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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/

Entries for Day 1 Winter Festival 

Entries for Day 2 Winter Festival 

 

 

 

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.

**ENDS**

For further information please contact:

Shona Dreaper,
Punchestown Marketing and Communications Manager
Phone: +353 (0) 45 897704 or email info@punchestown.com

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

VIEW ENTRIES HERE

Like father, like son – Mullins Jnr wants more at “Ireland’s biggest festival”

Patrick runs the rule on big guns bound for Punchestown

**WATCH FULL INTERVIEW CHAT HERE**

When it comes to an insatiable appetite for success, the apple did not fall far from the Willie Mullins tree when it comes to his son, Patrick.
Mullins Jnr, who is also assistant trainer at Closutton, has broken countless records as an amateur jockey and will be crowned champion for a staggering 14th time at the Punchestown Festival next week.

Included among a glittering array of prizes in a stacked CV is a remarkable tally of 22 Grade 1s, the majority of them coming over obstacles against the professionals – quite an achievement for a 6’1’’ man, though he plays down any notion of an achievement on his part to have done so much and lasted so long given that stature and a sweet tooth.

Quite a number of those Grade 1s have come at “Ireland’s biggest festival”, as he labels the climax to the jumps campaign, and indeed, he reveals an ambition to complete the Grand Slam of championship races at Punchestown, having secured the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, William Hill Champion Chase and Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle.
All that is left is the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup, in which he once finished runner-up in, and with dual Ryanair Chase hero Allaho likely to be participating along with dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo, who he warns is not a beaten docket yet having not been suited by a steady pace in the Prestbury Park feature last month, he might just get an opportunity to tick off another incredible box.

This is among a number of topics the 32-year-old discusses in an online interview ahead of the Punchestown Festival. He also comments on the likely clash between Cheltenham Champion Chase victor Energumene and stablemate Chacun Pour Soi as well as the scheduled Punchestown appearances of some of the yard’s other record-breaking haul of Cheltenham winners (ten), Sir Gerhard, Facile Vega and Vauban among them. He also asserts an expectation that Klassical Dream will win the Ladbrokes Stayers’ Hurdle for a second consecutive season. (See Punchestown Festival Stable Tour below).

His observations on his father’s enduring hunger are notable though, particularly when he describes his own disappointment at losing his championship to Jamie Codd in 2017 and how driven he was and continues to be to prevent that happening again until he retires.
“I remember pulling up on Wicklow Brave (after winning the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle) and David Mullins gave me a tap on the back and said, ‘Oh that’ll make up for not winning the championship,’ and I kind of shook my head and David couldn’t understand it,” Mullins details.

“We have our knees-up at the end of the meeting but I went off and got a McDonald’s on my own and rang a friend in England just to chat. I was after having four winners, two Grade 1s, but to lose the championship was very disappointing and definitely I was determined to get it back the next year because I feel that riding for Willie, you should be winning it.
“Last season it went down to the wire again, myself and Jamie, and we came out the right side of it. Not that I got no pleasure out of it, but I got no pleasure out of putting Jamie into the position where I had been. When you put a lot into the season and you just come up short in the last couple of days, it is tough.”

As evidenced by the setting of new goals, despite all he has achieved, Mullins wants more. Listen to his description of his father, and whether he recognises it or not, he might as easily be talking about himself.
“What sums Willie up is the year we lost the 60 Gigginstown horses. Willie would’ve been in his late 50s, he’d have been champion trainer eight or nine times, it would have been very easy just to sit back and consolidate. But he didn’t. He went out and got more owners, he got more horses, he got more staff, he got more problems and now we have more horses than we had before then.
“Being a good trainer is more than having fit horses. He’s well able to source good owners and he’s well able to source good horses for those owners and that’s the key.

“We have so many expensive horses coming into our yard every season. There’s new blood every year and that’s it. He’s never sat back. He’s continually looking for the next crop of horses and the next crop of owners as well.”
Long before he was successful at the Punchestown Festival, Mullins had fond memories of it, even when Closutton was not the pre-eminent operation and Noel Meade was the perennial champion. “Florida Pearl was the horse. He’d a big, white face. The red colours of the O’Learys from Cork. Him winning the Gold Cup under Barry Geraghty stands out.”

