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.
With Ireland’s flagship jump racing festival only days away, Punchestown Racecourse today announced a major three-year sponsorship deal with global professional services firm KPMG.
The newly titled €125,000 Grade 1 KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle takes place on the opening day of the sporting highlight, Tuesday 25th April, and will raise the curtain for no less than twelve grade one contests across the five-day programme.
The 2023 renewal of the two-mile championship race has received a top-quality field of 19 entries featuring Cheltenham festival hero Marine Nationale in pursuit of a third grade one this season. Barry Connell’s pride and joy is unbeaten in five runs, only beginning his career at Punchestown in May of last year.
The first five from Cheltenham have entries in the KPMG sponsored Punchestown equivalent with Facile Vega, Diverge, Il Etait Temps and Hunters Yarn part of a strong Willie Mullins contingent that also includes Ballymore one-two, Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior.
Gordon Elliott has five entries – American Mike, Amir Kabir, Doctor Bravo, Found A Fifty and Irish Point – while Joseph O’Brien’s High Definition is another interesting possibility. Inthepocket finished fourth in the Supreme Hurdle at Cheltenham last month and is one of three entries for Henry de Bromhead along with Magical Zoe and the talented Arctic Bresil.
KPMG is no stranger to the jump racing scene since teaming up with the all-conquering Rachael Blackmore as brand ambassador in 2021. This deal builds on KPMG’s role as a partner of the 20×20 initiative to help elevate women’s sport and dedication that already includes ongoing sponsorships of Irish golfer Leona Maguire and the Dublin Ladies Gaelic football team.
Speaking at the announcement of KPMG’s support for the Punchestown Festival, Managing Partner Seamus Hand said: “Today’s announcement is a extension of KPMG’s support for Irish sport and homegrown talent. We are proud to have Rachael Blackmore as our brand ambassador and it’s inspirational for many to see her and other Irish athletes compete and win on racing’s biggest stages. We look forward to the return to Punchestown for the grand finale of the season, and we are delighted to be part of this occasion”.
Punchestown Racecourse’s Janet Creighton welcomed KPMG to the impressive sponsorship panel “We are delighted to welcome this announcement of what is now the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle. This race boasts an all-star line-up of previous winners including Hurricane Fly, Faugheen and Jezki who all went on to achieve great things – it truly is a key indicator for excellence. We appreciate that KPMG consider and curate the events and individuals that they choose to support. That translates as commitment to building relationships which is an approach that we share so we really look forward to working alongside the KPMG team over the next three years and beyond”.
The 2023 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 25th to Saturday 29th April. A programme of 40 races and a prize fund of over €3.3 million attracts the best of Irish and British racing talent. For full information on one of Ireland’s favourite sporting, social and corporate hospitality events please visit www.punchestown.com
Galopin Des Champs to take on nearest rivals and de Bromhead’s special Envoi as Punchestown Festival Grade 1 entries revealed
Strong British contingent included as jumps season finishes with feast of quality fare
The potential for a mouth-watering renewal of the LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP involving the first three home in the Cheltenham version plus a host of other elite performers is the headline act as entries for the Punchestown Festival’s dozen Grade 1 races are released today.
The demand for the hottest tickets in ‘Town is immense as the Irish jumps season concludes in traditional fashion, with an all-star cast of equine and human heroes turning out in pursuit of some of the most significant prizes on the calendar from Tuesday, April 25 to Saturday, April 29.
The cross-channel challenge is always a vital ingredient of the festival mix and included among the plethora of quality-laden contests are 16 British-trained entries courtesy of Punchestown regulars Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Harry Fry, as well as Jeremy Scott, Donald McCain, Mark Rimell and Milton Harris.
LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP
Former Punchestown Festival winner Galopin Des Champs, who began his current campaign with an impressive triumph in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at the Kildare venue last December, delivered on all that was expected of him with a breathtaking victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup under a brilliant Paul Townend last month.
