Energumene will have five rivals in the William Hill Champion Chase as he bids for a second consecutive Cheltenham-Punchestown double following declarations for Tuesday’s opening leg of the five-day Punchestown Festival, which boasts prize money of €3.3m throughout the week. Tony Bloom’s brilliant two-mile chaser would be winning at the festival for the third year in a row were he to prevail but his trainer, Willie Mullins has certainly not spared him in terms of opposition.
The soon-to-be 17-time champion trainer also saddles open Grade 1 winners Blue Lord, Gentleman De Mee and Chacun Pour Soi, the latter announcing himself as a force at the festival in 2019 when galloping to victory in the Barberstown Castle Novice Chase, which was won two years later by Blue Lord. That season, Chacun Pour Soi added the William Hill Champion Chase to his record and he finished runner-up last term to Energumene. Gentleman De Mee missed out on Cheltenham and will be the freshest of the quartet as a result and while Mullins admitted in his Punchestown preview this week that it would be hard to see Energumene beaten on his favourite soft ground, Gentleman De Mee’s seven-length defeat of Blue Lord in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown in February illustrated his ability on a sounder surface. He is the likely pace angle in the race.
Henry de Bromhead’d Magic Daze is also likely to be prominent and travelling exertions excepted, should be relatively fresh too having been left at the start in the Mares’ Chase at Cheltenham. She had been an impressive winner of a listed mares’ chase at Naas before that. The declaration of Rebel Gold is an interesting one and trainer Pat Foley admits that he is chasing some prize money with a progressive horses who he expects to see the best of next season. Foley has enjoyed a tremendous campaign, scoring at a strike rate of 19 per cent and Rebel Gold has been his flagbearer, winning the Dan & Joan Moore at Fairyhouse before securing the Grade 3 Newlands Chase at Naas with Denis O’Regan in the plate on each occasion.
The Aughabeg trainer learned his craft by the side of his late father, Tom and enjoyed some wonderful occasions at Punchestown, a track where the People’s Champion, Danoli scored three times. He cuts a realistic approach to his current star’s prospects.
“The original plan was to go to Fairyhouse for the Grade 2 but we just got a bit of a setback,” said Foley today. “After he won in Naas, Denis said it’d be no harm to give him an entry in some of the good races as they can cut up a little bit. So maybe it’s all for luck. “He had a slight muscle strain so we didn’t want to take the chance on it in Fairyhouse but we’re quite happy with the horse now and we’ll let him take his chance. The most realistic goal is probably to finish fourth but even if he finishes sixth of the six, you’re picking up prize money and on ratings, we are the lowest rated horse in it. If he’d had a proper clear run, I’d be going there hoping to beat one or two of them but we’re not going to be in any way disappointed wherever he finishes.
“We’re really looking forward to next season with him. He definitely improved this season. He’s a big, backward horse. It was my own mistake last year, trying to step him up in trip and make him a stayer, where he’s really an out-and-out two-miler. We’ll be keeping him at that trip and in graded races.
“I remember Danoli going to Punchestown and it’s been a lucky track even for myself since I started. The horses have been doing well there. It’s lovely to be going there, even if it may be a step too far for him this time, but it won’t do any harm to let people see you have a horse good enough to compete in some of these races. If he puts in a decent run we’ll all be very, very happy.”
The KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle is the first of the festival’s 12 Grade 1s and five horses have been declared, with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle second and third, Facile Vega and Diverge, as well as Dublin Racing Festival Grade 1 winner Il Etait Temps representing Willie Mullins, while local trainer Oliver McKiernan saddles No Looking Back. Gordon Elliott’s Found A Fifty completes the field, with the fit-again Jordan Gainford getting the leg up. “Things just didn’t work out for Found A Fifty at Aintree,” said Elliott earlier this week. “He’s a very talented animal and we didn’t see the best of him there and he’s one to be very excited about for the coming seasons.”
