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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

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.

A Guide for Owners At Punchestown Festival 

First and foremost thank you so much for supporting Punchestown. We truly appreciate and recognise the value of the Irish Racehorse Owner. Whilst we cannot guarantee winners we do our best to ensure you and your guests have an enjoyable visit and that your horses have excellent racing surface, welfare support and stable yard facilities. 

Below is a guide to your festival visit:  

Parking 

There is a limited area of reserved parking available for Owners & Trainers. Please have your AIR card to assist the parking attendants. At peak times the Gardai and parking teams will have to move cars into available spaces to ease congestion. our tip – arrive early. 

Access & Admission

Owners access the course using their AIR cards. The AIR turnstile is located on the right of the main entrance building. The appropriate badges and wristbands will be issued at this point.  Should you not have your AIR card, please contact AIR on +353 (0)1 6760911 as soon as possible. 

 Additional Ticket Requests – Strict Deadline 12 noon the day before the race. 

Owners with runners can request limited additional complimentary tickets through www.racehorseownership.ie/tickets only

Please note that these tickets do not allow access to the Goffs Lounge and are admission and parade ring only. The requested tickets will be available at the ticket collection point inside the main entrance building. The packs will be filed under the registered owners name with the horse name as reference.  Please note the deadline for these requests is 12 noon the day before racing and ALL REQUESTS direct to HRI Ownership.  We regret that we are unable to process after this deadline with no exceptions permitted.

Should you require further tickets above this allocation they can be purchased at 20% discount from Punchestown racecourse. Please note that these tickets must be ordered by 12 noon the day before racing. To order please contact Jean on +353 (0)45 897704 or email jcreaton@punchestown.com 

 

Goffs Owners & Trainer Lounge – Access Limited To Four Per Owner

We are pleased to welcome the return of The Goffs Owners & Trainers Lounge where buffet lunch and refreshments are served. To ensure an enjoyable owner race day experience, access to this venue is strictly limited to four per owner and this includes partnerships, syndicates and clubs regardless of the numbers involved or how many horses they might have running. Only those with appropriate wristbands will gain entry. Due to the number of owners with runners, access for all is not possible and we hope you understand this is to ensure an enjoyable experience for those in attendance. This venue is located on the first floor of the Hunt Stand in the reserved enclosure. Access through the door next to the Bollinger Garden. View Festival Enclosure map HERE

 

Owners & Trainer Bar – Access Limited to those with Owner & Trainer Badges

An additional Owners & Trainers Bar will be located on the ground floor of the Panoramic Stand next to the horse walk. Owner and Trainer badges required for admission to this venue. View Festival Enclosure map HERE

 

AIRO & HRI Owners Marquee

The Association of Irish Racehorse Owners and HRI Ownership will host The Owners Clubhouse at the festival. Please contact AIRO directly to enquire about member benefits.

Contact Details & Raceday Info

All of your raceday info is including in your declaration email from HRI ownership. Please keep an eye on your inbox for this correspondence. 

 

Should you have any queries on any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the HRI Ownership on owners@hri.ie or 

 

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

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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.

 

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
**ENDS**

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