Champion trainer, Willie Mullins was quick to commit the Closutton behemoth to the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, April 26 and a rematch with Cheltenham runner-up Bravemansgame could be on the cards if Paul Nicholls’ King George VI Chase winner comes out of this weekend’s intended Aintree engagement in good fettle.
The interest doesn’t just centre on this pair however, as third-placed Conflated is also on target to do battle once more. Gordon Elliott also enters dual course winner Galvin and Fury Road, while the Mullins team is completed by previous Punchestown Festival winners Chacun Pour Soi and Capodanno, as well as another Grade 1 victor, Janidil.
Minella Indo is another former festival winner that could line up, the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero looking to make up for a below-par effort at Prestbury Park last time out.
His stablemate, Envoi Allen is an intriguing entrant, having illustrated his supreme talent once more by registering a third Cheltenham success in the Ryanair Chase and trainer Henry de Bromhead has issued a positive bulletin.
“This is a definite aim for Envoi Allen,” declared de Bromhead today. “He was a good winner of the Grade 1 in Down Royal over three miles and his only blip this season was in the King George VI at Cheltenham. At that time, we had three horses that went over to England and ran appallingly, though Envoi and A Plus Tard had independent reasons for that. Still, they were all beaten after three fences.
“In fairness to Envoi, he has done very little wrong and was brilliant in the Ryanair. He seems really good since then.
“Minella Indo was very disappointing in the Gold Cup. The start was a mess for him and nothing seemed to go right after that. He seems well again now and we’ve got three weeks to decide what we want to do.”
The possible field of 13 is completed by ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s very progressive Hewick, Fastorslow from the Martin Brassil yard and the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite.
PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE
There are nine entries for the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday, April 28, headed by last year’s Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle hero and subsequent Morgiana Hurdle victor State Man.
A triple Grade 1 winner this term alone, the Marie Donnelly-owned six-year-old’s reputation was hardly dented by finishing a nine-length second to Constitution Hill at Cheltenham and appears Willie Mullins’ best chance of ending a six-year absence from the presentation ceremony, since Wicklow Brave scored in 2017.
Mullins has four contenders in all, the others being previous festival and course winners Vauban, Echoes In Rain and Sharjah.
Nicky Henderson includes former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, who has accumulated seven Grade 1 triumphs in a brilliant career.
Zanahiyr bounced back to form when third at Cheltenham and is likely to run for Gordon Elliott, who has included Pied Piper as well. Fellow Meath trainer, Lorna Fowler has entered the hugely consistent Colonel Mustard.
Henry de Bromhead has taken the last two renewals with the incomparable Honeysuckle, who retired with a fourth straight Cheltenham success last month. The Knockeen conditioner could be represented by Ballyadam.
“Ballyadam is in good form. He’s rated 150 now and his run was really good in the County Hurdle (when he finished fifth). He has been running well and you do think he’s entitled to win one of them. He will get an entry in the Punchestown Handicap Hurdle as well but we said we’d stick him in here.
“It’s a race we have had so many great memories from thanks to Honeysuckle and it was just great to see her go out the way she did at Cheltenham. It was a fairytale ending and we’ll be following how she gets in her new life closely.”
WILLIAM HILL CHAMPION CHASE
Energumene will be a short-priced favourite with the sponsors to win the William Hill Champion Chase for the second year in a row on Tuesday, April 25 and record his third festival success on the spin. Willie Mullins’ bold-jumping, strong-travelling nine-year-old retained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in facile fashion and heads a possible field of nine that also includes stablemates Blue Lord, Chacun Pour Soi and Gentleman De Mee.
Captain Guinness ran superbly to finish runner-up to Energumene and is one of three entrants for Henry de Bromhead, though Maskada, a convincing victor of the Grand Annual Chase, and Magic Daze, who was left at the start in the Mares’ Chase, could have other assignments.
