, following up his Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle victory at Punchestown in November with two placed efforts at Grade 1 level, most recently when just a length and a quarter shy of Albert Bartlett victor Stay Away Fay at Cheltenham.
Peter Fahey, who certainly has the Midas touch having won the last two renewals with Surprise Package and Ambitious Fellow, is represented by Rocco Bay, triumphant in the Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle at Limerick last May. He was last seen in behind Hands Of Gold in a Naas qualifier and the promising Arthur Moore-trained five-year-old is another possible runner.
Dual winner Senior Chief is an interesting entry for Henry de Bromhead, while the Noel Meade-trained Nucky Johnson is a course victor who would be competitive if lining up. It is a field that speaks to the enduring quality of a series that has consistently produced top-grade alumni.
Three Card Brag certainly fits into that category. The son of Jet Away actually had Sandor Clegane and Nucky Johnson in second and third when scoring in a red-hot Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle at Galway last October.
He has been highly tried by Gordon Elliott since then, finishing placed in two graded events before getting back on the mark in Fairyhouse. His most recent run was in the Albert Bartlett Hurdle, where he finished fifth, four and a half lengths behind Sandor Clegane. Elliott understands the value the series, with recent Irish Grand National runner-up Gevrey among its graduates.
“The Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Hurdle Series is a definite option for Three Card Brag,” said Elliott. “The only thing is maybe on better ground he might prefer to go a bit further than two and a half miles but it’s a great pot and a great initiative and I love to support it wherever I can. “It would be nice to win the final at some point. I haven’t done so yet but we’ve had some nice horses come through the series like Gevrey, who was third in the final a few years ago and he was second in the Irish National a couple of weeks ago so it’s a great series.”
Nessa Joyce, Irish EBF Manager, said: “The Connolly’s RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series has gone from strength to strength in a short period of time, thanks to the support of the many trainers and owners who make it a key target each year. This season 70 different trainers campaigned 119 EBF eligible store-bought horses in 16 qualifying races, with an average auction price of just over €14,000, so there is great anticipation to see who will win the €75,000 final next week. The Irish EBF board would like to thank all the connections for supporting the series and special thanks goes to our sponsorship partners Connolly’s RED MILLS for their continuing generous support.”
Gareth Connolly, CEO Connolly’s RED MILLS, added: “We are proud to sponsor the RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Series for the fifth season and are looking forward to the €75,000 Final at Punchestown next week. This series has provided a platform for horses in the that middle segment of the market to compete for good prize money, with each of the qualifying races worth €20,000, thus supporting the owners and trainer who take part in the series. “The series has contributed greatly to the stimulation of the middle market, and the stats show how it has promoted healthy competition, fostering growth within the industry. As a company dedicated to the wellbeing and nutrition of horses, we recognise the importance of investing in events like this and to promote the industry that supports our business all year round. We want to thank the team at the Irish EBF and Punchestown for being such great partners and thank also all the trainers and owners who have run horses in the series since it was launched in 2019.”
For Further Information:
Jane Davis, Head of Equine Marketing, Connolly’s RED MILLS
Goresbridge, Kilkenny, Co. Kilkenny
M: +353 86 3490681, E: email@example.com Twitter: @REDMILLShorse
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This coming April 25th-29th, we will be showcasing our Eimear 6.7m Wooden Gazebo at the Punchestown Race festival. You will be able to purchase your race card from here and get to view the elegant Nordic Spruce structure for yourself. We at OutdoorLiving.ie pride ourselves on the vast range of wooden structures we supply. Many of these are on display at our Glen of the Downs showroom where you can walk around with the backdrop of the Sugar Loaf mountain in your view throughout the premises. Working with Punchestown officials, we also have a 30 second video about us & our range of products which will be playing in between races in the lounges and bar areas.
