The Great Comeback is full of great racing as entries for opening three days of Punchestown Festival are revealed
WATCH PATRICK MULLINS CHAT THROUGH CLOSUTTON CONTENDERS HERE
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.
Punchestown Pledge to Irish Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal
Press Release Wednesday 13th April 2022 – Punchestown racecourse, in association with the Irish Red Cross, have pledged to donate all proceeds from tickets purchased over this Easter weekend for Ballymore Family Day, Saturday 30th April, to the Irish Red Cross Ukraine crisis appeal.
Red Cross teams are on the ground in Ukraine and surrounding region as well as here in Ireland providing crucial aid for Ukrainian refugees. Your support will enable the Red Cross to continue their work to provide for basic needs such as water, food, medical aid, shelter and other essential needs.
Punchestown racecourse have pledged that all proceeds from tickets purchased for Ballymore Family day between Friday 15th and Monday 18th April will go directly to the Ukraine Crisis Appeal. The Ballymore Family day is the final day of the festival and takes place on Saturday 30th April.
Conor O’Neill, Punchestown CEO said “We are all united in our horror at what is happening in Ukraine. Families and loved ones are being displaced and the consequences of this war are devastating. In addition to our Easter weekend fundraiser, we will be rolling out some additional activities to raise funds in the coming days and weeks. If everyone gives a little it will help a lot.”
Charlie Lamson, Head of Fundraising Irish Red Cross said: “The situation in Ukraine is accelerating and the need for funds to support teams on the ground has never been more crucial. Awareness and action like this Easter weekend appeal by Punchestown will all go towards supporting families that have been torn apart by this conflict. Please support by donating at www.donate.redcross.ie or by purchasing Punchestown tickets for Saturday 30th April on www.punchestown.com”
The Ballymore Family Day is the concluding day of the Punchestown Festival and takes place on Saturday 30th April. The Saturday has become the most popular day at the festival with crowds of over 35,000 expected to attend. A dedicated family activity area means that there is ample room for families and socialisers to enjoy the various aspects of the race day in comfort. By purchasing tickets for and attending Punchestown on Saturday 30th you and your family and friends can make a big difference to those not as fortunate.
The Punchestown Festival gets underway on Tuesday 26th April and runs through to Saturday 30th April. All proceeds for festival Saturday tickets purchased between Friday 15th and Monday 18th April go to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal.
Visit https://punchestown.com/book-tickets/festival-tickets/ or donate directly www.donate.redcross.ie
Equine Greats lead the way at the Punchestown Festival in The Great Comeback
HoneyHill clash, Clan Des Obeaux title defence & Galopin Des Champs/Bob Olinger rematch just some of the treats in store
A stupendous catalogue of some of jump racing’s most lustrous talents feature as the entries for the Punchestown Festival’s 12 Grade 1 races are released today.
Anticipation is building for what is being billed as ‘The Great Comeback’ as the five-day Punchestown Festival gets under way on Tuesday, April 26 and continues right through to Saturday, April 30.
Quality is the watchword throughout all the categories, as a host of previous Grade 1 winners, Cheltenham and Aintree victors, elite champions and stars of the future eye the Punchestown Festival to bring the curtain down on another thrilling season of jumps racing.
The dream heavyweight clash between record-breaking champion, dual Champion Hurdle winner and 2021 PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE victor Honeysuckle and the pretender to her throne, Constitution Hill is still in the pipeline.
The eye is drawn to a host of delectable treats right through the five-day carnival but the prospect of HoneyHill unfolding at such an arena and with so much at stake has the entire racing world on tenterhooks.
The Friday, April 29 feature has attracted ten entries in total, with Henderson also opting to give an entry to Epatante, Honeysuckle’s predecessor as Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner, who chased her home in March before recording an impressive triumph in the Aintree Hurdle on Saturday.
Gordon Elliott has entered Teahupoo and Zanahiyr. The former disappointed in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle when hotly fancied, Zanahiyr was a brave third before falling at the last flight in the Aintree Hurdle when still in contention.
Elliott has enjoyed a very strong campaign, with five domestic Grade 1s, two Cheltenham successes and then Saturday’s stunning Grade 1 double at Aintree, on the same day that Delta Work finished third in the Grand National.
He has many fond memories of the Punchestown Festival and emphasises it as a high priority in his year.
“We’ve made entries for all the Grade 1 races at Punchestown and we will be well represented throughout the week,” said Elliott.
“It’s our season-ending Festival in Ireland and a fantastic five days. We’ve had a bit of luck there in the past and hopefully we can finish the season off with a high. It’s where my owners want to have runners and it’s where I want to have runners.
“We had two winners at Cheltenham and two Grade 1 winners at Aintree and the horses have been running well. We haven’t always had the best of luck in the last few weeks but a lot of the horses that weren’t winning were hitting the crossbar and finishing second so it was brilliant to have the couple of big winners at Aintree and see Delta Work and Escaria Ten run so well in the National itself.