“Captain Guinness ran a blinder,” said de Bromhead. “We hoped he’d finish in the first three so it was brilliant that he did. We’ll see nearer the time where he’ll go but he’s been very good again this year.
“Funny enough, we were in two minds about running Magic Daze in the ground at Cheltenham so she sort of made the decision for us! I don’t think it was any reflection on her, it was just unfortunate at the start and hopefully it’ll be for luck and she’s a fresh horse now.
“Maskada is rated 150 now. She has black type already and has won two big handicaps this year which is amazing. She will also have an entry in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Mares’ Chase and we’d probably be leaning towards that with her.”
LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS’ HURDLE
The Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday, April 27 has attracted another top-class group, with the first three home in the dramatic Cheltenham three-miler all included in the 17 entrants along with the reigning champion and a host of others that have scored at the highest level.
Sire Du Berlais came out on top in the shadow of the Cotswolds and is one of three entries for Gordon Elliott, along with Teahupoo, who finished a close third having not had a clear run, and Queens Brook, who was third to Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle.
The Jeremy Scott-trained Dashel Drasher split the Elliott pair at Cheltenham and has been given the option of making a first appearance on Irish soil
Klassical Dream has plundered three Grade 1s at the Punchestown Festival and will be pursuing a third consecutive triumph in this contest. Willie Mullins also has the long-absent Monkfish, Asterion Forlonge and Whatdeawant entered.
Home By The Lee was fifth at Cheltenham after a dreadful error ruined his chances and the Joseph O’Brien-trained gelding would be a major contender if taking his chance, having already been a comfortable winner of the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle and Lismullen Hurdle this term.
Last year’s runner-up, Ashdale Bob represents local trainer, Jessica Harrington while Nicky Henderson has signed up Champ and Marie’s Rock, the latter a Punchestown Festival victor 12 months ago.
Summerville Boy is an interesting entrant. The former Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has been nursed back to form by Henry de Bromhead, making his first appearance for the Waterford trainer at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve after a 420-day absence.
He followed that up by finishing a distant second to Teahupoo in the Galmoy Hurdle and then defeating Asterion Forlonge at Thurles last month.
“We were delighted with him to get on the board again. He did it really nicely and Rachael (Blackmore) was really happy with him. He jumped brilliant and all in all, it was really good.
“In fairness, the handicapper has been good to him so he’ll get a handicap entry too but I’d say at the moment, we’re leaning towards this.”
BALLYMORE CHAMPION FOUR-YEAR-OLD HURDLE
The Ballymore Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle takes place on Saturday, April 29 and is on the cards for up to 18 horses.
Lossiemouth reversed Dublin Racing Festival form with stablemate Gala Marceau in the Triumph Hurdle and the Willie Mullins pair lead the entries. Also included is Cheltenham Juvenile Handicap Hurdle winner Jazzy Matty from the Gordon Elliott string, while Milton Harris is considering the option for Scriptwriter to make the trip from his Wiltshire base.
TUESDAY, APRIL 25 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACES
There are 19 entries for the PUNCHESTOWN CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE, with Marine Nationale in pursuit of a third Grade 1 this season, having sprinted clear of Facile Vega in the Supreme at Cheltenham. Barry Connell’s pride and joy is unbeaten in five runs, only beginning his career in a Punchestown bumper on May 28 last year and also scoring at the track in his maiden hurdle.
The first five from Cheltenham have entries, Facile Vega, Diverge, Il Etait Temps and Hunters Yarn part of a strong Willie Mullins contingent that also includes Ballymore one-two, Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior.
Gordon Elliott has five entries – American Mike, Amir Kabir, Doctor Bravo, Found A Fifty and Irish Point – while Joseph O’Brien’s High Definition is another interesting possibility.
Inthepocket finished fourth in the Supreme and is one of three entries for Henry de Bromhead. Magical Zoe was a fast-finishing runner-up in the Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham while the talented Arctic Bresil hasn’t been seen since failing to fire in Sandown in early January.
