The Great Comeback is full of great racing as entries for opening three days of Punchestown Festival are revealed
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.
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
For further information please contact:
John Parnell, Director of Sales & Marketing, Sloane. firstname.lastname@example.org
PH: +44 (0)1604 790595
There’s No Place Like Home – Ruby Walsh Joins the Punchestown Team
Champion Ruby Walsh To Champion Punchestown
As the much anticipated 2022 Punchestown Festival approaches the racecourse today announced Ruby Walsh as Punchestown Brand Champion in a move that will see the 12 time champion jockey officially champion the home of Irish jump racing.
The Ruby Walsh story is one that has roots in Punchestown racecourse itself, a place that is very special to Ireland’s winning most national hunt jockey of all time. Born and raised only a few miles as the crow flies from the famous venue, Punchestown has been the stage for many highlights of Walsh’s illustrious career. Now a new chapter begins. In addition to a history-making career between the rails the 42-year old has successfully transitioned to broadcast pundit, presenter and columnist. For Walsh Punchestown is personal. His new role at the home of Irish jump racing extends beyond that of brand ambassador, consultant, expert or advisor. Walsh will work alongside the Punchestown team as they continue to improve, enhance and safeguard the future of the iconic racecourse.
Looking forward to embracing the role Walsh said “For me Punchestown is home and there’s no where like home. It’s is such a special place for me and my family. It’s always been a massive part of my life ever since I was a kid riding ponies and now I bring my own girls there for pony camp. From the festival in spring to the launch of the national hunt proper in the autumn I always seem to be at Punchestown whatever the season. This is more than a passion project and I will focus on areas that I consider to be key to the quality and appeal of racing such as attracting more UK runners to the festival and throughout the season. It’s a fantastic track with brilliant prize money and great hospitality for connections.”
Walsh added: “In 2023 Punchestown celebrates 200 years. Obviously whilst I won’t be around to see it I’d like to make a contribution and play my part in safe guarding the home of Irish jump racing for another 200 years!”
Conor O’Neill Punchestown CEO welcomed Walsh by saying: “Ruby has proven himself to be as capable on the ground as in the saddle when it comes to strategy, policy and the general awareness of the realities of balancing the commerciality of racing as a product whilst respecting the tradition and heritage of the game and the contribution of those who invest in it. With an incredible network of contacts and a career that has spanned 24 years, 213 grade one wins, 12 jockey championships and success in Ireland, the UK, Japan, Australia, France and the United States qualifies Ruby as somewhat of an expert in our eyes!”
The Walsh family is intrinsically linked to Punchestown. The only track in Ireland to showcase the traditional cross-country style racing, the track features the synonymous ‘Ruby’s Double’ a grass double bank which was erected in 1995 by the Moran Family of Pennsylvania in memory of their friend Ruby Walsh senior, father of Ted. The Morans of course owned 2000 Grand National and Irish National hero Papillon trained by Ted and ridden by Ruby. Both Ruby’s sister, top amateur Katie, and sister-in-law Nina Carberry decided to hang up their boots with winning rides at the 2018 Punchestown Festival.
Call it destiny, luck or fate but Walsh’s first win at Punchestown came by default when as a wetbehind the ears 17-year-old amateur he was in the weighroom preparing for home. Enda Bolger had just ridden in the champion bumper but was standing down for the rest of the day. As Bolger walked through the weighroom he tossed a set of colours to Walsh and said “you ride that in the next”. The set of colours were the famous plain navy of Sue and John Magnier, the next was the champion Hunters Chase and ‘that’ was Dixon Varner. Walsh won. The die was cast.
Walsh himself would say that many of his memorable career moments came at Punchestown. He is the winning most jockey in what is now the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup and the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle with six wins in each. Walsh’s gold cup story begins at the very start. Upgraded from a handicap, 1999 was the inaugural running of the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup that we know today. The horse was Imperial Call who in 1996 became the first Irish trained horse to win the Cheltenham Gold cup after a ten-year drought. Imperial Calls career was interrupted by injury but as a ten-year-old now trained by Ray Hurley with a 19-year-old Ruby Walsh on his back Imperial Call returned to the winners enclosure and entered the history books as the first winner of the Punchetsown Gold Cup. The following year an even better tale comes to fruition. Undoubtedly, the most remarkable season in the Walsh family’s racing history to date. Ruby and his father Ted team up to win the Aintree Grand National with Papillion. The show rolls on to the to Easter at Fairyhouse – another national in the bag this time with Commanche Court. Fast forward a couple of weeks to Punchestown and the Dermot Desmond owned ‘Commanche’ steps up to grade 1 glory in the Punchestown Gold Cup. At 20 years of age Ruby Walsh has exceeded and excelled.