OutdoorLiving.ie is the ultimate destination for all your outdoor needs in Ireland. With a rich family history, extensive product range, expert knowledge, and unparalleled shopping experience, OutdoorLiving.ie is committed to helping you create the outdoor space of your dreams. Visit one of their showrooms or shop online to discover why OutdoorLiving.ie is the best choice for your outdoor projects.
PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL FULLY EQUIPPED WITH HSS HIRE SPONSORSHIP
Media Release 20/04/2023: Punchestown Racecourse today welcomed the news that HSS Hire will complete the 2023 Punchestown Festival sponsorship line up as an exciting four-year deal is announced. Over 110,000 people from throughout Ireland, the UK and beyond are expected to attend the jump racing grand finale taking place from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th April.
This day next week the HSS Hire Handicap Steeplechase of €100,000 will be the penultimate race on prestigious Punchestown Gold Cup Day, Wednesday 26th April. The two-mile-five-furlong steeplechase boasts a varied roll call of previous winners with trainers Willie Mullins, Mouse Morris and Nicky Henderson landing the spoils in the last three runnings respectively.
Established in Ireland over 30 years, HSS Hire have grown to become the market leader in the tool hire and equipment management sector. The nationwide branch network caters for all size projects from large scale businesses to trade and home improvement customers. With branches in Galway, Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Dublin HSS Hire is a convenient solution across the country.
HSS Hire Ireland Managing Director Michael Killeen looked ahead to an exciting enhancement of the company’s association with the home of Irish jump racing: “HSS Hire is in a period of growth and we have recently made major investment in a range of powered access equipment which is filtering out to our nationwide branches. No doubt some of that gear will be in use at Punchestown where we have been involved for a number of years. Elevating this involvement to sponsorship status made sense for us during this time of growth. Punchestown and HSS Hire have a similar solution-based approach when it comes to delivering excellent customer service so we look forward to developing the partnership with the Punchestown team”.
Conor O’Neill, Punchestown CEO explained the background to today’s announcement: “The Punchestown Festival site of 430 acres is considerable. The event build is massive with a significant demand for equipment and tools. Michael Killeen and the team at HSS Hire have always been available to assist, advise and supply whenever we needed support. Having access to a nationwide network of supplies and expertise is an invaluable resource when under pressure for deadlines and solutions. It is a pleasure to welcome HSS Hire to the Punchestown Festival sponsorship line-up”.
The 2023 Punchestown Festival will take place from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th April. A prize fund of over €3.3 million is on offer across a forty-race programme that includes 12 grade one contests. Punchestown is big business and is Ireland’s largest sporting corporate hospitality event with over 17,000 guests expected to enjoy the famous dining packages and spectacular views.
Punchestown racecourse are delighted to welcome Kildare based landscaping firm Oak Lodge to the sponsorship panel ahead of the 2022 Punchestown Winter Festival on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November.
The Oak Lodge Landscapes Craddockstown Novice Chase takes centre stage on the opening day of the winter feature at the home of Irish jump racing. The grade two contest over two miles holds a €36,500 prize fund and has been a happy hunting ground for high quality champion chase contenders. Previous winners include the Alan & Ann Pott’s owned top class duo Sizing John and Sizing Europe with the great Moscow Flyer featuring even further back in the roll of honour.
Whilst Waterford trainer Henry de Bromhead has an excellent strike rate in the Oak Lodge Landscape Chase, it is Gordon Elliott who will bid for a hat trick of wins having landed the spoils with Felix Desjy and Reviere D’etel in 2020 and 2021.
The Oak Lodge Landscape connection is a local one with founders and directors Cathal and Samantha Kavanagh based in the Naas area. Oak Lodge was established over 20 years ago and the family run firm employs five team members with this number fluctuating greatly during the busy summer months. Originally domestic and private projects accounted for a majority of the business however, as owner Cathal Kavanagh explains, economics intervened: “During the financial crash people’s priorities changed and gardens were no longer high up on the list of household spending. Like many businesses we had to adapt to survive and ever since our company has strived in the commercial landscape maintenance market. We have national retail clients who’s properties we manage in addition to business parks and commercial settings alongside our domestic services”.