There are six contestants for the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase, which sees Willie Mullins stepping Appreciate It up to three miles for the first time since winning a point-to-point when in Pat Doyle’s care five years ago. Derek O’Connor rode Appreciate It that day and he was also in the saddle when the then Ellmarie Holden-trained Sir Gerhard scored through the flags but Mullins decided to give him a try at three miles for the first time under Rules as well, to see if he can rediscover his hurdle form over the larger obstacles. James Du Berlais and Classic Getaway complete the Mullins squad. Emmet Mullins has an intriguing runner in Feronily, who has been campaigned aggressively all season, despite only winning his point-to-point – again under Derek O’Connor – last November. Since then, the Paul Byrne-owned six-year-old has been third in a Grade 2 bumper, made his hurdling debut when fourth in a Grade 2 hurdle and then finished runner-up on his chasing debut at Grade 3 level a fortnight ago. Journey With Me also has a chance for the in-form Henry de Bromhead yard, coming into the race off a good Grade 3 victory in Naas having previously been just touched off by subsequent Cheltenham victor Impervious at Punchestown.
Galopin Des Champs to take on nearest rivals and de Bromhead’s special Envoi as Punchestown Festival Grade 1 entries revealed
Strong British contingent included as jumps season finishes with feast of quality fare
The potential for a mouth-watering renewal of the LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP involving the first three home in the Cheltenham version plus a host of other elite performers is the headline act as entries for the Punchestown Festival’s dozen Grade 1 races are released today.
The demand for the hottest tickets in ‘Town is immense as the Irish jumps season concludes in traditional fashion, with an all-star cast of equine and human heroes turning out in pursuit of some of the most significant prizes on the calendar from Tuesday, April 25 to Saturday, April 29.
The cross-channel challenge is always a vital ingredient of the festival mix and included among the plethora of quality-laden contests are 16 British-trained entries courtesy of Punchestown regulars Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Harry Fry, as well as Jeremy Scott, Donald McCain, Mark Rimell and Milton Harris.
LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP
Former Punchestown Festival winner Galopin Des Champs, who began his current campaign with an impressive triumph in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at the Kildare venue last December, delivered on all that was expected of him with a breathtaking victory in the Cheltenham Gold Cup under a brilliant Paul Townend last month.
Champion trainer, Willie Mullins was quick to commit the Closutton behemoth to the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup on Wednesday, April 26 and a rematch with Cheltenham runner-up Bravemansgame could be on the cards if Paul Nicholls’ King George VI Chase winner comes out of this weekend’s intended Aintree engagement in good fettle.
The interest doesn’t just centre on this pair however, as third-placed Conflated is also on target to do battle once more. Gordon Elliott also enters dual course winner Galvin and Fury Road, while the Mullins team is completed by previous Punchestown Festival winners Chacun Pour Soi and Capodanno, as well as another Grade 1 victor, Janidil.
Minella Indo is another former festival winner that could line up, the 2021 Cheltenham Gold Cup hero looking to make up for a below-par effort at Prestbury Park last time out.
His stablemate, Envoi Allen is an intriguing entrant, having illustrated his supreme talent once more by registering a third Cheltenham success in the Ryanair Chase and trainer Henry de Bromhead has issued a positive bulletin.
“This is a definite aim for Envoi Allen,” declared de Bromhead today. “He was a good winner of the Grade 1 in Down Royal over three miles and his only blip this season was in the King George VI at Cheltenham. At that time, we had three horses that went over to England and ran appallingly, though Envoi and A Plus Tard had independent reasons for that. Still, they were all beaten after three fences.
“In fairness to Envoi, he has done very little wrong and was brilliant in the Ryanair. He seems really good since then.
“Minella Indo was very disappointing in the Gold Cup. The start was a mess for him and nothing seemed to go right after that. He seems well again now and we’ve got three weeks to decide what we want to do.”
The possible field of 13 is completed by ‘Shark’ Hanlon’s very progressive Hewick, Fastorslow from the Martin Brassil yard and the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite.
PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE
There are nine entries for the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday, April 28, headed by last year’s Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle hero and subsequent Morgiana Hurdle victor State Man.
A triple Grade 1 winner this term alone, the Marie Donnelly-owned six-year-old’s reputation was hardly dented by finishing a nine-length second to Constitution Hill at Cheltenham and appears Willie Mullins’ best chance of ending a six-year absence from the presentation ceremony, since Wicklow Brave scored in 2017.
Mullins has four contenders in all, the others being previous festival and course winners Vauban, Echoes In Rain and Sharjah.