Soon after Walsh was balancing a hugely successful arrangement as first rider for both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls. The Walsh-Nicholls partnership certainly benefited Punchestown whilst reaping rewards for the duo and to this day Neptune Collonge is the only back to back winner of the Punchestown Gold Cup. Two of Walshs three Punchestown champion wins came from the Nicholls stable with the quirky Twist Magic (2008) and the brilliant Master Minded (2009).
The Punchestown champion hurdle has been the stage for some of Walsh’s most memorable Punchestown moments. The brilliant Hurricane Fly dominated the number one spot for four consecutive years and whilst Walsh missed out on the 2010 win due to injury it was a copy and paste scenario in 2011, ‘12 and ‘13. Vroum Vroum Mag and the wonderful Faugheen delivered the goods in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
And so to 2019. Rumours rumbled but there was no farewell tour or fanfare. A gold cup win and a wave as he crossed the line on Kemboy for longtime boss Willie Mullins. Walsh family members with emotion etched all over their faces started to gather in the parade ring and the reality began to sink in. Tears ran down Ted seniors face. Then, during his post-race interview over the racecourse PA system Walsh called it a day. Low key, on his own terms, at his favourite track surrounded by family and friends. Class.
Looking ahead to the future Ruby’s first assignment will be at Aintree. A word of advice to winning connections – plan ahead for a trip to Punchestown! One thing is sure, what Ruby Walsh applies himself to he succeeds at through dedication, strategic thinking and hard work and Punchestown will continue to be a beneficiary of this sporting icon.
The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. For full event details and bookings please visit www.punchestown.com
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Punchestown racecourse today (21st January 2020) made the major announcement that Ballymore have returned as title sponsors of the final day of Ireland’s most prestigious jump racing festival.
The Ballymore Festival Family day will take place on Saturday 2nd May 2020 and concludes not only the Punchestown Festival but the Irish jump racing season itself. The €100,000 Grade 1 Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle is the centre piece of a top quality seven race card.
The Ballymore Festival Family Day has rapidly become one of the best attended fixtures on the Irish racing calendar attracting a massive crowd of 37,206 at the 2019 event. As the name suggests, the focus of the day is on community, introducing families to Punchestown and opening the world of horse racing to children. A full programme of activities, games and entertainment will be on offer for families with a dedicated indoor Junior Jockey Fun Club available throughout the day.
Ballymore co-founders Sean and Bernardine Mulryan have been long-time supporters of Punchestown. In fact, in 2008 when the Saturday was first integrated into the festival proper, Ballymore were an integral part of the initiative backing the title race of the day. Following a hiatus from horse racing, the award winning international property group returned to the sponsorship ranks in 2017 when sponsoring the valuable Ballymore Handicap Hurdle before taking the opportunity to back the family day concept. The Mulryan’s return to horse racing has been a fortuitous one and could hardly have gone better when their own horse City Island trained by Martin Brassil landed the Ballymore Novices Hurdle at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Sean Mulryan, Ballymore Chairman & CEO looks forward to Ballymore Festival Family Day saying “The Punchestown Festival is a unique sporting experience and Punchestown itself is special for myself and my family. We have been involved for decades with Punchestown and the opportunity to return to sponsor the family day gives me great pride. I’m delighted to see it go from strength to strength.”
Conor O’Neill Punchestown CEO added “We always say that Punchestown is personal. That goes for the staff, customers, sponsors, locals and members of the racing industry. Everybody who visits Punchestown or does business here should feel like they are part of the place. We are so fortunate that Sean and Bernardine Mulryan share that view and have such special regard for Punchestown. They have been incredible supporters down the years through thick and thin. They are true racing and community people. The Ballymore Festival Family Day gives us the opportunity to introduce this unique event and venue to many families that may be new to the area but also to strengthen the sense of community for all those locals who have been enjoying Punchestown for years. To the Mulryans and Ballymore we say thank you”.
The 2020 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 28th April to Saturday 2nd May and expects to attract crowds in excess of 125,000 over the five days. Billed as the highlight and grand finale of Irish jump racing the Punchestown Festival boasts 12 Grade one races and a prize fund of over €3.2 million attracting the best of Irish and British racing talent. The Punchestown Festival is a massive contributor to the local economy generating over €60 million. With 45 event sponsors, over 17,000 corporate hospitality guests and a huge influx of UK based racing fans Punchestown is a social, sporting and commercial flagship event on the Irish calendar each year.