Offering some background to today’s sponsorship announcement Kavanagh continued: “I have been racing at Punchestown for as long as I can remember. It is a place that is close to us both literally and in the sense that we’ve enjoyed many great day’s there through the years. Getting involved and sponsoring was something I’ve always intended to do and now we’ve made it happen. We look forward to enjoying a Punchestown race day from a different angle when the Oak Lodge Landscapes Chase gets underway”.
Punchestown Sponsorship Manager Leona Hughes welcomed the Oak Lodge Landscapes news: “Cathal, Samantha and the Oak Lodge team are a wonderful addition to the Punchestown sponsorship profile and we look forward to partnering with them as they step into a sponsorship role here. Local business and community is a fundamental part of the Punchestown ethos and it is all the more special when the people involved have a personal connection to this special place. We thank Oak Lodge Landscapes for the wonderful support and look forward to working alongside them to provide a memorable Punchestown experience”.
The Punchestown Winter Festival takes place on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November. In addition to the grade one Unibet Morgiana Hurdle and the grade two Oak Lodge Landscapes Craddockstown Chase there is an excellent support card of listed, graded and cross country action on offer across the two days. Racegoers of all ages are catered for with complimentary children’s play area for families however, those that may have outgrown the face painting stage can enjoy delicious dining, live music and bus transfers to Naas after racing. With a keen focus on value, the home of Irish jump racing is offering discounts and complimentary race cards for those who book in advance on www.punchestown.com
The first race goes to post approx 12 noon Saturday and 11.45 Sunday. gates and public dining venues open one and a half hours before racing.
For further information please contact:
Punchestown Marketing and Communications Manager
Phone: +353 (0) 45 897704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Punchestown Racecourse were announced winner of The Best Sponsorship Team in association with The Irish Times at an award ceremony held in Clontarf Castle Hotel, Thursday 22nd September.
The Punchestown sponsorship team of Leona Hughes, Janet Creighton and Conor O’Neill held off stiff competition to secure the top spot with judges complimenting the attention to detail, innovative approach and dedicated client interaction received by sponsors. Despite being a small team the Punchestown staff manage a full portfolio of forty-three event sponsors at the annual five day racing festival each April in addition to a further fifty sponsors and partners at fixtures throughout the year. Punchestown are proud to say that as one of Ireland’s largest sporting events with a significant UK attendace, almost 50% of the festival sponsors are Kildare based companies, further emphasising the importance of community and support of independent or family owned enterprises. Among the Punchestown sponsorship line-up are bookmaker super firms Paddy Power, William Hill and Ladbrokes alongside leading global property developer Ballymore, luxury lifestyle icon Bollinger Champagne and household names from the media, tech, financial, tourism, insurance, motor and construction sectors.
The home of Irish jump racing was shortlisted in two categories at the Irish Sponsorship Awards both of which featured some stiff competition with leading marketing agencies and in-house sponsorship departments in attendance on the night. The Punchestown team narrowly missed out on a big award double when pipped to the post by Lidl Ireland Ladies National Football in the Best Sporting Event Sponsorship category.
Delighted to see the sponsors and team receive such recognition Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill said “We are very proud to fly the flag for Irish racing in such a competitive industry. This award is particularly special for our loyal and amazingly supportive sponsors who have stuck with us through some truly challenging times in recent years. We always say that people make Punchestown and never was that as evident as during Covid when, despite empty enclosures and racing behind closed doors, our sponsors rallied and championed Punchestown. Without this level of support we cannot deliver one of Irelands most prestigious and loved sporting events. I would like to take this opportunity to give credit to our small team who, despite lining up against some of the biggest names in the industry, have shown that customer service, exceeding expectation with passion for people and place makes all the difference every time. We look forward to welcoming new sponsors to Punchestown ahead of our next season!”