“Arctic Bresil was very disappointing in Sandown but he seems good again now,” reveals de Bromhead. “We couldn’t find any obvious reason for that so we backed off him for a few weeks. We’re hoping to run him in Fairyhouse on Sunday and we’ll see what we’ll do with Punchestown then. He has also been given the option of the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE and we’re hoping he can put his best foot forward now.
“Inthepocket has both entries as well. He ran really well in Cheltenham and is a lovely horse. Again, we’re keeping all options open for him.
“We were delighted with Magical Zoe in Cheltenham. She is another with a few different options over the next few weeks. The ground will probably be the determining factor in where we choose to go.”
The DOOLEYS INSURANCE GROUP CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE has attracted 25 entries, including Gerri Colombe and Mighty Potter, two of five possible runners for Gordon Elliott. Allegorie De Vassy, Appreciate It, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Sir Gerhard are part of Willie Mullins’ ten-strong representation.
Noel Meade has three entered, with the exciting Thedevilscoachman included, while Mahler Mission would be a notable runner for John McConnell. Complete Unknown is a possible overseas participant for Paul Nicholls.
Amirite, Journey With Me and Life In The Park are the options for Henry de Bromhead.
“Journey With Me won a Grade 3 at Naas last month. He ran very well behind Impervious the time before at Punchestown so it was great to win a graded race with him. There are lots of good races after Cheltenham so he’s got plenty of entries again.
“Robcour have other good novices as well so we’ll see what way that ends up but we are keen to try him over three miles again. He was disappointing last year at Punchestown but we’re hoping that was an end-of-season type of run so we’d be leaning towards this.
“Amirite and Life In The Park are two nice horses that have other options. Life In The Park will get an entry in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase as well while Amirite might run in the Irish Grand National.”
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACES
A whopping 28 horses have been entered for the IRISH MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE. Paul Nicholls could give Albert Bartlett victor Stay Away Fay a chance to complete a notable double with Noel Meade’s runner-up Affordale Fury also involved along with Paul Nolan’s third-placed Sandor Clegane.
Maximilian beat Stay Away Fay on his last run at Doncaster in January and Donald McCain’s seven-year-old would certainly add to proceedings if declared.
Absolute Notions and Three Card Brag are part of a seven-strong Gordon Elliott squad, while Gaelic Warrior and Nick Rockett are two of nine entries for Willie Mullins.
Deep Cave and Harry Des Ongrais could be saddled by Henry de Bromhead.
“We plan to run Deep Cave at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Hopefully that will go well and after that we will see where we go at Punchestown. Harry Des Ongrais ran well at Limerick over Christmas when he finished third and we just decided to put him away for the Spring after that.”
Octogenarian trainer John Kiely and Leaving Cert student/jockey John Gleeson are on target for another Cheltenham-Punchestown double as Champion Bumper hero, A Dream To Share heads a list of 23 entered in the RACE AND STAY AT PUNCHESTOWN INH FLAT RACE.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
Seven horses have been given entries for the BARBERSTOWN CASTLE NOVICE CHASE but there is no arguing with the quality as Cheltenham and Dublin Racing Festival hero El Fabiolo looks to sign off a sensational season in style, with the admirable Dysart Dynamo and Saint Roi also possibly involved for Willie Mullins.
There are two British-trained entrants. Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon was five and a half lengths behind El Fabiolo as runner-up in the Arkle Chase. Notlongtillmay also finished second, giving Laura Morgan a huge thrill when chasing home Stage Star in the Turners.
Banbridge (Joseph O’Brien) and Indiana Jones (Mouse Morris) are other proven graded performers.
FRIDAY, APRIL 28 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
There are 29 entries for the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE and though Impaire Et Passe has other entries, it would be a surprise were Willie Mullins’ splendid Ballymore Novices’ winner at Cheltenham not aimed at this target, though his stablemate Gaelic Warrior, who chased him home, could conceivably run in any of the three novice hurdle events during the week.