The aforementioned triumph on Wicklow Brave was part of a famous day in 2017 when Mullins rode a treble, including two Grade 1s to help his father leapfrog Gordon Elliott and snatch the champion trainer title on the penultimate fixture of the season.
The following year, “Duracell Bunny”, Un De Sceaux gave him the thrill of galloping to victory in the William Hill Champion Chase. Last season, he finished leading rider and bagged two more Grade 1 prizes, including the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle on Klassical Dream.

Earlier on, there was a first ever Cheltenham/Punchestown Champion Bumper double, achieved with Cousin Vinny in 2008, when he was just a Leaving Cert student. He repeated the trick on Champagne Fever in 2012 and this time, celebrated appropriately.
Uncle Junior’s two La Touche Cup wins might stand out most of all, however.
“He was a real character, he was grumpy. He had a big wart on his ear, he wasn’t very pretty. Some days he’d go, some days he wouldn’t. He used be way out the back and then fly home.

“I think his first La Touche is one of the favourite races of my career, if not the favourite… he had 12-7 on his back and we got up in the last stride. I just thought, 12-7, four and a half miles, getting up and winning by a short head; that was for me what jump racing is all about and I got immense satisfaction from that.

“A couple of years we got up and beat Nina (Carberry) in a tight finish on good ground and any time you beat Nina was memorable. He was a horse who gave me some fabulous memories.”

Patrick Mullins looks ahead to some main contenders for the Punchestown Festival 

**WATCH THE FULL CHAT HERE**

Sir Gerhard 
Sir Gerhard is very versatile, he can go for either the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle or the Alanna Homes Novice Hurdle as he has won Grade 1s over both trips. I suppose it will be a case of what way you split our three up with Dysart Dynamo and State Man there as well. We’ll have to see closer to the time what way Willie will split them up but Sir Gerhard came out of Cheltenham very, very good. He jumped much better there and we don’t know what got into him at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival – maybe he was just feeling something on the day. I thought his performance at Cheltenham could be marked up hugely on account of how keen he was early on. I think he is very versatile and will be very difficult to beat over either trip.

Dysart Dynamo 
For me Punchestown really plays to Dysart Dynamo’s strengths. He has won there twice. He gave me a horrendous time last year – it was like wrestling a bear around! I think hurdles helps him concentrate a little bit and it should definitely do after Cheltenham but I think Punchestown is a track that suits his strong running style.

State Man  
I’d be very disappointed if he’s not a Grade 1 winner in the future. He showed plenty of speed to win the County Hurdle and it’s just about splitting up the novice hurdlers. There is a fantastic crop there going forward for next year.

Chacun Pour Soi
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.

Energumene 
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.

Allaho 
His options are limited. We didn’t go to Aintree as he put in a huge performance at Cheltenham and we thought asking him to come back that quick would be tough. When we probably have two good horses in the two mile race, the Ladbrokes Gold Cup over three miles at Punchestown would look the obvious race for him to go to. It’s not like he doesn’t stay three-miles, he ran Minella Indo very close over an extended 3m1f on better ground. He is just probably at his optimum over two and a half miles but he is still a very good horse over three miles. I do think he is a better horse going left handed as he does adjust to his left but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could win a Punchestown Gold Cup.

Al Boum Photo
He ran all right at Cheltenham. I think it turned into a bit of a sprint which obviously suited A Plus Tard and it didn’t suit our fella – not that it would have made any difference. I think he ran quite well and he ran really well (at Punchestown) last year when he was second to Clan Des Obeaux. I just wouldn’t forget about him, he hasn’t suddenly become a second-class horse. He is still a very, very good horse and if Allaho does run he’d be a very nice spare ride to pick up!

Facile Vega 
All our good horses go to Punchestown so this has been the plan. The Champion Bumper at Punchestown is worth more than the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham so it would be madness not to go for it. He has come out of the race bucking and squealing and David Porter is very happy with him. Better ground shouldn’t inconvenience him and obviously his dam (Quevega) used to go from Cheltenham to Punchestown so hopefully it won’t be any problem for him.