“We’ve had some great days at Punchestown. It’s a brilliant place and they’ve a great team there on the track and behind the scenes and they provide beautiful ground which is so important at this time of year.
“My memories of Punchestown go way back. I won the Grade 1 Champion Bumper there on King’s Road in 1998 for Nigel Twiston-Davies. For me to win a Grade 1 as a jockey was a brilliant thrill and that was another great day… that wasn’t today or yesterday though!
“We won the race with Fayonagh then in 2017 when she did the Cheltenham/Punchestown double which was another great day. She was a special mare.
“I’ll never forget the day Don Cossack won the Punchestown Gold Cup there in 2015. I had made no secret of how much I thought of Don Cossack and he showed how tough and talented he was that day after being third at Cheltenham and winning at Aintree he still came back and put up one of his best performances to date to win at Punchestown.”
Three Stripe Life was among Elliott’s Liverpool leviathans and the six-year-old is included a stellar line-up in Friday’s other Grade 1, the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE, where he could be joined by Minella Crooner, who is also among the IRISH MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE entries.
“I’d hope to have a runner in each of the novice hurdles. Three Stripe Life was brilliant at Aintree and will go over fences next season so he might take in Punchestown but again, he’ll tell us over the next few days. He’s a horse to really look forward to next season.
“Minella Crooner has options of the Alanna Homes and the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdles. It was disappointing that he picked up a setback just before Cheltenham but it was very minor. We were just forced to miss a few days with him at the wrong time but he’ll go to Punchestown fresh now and I’ve been happy with him in the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to getting him back out.”
Sir Gerhard denied Three Stripe Life at Grade 1 level at the Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham and he is also included in the entries for the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle. Other top-tier victors from the Willie Mullins yard, The Nice Guy and Minella Cocooner could also line up, while Aintree Grade 1 winner Jonbon is another possibility to represent Nicky Henderson and champion owner, JP McManus.
The Punchestown Festival kicks into gear on Tuesday, April 26 with three Grade 1s, the BECTIVE STUD CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE starting it all off. Constitution Hill, Sir Gerhard, Three Stripe Life and Jonbon hold entries in this contest too, while County Hurdle winner State Man would be an intriguing contender.
Three Stripe Life’s fellow Cullentra inmate, Mighty Potter got the better of him in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas but will be on the redemption trail after being pulled up in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
“Mighty Potter didn’t run his race at Cheltenham but has come home well and he’ll definitely go to Punchestown and I’d love to have a big winner there for his owners, Andrew and Gemma Brown.
“We also have Fil Dor for them as well and he’ll go for the BALLYMORE CHAMPION FOUR-YEAR-OLD HURDLE on the Saturday. He has to try turn the tables with Vauban, who beat him at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival but we’ll give it a go. Punchestown is a different type of test and if he can run his race we’d be delighted.”
Tuesday’s other Grade 1s include the DOOLEY INSURANCE CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE and WILLIAM HILL CHAMPION CHASE.
The latter may only have attracted seven entries but it offers the likelihood of the Cheltenham champion Energumene resuming rivalries with his Closutton stablemate Chacun Pour Soi, who came a cropper five out at Prestbury Park and has a fantastic Punchestown Festival record. Another stablemate, Ryanair Chase winner Allaho is also included, along with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Aintree Grade 1 winner Fakir D’oudairies.
Meanwhile, the DOOLEY INSURANCE NOVICE CHAMPION CHASE offers the possibility of a fantastic rematch between Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger, with the former having fallen at the last with the Turners Novice Chase at his mercy. Bob Olinger picked up the pieces but was reported afterwards by trainer Henry de Bromhead to have suffered a muscle injury.
There are three more Grade 1 prizes up for grabs on Wednesday, April 27, the most sumptuous dish on the menu perhaps being the LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP, which features the Paul Nicholls-trained defending champion, Clan Des Obeaux attempting a remarkable ‘Double Double’, having repeated his Betway Bowl success of 12 months ago at Aintree last week. His bold, front-running effort in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup last year was one of the highlights of the entire week.
Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo was a length-and-a-half second on that occasion is likely to be back in the fray, as is his Cheltenham successor Minella Indo, who finished second in this year’s renewal to stablemate, A Plus Tard.
Another Grade 1-winning chaser set to take part is the Gordon Elliott-prepped Galvin, who finished just two and a half lengths behind Minella Indo in fourth last month. Elliott has also given an entry to Delta Work, who followed his Cross-Country Chase defeat of Tiger Roll with a very brave run in Saturday’s Grand National.
“Galvin is in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup and hopefully he’ll go there,” Elliott revealed.
“He kept answering every call for us this season and earned his crack at the Gold Cup. He ran well, he finished fourth and if we can freshen him up and get him back to Punchestown in good order he has some very solid form and it would be nice to give him another go at a race like that before he goes on his summer holidays. Delta Work has probably done enough for the season but we’ll have a chat with Michael and Eddie. They are very sporting in how they make their entries and they’ll let the horse tell us how he is closer to the time.”