Champ Kiely, who completed a 1-2-3 for Closutton in the Ballymore, is another possible contestant, while Facile Vega is an interesting inclusion whose participation could possibly see Impaire Et Passe rerouted.
The Henry de Bromhead pair of Arctic Bresil and Inthepocket and Noel Meade’s Affordale Fury are among many included with multiple entries.
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
The Punchestown Festival has two Grade 1 races on its concluding day, kicking off with the COOLMORE IRISH EBF MARES’ CHAMPION HURDLE, which has attracted 11 entrants.
Three of those come from Nicky Henderson, including last year’s 1-2, Marie’s Rock and Epatante/.
Love Envoi would be a fantastic addition, as Harry Fry’s daughter of Westerner contributed to a scintillating race and occasion by making Honeysuckle dig so deep to secure Cheltenham glory in her final race. The trainer has signalled his intent to make the trip across the Irish Sea.
Group 1 heroine Princess Zoe is a likely runner for Tony Mullins, although she also holds an entry in Thursday’s LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS’ HURDLE, while Willie Mullins’ Echoes In Rain may take up this option rather than the PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE.
Tote Ireland Share Festive Cheer with Free Entry to New Years Eve at Punchestown
Punchestown Racecourse today announced that Tote Ireland are to spread festive cheer to one and all with complimentary entry to the popular New Year’s Eve race meeting at Punchestown on Saturday 31st December.
This will be the first in a three year deal that sees Ireland’s only pool betting operator for horse racing open the doors and welcome racegoers to the home of Irish jump racing for a free afternoon of great sport and festive entertainment. The complimentary entry is a further enhancement on Tote’s involvement at the popular meeting where in the past they have distributed free race cards on arrival. For the upcoming fixture on 31st December, in addition to no-fee entry, Tote Ireland also invite punters to join them in the Tote Hall for Spin the Wheel spot prize giveaways through the afternoon. Lots of prizes to be won the day such as Punchestown membership and race day tickets.
General Manager of Tote Ireland Ross Kierans expanded on the initiative: “Like so many involved in the racing industry, all the team at Tote Ireland were delighted to see racegoers return to track in 2022 and to close out the year with complimentary admission for all at Punchestown for their New Year’s Eve race meeting. We are already looking forward to an action-packed racing calendar for 2023 and extend best wishes to all our staff and customers this Christmas and for the New Year.”
Leona Hughes, Punchestown Sponsorship Manager said “The New Year’s Eve Countdown race meeting is a local favourite and racing tradition. There is a great atmosphere, everyone’s in good form, the Punchestown team meet and greet race goers with festive treats like mulled wine and mince pies on arrival. We all know that life has become expensive in recent times so this is a lovely way to say thank you to all those who have attended throughout the season and wish them well for the year ahead. Tote Ireland are a constant presence at Punchestown, as they are at every track around the country, and they share in the gesture of sincerely thanking everyone for their support. Now it’s our turn to thank Ross, Lynda and the Tote Ireland team for their continued support”.
Punchestown is proud to host the final race meeting in Ireland each year before passing the baton to our colleagues in Fairyhouse who raise the curtain the following day. Action at Punchestown on Free Tote New Years Eve meeting gets underway early with racing starting between 11.45am and 12 noon. Given the festive theme of the day the Race & Dine packages tend to be very popular so early booking is recommended. Please visit www.punchestown.com or Punchestown social media platforms for full information.
In hosting the final Grade 1 race staged in Ireland this side of Christmas, Punchestown will be welcoming one of the most exciting prospects in the National Hunt ranks as Galopin Des Champs kick starts his season.