The Punchestown racing season gets underway Tuesday 11th and Wednesday 12th October and runs through to June 2023. The Punchestown festival takes place from Tuesday 25th to Friday 29th April 2023. For further information please visit www.punchestown.com
Anglesey Lodge Give Back With New Punchestown Sponsorship
Monday 09/09/2022 – Internationally renowned equine hospital Anglesey Lodge will join the sponsorship line up for Punchestown’s season return meeting this Tuesday, September 13th when the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Two-Year-Old Maiden will be the second race on the card at the Kildare track.
Punchestown completes the thoroughbred county hat trick as Anglesey Lodge are already involved with both the Curragh and Naas racecourses. Practice partner Mark MacRedmond (MVB CertVPM MRCVS) explained the thinking behind the contribution: “Our reason to be involved is pretty straight forward – we simply want to give back to the industry. Anglesey Lodge has been fortunate enough to work alongside so many brilliant training establishments from yards big and small throughout the region for over 45 years. Sponsoring and contributing to the prize funds is the most effective and direct way we can further support the industry and give back. MacRedmond continued “Another particularly important factor is of course was the passion that practise founder and renowned vet Ned Gowing had for Punchestown. Ned Gowing established Anglesey Lodge back in 1976 and throughout his distinguished career he would always make time for racecourse duty at Punchestown, a place he just loved”.
In addition, the Anglesey Lodge team celebrate one year at their new Friarstown base having moved from their former facility of 19 years which was located next door to the final straight of the Curragh racecourse. The new Anglesey Lodge home is a custom built facility on 12.5 acres with state of the art facilities including 70 stables, double surgical theatres, blood sample laboratory, diagnostic and examination rooms. A panel of 18 vets, specialist surgeons, nurses, nursing assistants, grooms, lab technicians, practise managers and admin staff combine to make up what has become one of the most highly regarded teams in the global equine hospital industry. Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital offers a full service from specialist surgery, lameness and pre-purchase exams to advanced nuclear scintigraphy.
Welcoming the new sponsors to the home of Irish jump racing Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill said “We are fortunate to have the fantastic people resources of Anglesey Lodge available to us on race days as part of the vet support panel. Horse welfare and safety is paramount at Punchestown and to have such strength and depth of veterinary experience on our doorstep means horses that compete here have the very best of assistance should they require it. We take this opportunity to thank Mark, Thomas, Juan and the team for their contribution to our first meeting of the 22/23 season and look forward to continuing our association with Anglesey Lodge for many years to come”.
The Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Two Year Old Maiden is the second race on the only all flat fixture at Punchestown. Action gets underway at 2pm.
Dream week continues for Mullins-Townend axis as Robbie Power announces retirement
Paul Townend is not only on his way to being crowned champion jockey in Ireland once again but he is doing so at an incredible 36 per cent strike rate which was helped today by the victory of Klassical Dream in the Ladbrokes Stayers Hurdle.
Another memorable week for Willie Mullins continued as Klassical Dream cruised through the field to take up the running in the first Grade 1 race on Day 3 of the Punchestown Festival and had to dig deep to fend off the bold effort of Ashdale Bob.
Klassical Dream’s second victory in the race was making it a clean sweep of championship races for the Mullins-Townend axis this week and the horse was becoming the first back-to-back winner of this race since Quevega, the dam of Wednesday’s Grade 1 winner Facile Vega.
“He got out of bed the right side this morning I think” joked Townend about his often idiosyncratic mount. “Everything went right for him, he behaved himself beautifully throughout the race and in the prelims. Here plays to all his strengths.”
“You make Plan A, B, C and D with this horse because he probably tells you what you’re doing with him as we’ve seen at Leopardstown.
“I could hear (Ashdale Bob) coming. I didn’t dare have a look see who it was but I’d a fair idea Puppy (Robbie Power) was going to be stalking me all the way around the way we lined up. I thought I was doing enough the whole way to the line. I don’t know if he was going to get by me at any stage.”