Nicky Henderson includes former Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, who has accumulated seven Grade 1 triumphs in a brilliant career.
Zanahiyr bounced back to form when third at Cheltenham and is likely to run for Gordon Elliott, who has included Pied Piper as well. Fellow Meath trainer, Lorna Fowler has entered the hugely consistent Colonel Mustard.
Henry de Bromhead has taken the last two renewals with the incomparable Honeysuckle, who retired with a fourth straight Cheltenham success last month. The Knockeen conditioner could be represented by Ballyadam.
“Ballyadam is in good form. He’s rated 150 now and his run was really good in the County Hurdle (when he finished fifth). He has been running well and you do think he’s entitled to win one of them. He will get an entry in the Punchestown Handicap Hurdle as well but we said we’d stick him in here.
“It’s a race we have had so many great memories from thanks to Honeysuckle and it was just great to see her go out the way she did at Cheltenham. It was a fairytale ending and we’ll be following how she gets in her new life closely.”
WILLIAM HILL CHAMPION CHASE
Energumene will be a short-priced favourite with the sponsors to win the William Hill Champion Chase for the second year in a row on Tuesday, April 25 and record his third festival success on the spin. Willie Mullins’ bold-jumping, strong-travelling nine-year-old retained his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown in facile fashion and heads a possible field of nine that also includes stablemates Blue Lord, Chacun Pour Soi and Gentleman De Mee.
Captain Guinness ran superbly to finish runner-up to Energumene and is one of three entrants for Henry de Bromhead, though Maskada, a convincing victor of the Grand Annual Chase, and Magic Daze, who was left at the start in the Mares’ Chase, could have other assignments.
“Captain Guinness ran a blinder,” said de Bromhead. “We hoped he’d finish in the first three so it was brilliant that he did. We’ll see nearer the time where he’ll go but he’s been very good again this year.
“Funny enough, we were in two minds about running Magic Daze in the ground at Cheltenham so she sort of made the decision for us! I don’t think it was any reflection on her, it was just unfortunate at the start and hopefully it’ll be for luck and she’s a fresh horse now.
“Maskada is rated 150 now. She has black type already and has won two big handicaps this year which is amazing. She will also have an entry in the Hanlon Concrete Irish EBF Mares’ Chase and we’d probably be leaning towards that with her.”
LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS’ HURDLE
The Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle on Thursday, April 27 has attracted another top-class group, with the first three home in the dramatic Cheltenham three-miler all included in the 17 entrants along with the reigning champion and a host of others that have scored at the highest level.
Sire Du Berlais came out on top in the shadow of the Cotswolds and is one of three entries for Gordon Elliott, along with Teahupoo, who finished a close third having not had a clear run, and Queens Brook, who was third to Honeysuckle in the Mares’ Hurdle.
The Jeremy Scott-trained Dashel Drasher split the Elliott pair at Cheltenham and has been given the option of making a first appearance on Irish soil
Klassical Dream has plundered three Grade 1s at the Punchestown Festival and will be pursuing a third consecutive triumph in this contest. Willie Mullins also has the long-absent Monkfish, Asterion Forlonge and Whatdeawant entered.
Home By The Lee was fifth at Cheltenham after a dreadful error ruined his chances and the Joseph O’Brien-trained gelding would be a major contender if taking his chance, having already been a comfortable winner of the Jack de Bromhead Christmas Hurdle and Lismullen Hurdle this term.
Last year’s runner-up, Ashdale Bob represents local trainer, Jessica Harrington while Nicky Henderson has signed up Champ and Marie’s Rock, the latter a Punchestown Festival victor 12 months ago.
Summerville Boy is an interesting entrant. The former Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner has been nursed back to form by Henry de Bromhead, making his first appearance for the Waterford trainer at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve after a 420-day absence.
He followed that up by finishing a distant second to Teahupoo in the Galmoy Hurdle and then defeating Asterion Forlonge at Thurles last month.
“We were delighted with him to get on the board again. He did it really nicely and Rachael (Blackmore) was really happy with him. He jumped brilliant and all in all, it was really good.
“In fairness, the handicapper has been good to him so he’ll get a handicap entry too but I’d say at the moment, we’re leaning towards this.”