Off the track temperatures are set to reach proper National Hunt racing range but on Punchestown Racecourse’s famous green rolling hills the heat will be turned up a notch by Galopin Des Champs as he prepares to show off his Gold Cup credentials. The dual Grade 1 winning novice chaser, who was also successful in Grade 1 company over hurdles at the 2021 Punchestown Festival, Galopin Des Champs has seven potential rivals as he bids to give Willie Mullins a fifth straight win in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. Haut En Couleurs and the Cheltenham Festival winning Stattler are on the same mission to extend Willie Mullins’ winning streak to five in the John Durkan Chase, but the 2m4f Grade 1 has been a happy hunting ground for a variety of trainers over the years.
Patrick Mullins is focussed solely on his father’s crew and the champion amateur rider who assists his father in Closutton had an upbeat bulletin today. “This has been a lucky race for us in the past,” Mullins reflected. “This looks an ideal starting point for Galopin Des Champs and we’ve been very happy with him at home. Hopefully he can continue where he left off last year.”
Mullins added: “The race is probably a little bit on the short side for Stattler but options are limited and it will be a nice place to get his season up and running and work forward from there. “Haut En Couleurs is obviously a good bit wrong at the ratings but we will take a closer look at the race in the coming days and we’ll see if he runs or not.”
Household names decorate the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase roll of honour. Native Upmanship, Florida Pearl, Beef Or Salmon, Kicking King and The Listener were all heroes of yesteryear, while more recently Min made the race his own with a hat-trick from 2018 to 2020 after Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Don Cossack and Sizing John had lit up Kildare in December.
Gordon Elliott won the race previously with the aforementioned Don Cossack and his challenge relies on the Gigginstown-owned pair of Conflated and Fury Road this time around.
Joseph O’Brien’s four-time Grade 1 winning Fakir D’oudairies will be aiming to add his name to an illustrious roll of honour, while the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite will return to Grade 1 company after a fine effort in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month.
Grade 1 performers aren’t confined to the Grade 1 titled race at Punchestown on Sunday as Appreciate It, Flame Bearer and Highland Charge all feature in the William Hill Beginners Chase. The William Hill Mares Novice Hurdle sees Deeply Superficial and La Malmason among the notable inclusions. Durkan Chase day action gets underway from 12.30pm with advance ticket discounts available on www.punchestown.com
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 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 Returns with The Great Comeback Festival
Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April.
*Advance ticket sales up 80% * Hospitality Sold Out * 2020 Price Freeze *
*Big Business – 50 event sponsors & 800 companies involved *
*UK attendance increase despite Brexit in the interim*
Punchestown racecourse returns with The Great Comeback Festival from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April and all indications show that this could be the largest attendance in the events modern history with crowds of up to 137,000 expected over five days.
A prize fund of €3.6 million ensures that the biggest and brightest stars of jump racing will go to battle on the track at the season grand finale. History makers and record breakers like Rachael Blackmore, Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls OBE, Henry de Bromhead and Davy Russell will present a showcase of horse racing in front of an appreciative Punchestown Festival crowd for the first time since 2019. Amongst the equine all-star line-up is racing darling and dual champion hurdler Honeysuckle, along with Allaho, Energumene and UK raider Clan Des Obeaux who will bid to win back to back Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cups. The first of the 40 race programme including 12 grade 1 contests gets underway on Tuesday 26th at 3.40pm and concludes with the 31st running of the Punchestown Kidney Research Charity race on Saturday evening. Gates open 12.30 each day.
The impressive sponsorship portfolio at Punchestown is fully subscribed with 50 event sponsors and partners listed. Leading bookmakers Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill are title holders of feature races each day. Sean and Bernardine Mulryan’s Ballymore are front and centre on festival Saturday 30th April. The media, property, financial, hotel and tourism and construction sectors all feature among the corporate support line up. A majority of the flagship deals are three-year arrangements and offer an excellent commercial footing as the event rebuilds for the future.
In recognition of the fortifying support and goodwill received by the Punchestown team from clients, sponsors, members and racing fans, Punchestown management committed to a price freeze at 2020 levels despite costs increasing by between 20% to 40% across the board. The level of anticipation ahead of the great Comeback Festival is evident in pre-event bookings with advance ticket sales up over 80%. The Punchestown festival is Ireland’s largest sporting corporate entertainment occasion and the sold out sign went up some weeks ago with waiting lists in place for last minute cancellations.