St James’s Gate
He ran a fabulous race in third at Cheltenham. He only came into the yard at Christmas and Tornado Flyer is the last horse that fitted that type of profile so he could still be improving.

Klassical Dream
We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing. I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win next week at Punchestown.

Vauban 
I’d imagine he will go here. The good ground will help and he is a horse with a lot of speed. It turned into a bit of a sprint in the Triumph Hurdle and that probably played to his strengths but for him to be able to miss the last and be able to pick up and run away from the other two, I think he is better than your average Triumph Hurdle winner. Hopefully he can back that up but I can’t see any reason why the track or the ground wouldn’t play to his strengths.

Gaelic Warrior 
The ground on the first day at Cheltenham was proper good ground, quicker than it would normally be there and the Fred Winter was very unusual in that they went very slowly. We got beaten by a Galileo horse, a flat bred, in a sprint on good ground. He started to jump right, maybe just feeling the ground a little bit as he is a big jumping type horse and I think he is better than the bare form and he was probably unlucky on the day with circumstances. Is he going to beat Vauban? Maybe not, but he’s definitely one going forward for next year that we are very excited about.

*WATCH AGUSTA HERE*

Eyes to the skies as iconic brand Agusta flies a VIP helicopter over the Punchestown Festival.

Three heritage brands – Punchestown festival hosts the launch of the iconic Agusta brand and its unique helicopter flight experience, in partnership with Sloane Helicopters, the sole Ireland and UK Distributor for Agusta.

 

The 2022 Punchestown Festival will host the much-anticipated presentation of a Leonardo AW109 Trekker helicopter to the Irish market. A custom-built aviation reception and showroom, jointly sponsored by Leonardo and Sloane Helicopters, will overlook the famous Punchestown finishing straight and will welcome guests and potential clients throughout the five day sporting highlight. The AW109 Trekker will be available to view throughout the festival at the aviation reception marquee. The presentation of the AW109 Trekker is supported by the launch of Agusta, a Leonardo brand. The Agusta brand representing the unique combination of heritage and forward-looking attitude at Leonardo for VIP helicopters.

Agusta is an iconic name in the global rotorcraft industry with unmatched capabilities in terms of performance, technology, refined Italian style and customisation. With new solutions soon to be launched, Leonardo is further evolving and striving to provide a unique flight experience. The centrepiece of this in person showcase will be the AW109 Trekker, the latest addition to the bestselling AW109 helicopter series, widely regarded as the benchmark helicopter in the VIP transport sector. This exclusive launch event is brought to Punchestown in collaboration with Leonardo, the global leader in corporate/VIP helicopter manufacturing and Sloane Helicopters, the Sole Ireland and UK Distributor for Agusta helicopters .

John Parnell, Sales Director at Sloane Helicopters looks ahead to the launch: “The Irish market holds vast potential in the vertical flight domain and demand for helicopters is rapidly increasing. The Agusta branding is focused on providing unrivalled passenger experiences, further consolidating Agusta’s position as the benchmark for VIP helicopters. Sloane is excited to be introducing new helicopter options and services to the market in Ireland. As a proud partner of the leading helicopter manufacturer for 27 years, Sloane is looking forward to meeting customers in the special setting of the Punchestown Festival.

Mattia Barbarossa, Leonardo UK & Ireland Global Sales said:  “We are very pleased to host the Irish launch of the AW109 Trekker and our new Agusta brand at such a unique and impressive setting as Punchestown. The festival presents us with an opportunity to personally meet with clients who appreciate and recognise the supremacy of the Agusta brand legacy.”

Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill welcomed his comments: “It seems like a long time ago that we first met with Mattia and John to discuss the launch of a new helicopter range at the Punchestown Festival. Our discussion that day highlighted that the two brands, whilst offering vastly different products, had plenty of common ground with heritage, customer experience and quality at the forefront. This in turn leads to shared clientele who seek out and recognise such qualities. It is a pleasure to host such a unique launch event at the home of Irish jump racing”.