BALLYMORE CHAMPION FOUR-YEAR-OLD HURDLE
The Ballymore Champion Four-Year-Old Hurdle takes place on Saturday, April 29 and is on the cards for up to 18 horses.
Lossiemouth reversed Dublin Racing Festival form with stablemate Gala Marceau in the Triumph Hurdle and the Willie Mullins pair lead the entries. Also included is Cheltenham Juvenile Handicap Hurdle winner Jazzy Matty from the Gordon Elliott string, while Milton Harris is considering the option for Scriptwriter to make the trip from his Wiltshire base.
TUESDAY, APRIL 25 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACES
There are 19 entries for the PUNCHESTOWN CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE, with Marine Nationale in pursuit of a third Grade 1 this season, having sprinted clear of Facile Vega in the Supreme at Cheltenham. Barry Connell’s pride and joy is unbeaten in five runs, only beginning his career in a Punchestown bumper on May 28 last year and also scoring at the track in his maiden hurdle.
The first five from Cheltenham have entries, Facile Vega, Diverge, Il Etait Temps and Hunters Yarn part of a strong Willie Mullins contingent that also includes Ballymore one-two, Impaire Et Passe and Gaelic Warrior.
Gordon Elliott has five entries – American Mike, Amir Kabir, Doctor Bravo, Found A Fifty and Irish Point – while Joseph O’Brien’s High Definition is another interesting possibility.
Inthepocket finished fourth in the Supreme and is one of three entries for Henry de Bromhead. Magical Zoe was a fast-finishing runner-up in the Jack de Bromhead Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham while the talented Arctic Bresil hasn’t been seen since failing to fire in Sandown in early January.
“Arctic Bresil was very disappointing in Sandown but he seems good again now,” reveals de Bromhead. “We couldn’t find any obvious reason for that so we backed off him for a few weeks. We’re hoping to run him in Fairyhouse on Sunday and we’ll see what we’ll do with Punchestown then. He has also been given the option of the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE and we’re hoping he can put his best foot forward now.
“Inthepocket has both entries as well. He ran really well in Cheltenham and is a lovely horse. Again, we’re keeping all options open for him.
“We were delighted with Magical Zoe in Cheltenham. She is another with a few different options over the next few weeks. The ground will probably be the determining factor in where we choose to go.”
The DOOLEYS INSURANCE GROUP CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE has attracted 25 entries, including Gerri Colombe and Mighty Potter, two of five possible runners for Gordon Elliott. Allegorie De Vassy, Appreciate It, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Sir Gerhard are part of Willie Mullins’ ten-strong representation.
Noel Meade has three entered, with the exciting Thedevilscoachman included, while Mahler Mission would be a notable runner for John McConnell. Complete Unknown is a possible overseas participant for Paul Nicholls.
Amirite, Journey With Me and Life In The Park are the options for Henry de Bromhead.
“Journey With Me won a Grade 3 at Naas last month. He ran very well behind Impervious the time before at Punchestown so it was great to win a graded race with him. There are lots of good races after Cheltenham so he’s got plenty of entries again.
“Robcour have other good novices as well so we’ll see what way that ends up but we are keen to try him over three miles again. He was disappointing last year at Punchestown but we’re hoping that was an end-of-season type of run so we’d be leaning towards this.
“Amirite and Life In The Park are two nice horses that have other options. Life In The Park will get an entry in the EMS Copiers Novice Handicap Chase as well while Amirite might run in the Irish Grand National.”
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACES
A whopping 28 horses have been entered for the IRISH MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE. Paul Nicholls could give Albert Bartlett victor Stay Away Fay a chance to complete a notable double with Noel Meade’s runner-up Affordale Fury also involved along with Paul Nolan’s third-placed Sandor Clegane.
Maximilian beat Stay Away Fay on his last run at Doncaster in January and Donald McCain’s seven-year-old would certainly add to proceedings if declared.
Absolute Notions and Three Card Brag are part of a seven-strong Gordon Elliott squad, while Gaelic Warrior and Nick Rockett are two of nine entries for Willie Mullins.
Deep Cave and Harry Des Ongrais could be saddled by Henry de Bromhead.