Willie Mullins was full of praise for his stable jockey. The trainer said: “He loves it at Punchestown. I thought Paul gave him a lovely, tidy ride. Settled him. Brought him late down to the start, got him away nice and relaxed and had him put to sleep for most of the race, so he was really good.
“It’s always better to hold onto him. He gets upset. I think he’s better held on to but he’s done it the opposite way, he’s jumped out and gone and made the running but it’s probably the best way.”
Robbie Power produced Ashdale Bob for a career best run but had to settle for minor honours on the day that the jockey announced would be his second last in the saddle.
The 40-year-old won the Pigsback.com Handicap Chase on Magic Daze for Henry de Bromhead and afterwards told Katie Walsh live on RTÉ that he would be retiring following the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle at Punchestown on Friday.
A winner of the Aintree, Irish and American Grand Nationals, Power rode 31 Grade 1 winners, many of them coming here at Punchestown and he completed the historic triple Gold Cup with Sizing John, which he regarded as one of the highlights of his career.
“It’s hard to pick one out but that day here on Sizing John when he won his third Gold Cup,” Power said reflecting on his illustrious career. “Djakadam and Coneygree (were in it). It was as good a race as I ever rode in and I got a huge buzz from that. I’ve had so many highs. I’ve had a wonderful career and hopefully the next two days go well.”
Speaking about his decision to call time on his career, he added: “It’s been torture the last couple of months with the hip pain. Without Enda King in Santry (Sports Clinic), Niamh Doyle, my physio at home, and Jennifer Pugh (IHRB senior medical officer), Maria Kealy (personal trainer), John Butler (Racecourse physio), there’s been so many people helped me along the way to get me through it and (my wife) Hannah has been very understanding because I’ve been fairly grumpy at times!”
Mullins continues to Lord it at Punchestown
It really has been a dream week for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend. The Grade 1 races just keep coming for Ireland’s respective champion trainer and jockey as Blue Lord got up in the shadows of the post to deny Couer Sublime in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase.
Having earlier combined with Klassical Dream in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, Mullins and Townend were celebrating again as the 2/1 favourite claimed his second Grade 1 of the campaign after winning the Irish Arkle at Leopardstown back in February.
“I was concentrating more on the horse in front, Saint Sam, and how he was jumping,” admitted Mullins. “He was fiddling a few of the fences. I was wondering was there enough pace in front then for Blue Lord and Haut En Couleurs as well.
“They quickened at the fourth-last. I thought Saint Sam was running a cracker until he genuflected at the second-last. Then I couldn’t believe how much Paul pulled out of our fellow because I thought Coueur Sublime had stolen the race between the last two.
“But Paul said to me he didn’t want to appear in front too soon ‘cos I think in Leopardstown when he appeared in front, he looked all over the place and indeed he did that again today. Once he gets in front, he just thinks the race is over and he loses concentration, so Paul just timed it perfectly. He timed it beautifully.”
The winning rider was once again beaming afterwards.
“He was actually quite keen early on which was surprising but it was a good sign I suppose,” said Townend. “He was enjoying. Every time he saw a fence he flicked his ears and attacked it.
“I was just trying to delay my challenge a little bit down the straight because he doesn’t kill himself when he hits the front.
“He came down out of the air today. The day he won in Leopardstown, he got an awful fright at one of the early fences, and he just seemed to jump up in the air after that. He loved and attacked his fences there and you couldn’t be happier with him.
“There’s a lot of fences around here. They’re big, solid fences but they’re very inviting and you can make so much ground when you’re jumping as well as this lad does.”
There was British success on Day 3 as Lilith and Rex Dingle justified the faith of trainer Anthony Honeyball in the Close Brothers Irish EBF Mares Handicap Chase.
The Newbury winner seems to be a mare on an upward curve and Honeyball’s decision to roll the dice in Punchestown proved fruitful.