The Punchestown Festival is underway on Tuesday 26th  April and runs to Saturday 30th April. Full event details and ticket bookings are available at www.punchestown.com

**ENDS**

For further information please contact:

John Parnell, Director of Sales & Marketing, Sloane. info@sloanehelicopters.com

PH: +44 (0)1604 790595 

DOOLEY INSURANCE GROUP TO TOP AND TAIL PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL       

One of Ireland’s largest independent, family owned and run insurance brokers, the Dooley Insurance Group will once again ‘top and tail’ the Punchestown Festival and will sponsor two races during the famous festival.  The Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase will run at Punchestown on the opening day, Tuesday, 26th of April.  The group will also sponsor the Dooley Insurance Group WFA Cross Country Steeplechase on the closing day of the festival, Saturday, 30th of April. The €125,000 Grade 1 contest is set to be one of the most thrilling races of the season and has attracted a top-quality field of 20 entries including two of the most exciting chasers on the circuit, Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs.  The race is expected to produce some very exciting racing action when this pair are expected to lock horns at the curtain raiser of the festival.

Established over sixty-five years ago the Dooley Insurance Group is now one of Ireland’s largest independent insurance brokers with over 12,000 clients throughout the country. The Dooley Insurance Group are also an official insurance partner of Punchestown Racecourse. Despite the challenges of the pandemic the group has grown and has acquired the long-established business of Padraic O’ Connor Insurances in Offaly in December 2021 with further acquisitions on the cards. The company now has 15 members of staff and will soon double its office space at the Naas office at Millennium Park in order to accommodate new team members.

Tim Dooley, Managing Director of the Dooley Insurance Group said, “We began sponsoring at Punchestown in 2017 and since that time our support has grown in importance and stature and is Grade 1 status since 2019.  The Grade 1 race has attracted some of the most incredible horses and we are particularly thrilled this year with the quality of the entries. The prize money too has also gone up from €100,000 to €125,000 which is testament to the importance of the fixture.  The growth in our business over the last 18 months has been phenomenal and the pandemic has reminded customers how important it is to have adequate cover and to protect the things and people that matter most you.  Health insurance, business insurance and cyber security insurance are particularly important now, and we offer all of these services to our ever-growing client base.  Ultimately, though our growth is due to our strong relationships with our customers. They want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a ‘real person’ and get bespoke and unbiased advice, and that is what we offer.  We can offer people solutions and products from over 50 different providers so we will always offer the ‘best fit’ solution for our clients.  We are delighted to be part of Punchestown again and to have the opportunity to showcase our brand and services – it’s an iconic festival.”

Mary Healy Dooley, Marketing & PR Director of The Dooley Insurance Group said, “Punchestown has always been at the heart of the community here in Kildare and this sponsorship offers us the perfect platform to promote our business and our brand to our target audience through the mediums of television, radio, print and social media.  It also allows us to increase our digital footprint as more and more racing fans will watch the action unfold through their smart phone or other digital devices.”

Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill said, “The Dooley Insurance Group have been brilliant supporters of Punchestown as both sponsors and service providers. We aim to engage with dynamic, market leading businesses and always seek out local providers where we can so the Dooley Group are an ideal fit here at Punchestown.   The Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase has been one of the most hotly contested races in recent times and this year’s renewal is billed as one of the highlights of the season. We are really looking forward to it.”.

The Punchestown Festival will run from Tuesday, 26th April to Saturday 30th of April. For more information on the Dooley Insurance Group please see www.dooleyinsurances.ie  or call (045) 431642. For further information on the Punchestown Festival see www.punchestown.com

ENDS-

For further press information, photography or to interview Tim Dooley of the                  Dooley Insurance Group please contact Aileen O’Brien, O’Brien PR.  (045) 407017 or mobile (086) 8403624 aileen@obrienpr.com

NOTE TO EDITORS:

The Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase and is open to horses aged five years or older. It is run over a distance of about 3 miles and ½ furlong (3 miles and 120 yards, or 4,938 metres), and during its running there are seventeen fences to be jumped. The race is for novice chasers and has seen some past winners going on to find racing glory in both the UK and Ireland.