The RACE & STAY AT PUNCHESTOWN INH FLAT RACE offers the possibility of another interesting reunion in the form of exciting Cheltenham Champion Bumper Facile Vega and American Mike, who was a valiant runner-up.
Sire Du Berlais put up a career best performance in claiming the scalp of dual Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter at Aintree on Saturday and Elliott will see how JP McManus’s two-time Cheltenham Festival winner recovers from those exertions before deciding whether he takes on the likes of his Coral Cup-winning stablemate Commander Of Fleet, as well as Klassical Dream, Thyme Hill and the Emma Lavelle-trained former champion stayer, Paisley Park in the LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS HURDLE on Thursday, April 28.
“Sire Du Berlais probably did surprise me a small bit but he had the form to put up that type of performance and it was great to get him back to that,” Elliott enthused.
“He beat a very good horse in Flooring Porter and we were delighted. He is in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers at Punchestown and we’ll just see how he comes home from Liverpool over the next few days and I’ll speak with JP McManus and Frank Berry and we’ll see what we do.
“We’ve got Commander Of Fleet in there as well and he deserves to take his chance after Cheltenham. He is a horse we’ve always liked and he was good and tough in Cheltenham and is on the ticket for Punchestown.”
Gentleman De Mee lowered the colours of Arkle Chase winner Edwardstone in Aintree last week and he heads a seven-strong Willie Mullins team in the BARBERSTOWN CASTLE NOVICE CHASE that also includes Dublin Racing Festival Grade 1 winner, Blue Lord as well as Gavin Cromwell’s Arkle runner-up Gabynako, who finished just ahead of Blue Lord at Cheltenham.
A fantastic feast concludes on Saturday, April 30, with two Grade 1s. The second of those is the aforementioned Ballymore Champion Four-Year-old Hurdle, while Nicky Henderson includes Epatante as well as Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle winner Marie’s Rock in the COOLMORE IRISH EBF MARES’ CHAMPION HURDLE.
Punchestown racecourse today (21st January 2020) made the major announcement that Ballymore have returned as title sponsors of the final day of Ireland’s most prestigious jump racing festival.
The Ballymore Festival Family day will take place on Saturday 2nd May 2020 and concludes not only the Punchestown Festival but the Irish jump racing season itself. The €100,000 Grade 1 Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle is the centre piece of a top quality seven race card.
The Ballymore Festival Family Day has rapidly become one of the best attended fixtures on the Irish racing calendar attracting a massive crowd of 37,206 at the 2019 event. As the name suggests, the focus of the day is on community, introducing families to Punchestown and opening the world of horse racing to children. A full programme of activities, games and entertainment will be on offer for families with a dedicated indoor Junior Jockey Fun Club available throughout the day.
Ballymore co-founders Sean and Bernardine Mulryan have been long-time supporters of Punchestown. In fact, in 2008 when the Saturday was first integrated into the festival proper, Ballymore were an integral part of the initiative backing the title race of the day. Following a hiatus from horse racing, the award winning international property group returned to the sponsorship ranks in 2017 when sponsoring the valuable Ballymore Handicap Hurdle before taking the opportunity to back the family day concept. The Mulryan’s return to horse racing has been a fortuitous one and could hardly have gone better when their own horse City Island trained by Martin Brassil landed the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Sean Mulryan, Ballymore Chairman & CEO looks forward to Ballymore Festival Family Day saying “The Punchestown Festival is a unique sporting experience and Punchestown itself is special for myself and my family. We have been involved for decades with Punchestown and the opportunity to return to sponsor the family day gives me great pride. I’m delighted to see it go from strength to strength.”
Conor O’Neill Punchestown CEO added “We always say that Punchestown is personal. That goes for the staff, customers, sponsors, locals and members of the racing industry. Everybody who visits Punchestown or does business here should feel like they are part of the place. We are so fortunate that Sean and Bernardine Mulryan share that view and have such special regard for Punchestown. They have been incredible supporters down the years through thick and thin. They are true racing and community people. The Ballymore Festival Family Day gives us the opportunity to introduce this unique event and venue to many families that may be new to the area but also to strengthen the sense of community for all those locals who have been enjoying Punchestown for years. To the Mulryans and Ballymore we say thank you”.
The 2020 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 28th April to Saturday 2nd May and expects to attract crowds in excess of 125,000 over the five days. Billed as the highlight and grand finale of Irish jump racing the Punchestown Festival boasts 12 Grade one races and a prize fund of over €3.2 million attracting the best of Irish and British racing talent. The Punchestown Festival is a massive contributor to the local economy generating over €60 million. With 45 event sponsors, over 17,000 corporate hospitality guests and a huge influx of UK based racing fans Punchestown is a social, sporting and commercial flagship event on the Irish calendar each year.