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DAY 1: A cracking start to the Punchestown Festival!

Home | News | DAY 1: A cracking start to the Punchestown Festival!

30th Apr 2024

Over sixteen thousand attendees enjoyed a cracking start to the five-day festival at Punchestown Racecourse. With earlier start times, enhanced facilities, exciting racing featuring no less than 3 grade ones, the Bollinger Best Dressed Competition and even the sun making an appearance, the opening day really gave punters a feel for what’s in store for the rest of the week at the County Kildare Venue.

The feature race on the card, the William Hill Champion Steeplechase (Grade 1) worth €300,000, did not disappoint. Banbridge, trained by Joseph O’Brien and ridden by JJ Slevin in the colours of Ronnie Bartlett beat Captain Guinness by a neck in a nail-biting finish which saw the winner staying on to get the upper hand.

Ciara Toolen, a pharmacist from Dublin, emerged victorious as the winner of the prestigious Bollinger Best Dressed Competition at the Punchestown Festival. Making her debut in the world of best-dressed competitions, Ciara stunned the judges and attendees alike with her impeccable style.

Ciara’s ensemble exuded sophistication and elegance, showcasing her unique fashion sense and attention to detail. Her outfit featured a stunning hat by Linda Fleming of Wexford, a chic suit by Balmain, a stylish coat by Reiss, and a beautifully crafted blouse by Irish designer Aoife McNamara. Ciara’s outfit effortlessly captured the essence of the event, earning her the coveted title of Best Dressed which will see her fast-tracked to Friday’s final on Ladies Day at Punchestown.

The Bollinger Best Dressed Style Council, comprised of fashion industry experts Jess Colivet, Roxanne Parker, and Lawson Mpame, faced a difficult task in selecting a winner from the array of stylish contenders. However, Ciara’s ensemble stood out for its sophistication and timeless appeal, earning high praise from the judges and securing her victory.

Reflecting on the competition, judge Jess Colivet remarked, “The first day of the Bollinger Best Dressed competition at Punchestown racecourse was full of stylish outfits, even with the changing weather. People showed off their elegant and stylish looks, making it tough for us judges to pick a winner. But one person stood out for their sophistication and grace, winning everyone’s admiration.”

Ciara’s inspiration for her winning look stemmed from a hat she had owned, using it as the centrepiece to curate a stunning ensemble that perfectly complemented the atmosphere of the Punchestown Festival.

Ciara Toolen’s triumph in the Bollinger Best Dressed Competition marks a memorable moment in her fashion journey and reinforces Punchestown Festival’s reputation as a premier destination for high fashion and horse racing enthusiasts alike.

Despite the initial damp start to the day, attendees remained undeterred, bringing an abundance of style and glamour to the event. As the day progressed, the sunshine emerged, illuminating the Bollinger garden and adding to the splendour of the occasion.

The attendance was up on the opening day of the festival with 16,361 in comparison to 14,937 in 2023. The first race tomorrow (Wednesday) goes to post at 2.30pm the feature being the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup at 5.25pm.

For more information and updates on the Punchestown Festival visit

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