History maker Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle will be in action in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle Friday 29th April.
Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill looked ahead to the event: “It’s so good to be back. Interest is through the roof and everyone is keen to gather and celebrate. We say it repeatedly but people make Punchestown. We cannot explain how much it meant when so many sponsors committed to three-year deals back in the uncertain times of 2021, hospitality clients rolled over their bookings and money on account since summer 2019! We were one of few businesses that offered our members a full refund and I think three or four out of almost 600 availed of the offer. This is a testament to relationships we build and how we like our customers and clients to feel they are part of this special place. Like everyone, we are really feeling the increases in the cost of doing business but we committed to honouring our 2020 prices and know that what we do over the next five days will lay the foundations for the next five to ten years.”
Punchestown is big business with roughly 912 firms directly and indirectly involved. Despite apprehension about the impact of Brexit, the UK market has not only maintained but increased and accounts for much of the €25.2 million spent in the local and national economy with hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions, transport providers and retailers all enjoying benefits of the mass pilgrimage to the home of Irish jump racing.
Whilst the top quality racing takes centre stage, the Punchestown Festival is also renowned as one of the most colourful stylish events on the Irish social calendar. Over 17,000 hospitality clients from 802 companies, 163 of which are UK based, will enjoy delicious seasonal menus prepared and served by three catering companies, Aramark, Lily & Wild and Brook involving over 60 chefs, 420 catering staff and 250 bar staff. Three tonnes of fresh vegtables, over 60 kilos of artisan cheeses and 15,000 portions of petit four desserts and canapes will be enjoyed over the five days. Attendances are expected to reach record levels at Punchestown this week for The Great Comeback Festival.
Throughout the enclosures wonderful style will be at the forefront as the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady competition injects colour and glamour. One of Ireland’s most prestigious style competitions takes place from Tuesday with daily winners progressing to the grand final on Ladies Day, Friday 29th April. Festivalgoers and style seekers are invited to arrive early and make their way through the retail area on Osprey Avenue to the Style Quarter in the Bollinger Lounge and Garden. Alongside this venue is The Hunt Stand home to the famous Sky and festival bars and gateway to the pavilions and trackside lawns.
People make Punchestown and family and community feature strongly as always. The Ballymore Family day has been the success story of the festival with crowds reaching 36,000 in 2019 with children accounting for over 8,000 of this number. Socialisers and parents looking for an adult day out need not worry as there is a dedicated family fun area in the northern enclosure as the usual location is still required for HSE services. Community is intertwined with the festival and local GAA clubs Ballymore Eustace, Eadestown and Naas are involved in a stewarding capacity and receive donations to their club fundraisers.
The famous Bollinger Best Dressed competition takes place from Tuesday to the grand final on Ladies Day, 29th April. The overall winner will enjoy a money can’t buy trip to Paris and chateaux Bollinger in the champagne region.
Perhaps the most important race of the entire week, given that it makes such a difference to so many lives, is the Punchestown Kidney Research Charity race that acts as a curtain closer to the festival and indeed the entire jump racing season in Ireland. The remaining official charity partners include Kildare Autism Network, the Clongowes Wood College Duck Push, Cara Girls rescue Centre, Irish Wheelchair Association, The Irish Injured Jockeys fund and Samaritans.
Finally and very importantly the weather forecast for the week ahead appears favourable and mostly dry.
The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. Tickets from €30pp are available at www.punchestown.com or on the day itself, however, the racecourse advice is to to purchase in advance.
Discount group deals are now sold out. Concession senior, student and teen tickets are only available to purchase on the day. There will be contactless and cash payment throughout the venue but visitors are advised to collect cash in advance of their arrival to avoid queues.
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.