“We plan to run Deep Cave at Fairyhouse on Sunday. Hopefully that will go well and after that we will see where we go at Punchestown. Harry Des Ongrais ran well at Limerick over Christmas when he finished third and we just decided to put him away for the Spring after that.”
Octogenarian trainer John Kiely and Leaving Cert student/jockey John Gleeson are on target for another Cheltenham-Punchestown double as Champion Bumper hero, A Dream To Share heads a list of 23 entered in the RACE AND STAY AT PUNCHESTOWN INH FLAT RACE.
THURSDAY, APRIL 27 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
Seven horses have been given entries for the BARBERSTOWN CASTLE NOVICE CHASE but there is no arguing with the quality as Cheltenham and Dublin Racing Festival hero El Fabiolo looks to sign off a sensational season in style, with the admirable Dysart Dynamo and Saint Roi also possibly involved for Willie Mullins.
There are two British-trained entrants. Nicky Henderson’s Jonbon was five and a half lengths behind El Fabiolo as runner-up in the Arkle Chase. Notlongtillmay also finished second, giving Laura Morgan a huge thrill when chasing home Stage Star in the Turners.
Banbridge (Joseph O’Brien) and Indiana Jones (Mouse Morris) are other proven graded performers.
FRIDAY, APRIL 28 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
There are 29 entries for the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE and though Impaire Et Passe has other entries, it would be a surprise were Willie Mullins’ splendid Ballymore Novices’ winner at Cheltenham not aimed at this target, though his stablemate Gaelic Warrior, who chased him home, could conceivably run in any of the three novice hurdle events during the week.
Champ Kiely, who completed a 1-2-3 for Closutton in the Ballymore, is another possible contestant, while Facile Vega is an interesting inclusion whose participation could possibly see Impaire Et Passe rerouted.
The Henry de Bromhead pair of Arctic Bresil and Inthepocket and Noel Meade’s Affordale Fury are among many included with multiple entries.
SATURDAY, APRIL 29 – ADDITIONAL GRADE 1 RACE
The Punchestown Festival has two Grade 1 races on its concluding day, kicking off with the COOLMORE IRISH EBF MARES’ CHAMPION HURDLE, which has attracted 11 entrants.
Three of those come from Nicky Henderson, including last year’s 1-2, Marie’s Rock and Epatante/.
Love Envoi would be a fantastic addition, as Harry Fry’s daughter of Westerner contributed to a scintillating race and occasion by making Honeysuckle dig so deep to secure Cheltenham glory in her final race. The trainer has signalled his intent to make the trip across the Irish Sea.
Group 1 heroine Princess Zoe is a likely runner for Tony Mullins, although she also holds an entry in Thursday’s LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS’ HURDLE, while Willie Mullins’ Echoes In Rain may take up this option rather than the PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE.
Press Release 14/02/2023 – Punchestown Racecourse today announced that new sponsor Concept Colours will join the action packed line up on Sunday 19th February at the home of Irish jump racing. The Concept Colours Rated Novice Chase will take place over two miles and offers a prize fund of €21,500.Concept Colours are the industry leader when it comes to painting and decorating contracts across multiple sectors including residential, commercial, education and special interest. With an impressive client base that lists Glenveagh, Cairn, Kingscroft, The Elliott Group, Bennett Construction, Sisk and Bam, the Wexford based firm have established themselves as the go to painting contractor in Ireland.
- Francin (FR) (JABerry)
- Gallyhill (GElliott)
- Hollow Games (GElliott)
- Indiana Jones (FR) (MFMorris)
- Politicise (NTSlevin)
- Wild Hunt (GB) (DGHogan)
Racing gets underway at 1.10pm on Sunday 19th September and in addition to the Concept Colours race features the QuinnBet Grand National Trial and ARKequine AquaTabs InLine P.P. Hogan Cross Country. Advance admission discount and complimentary racecards available at www.punchestown.com
In hosting the final Grade 1 race staged in Ireland this side of Christmas, Punchestown will be welcoming one of the most exciting prospects in the National Hunt ranks as Galopin Des Champs kick starts his season.
Off the track temperatures are set to reach proper National Hunt racing range but on Punchestown Racecourse’s famous green rolling hills the heat will be turned up a notch by Galopin Des Champs as he prepares to show off his Gold Cup credentials. The dual Grade 1 winning novice chaser, who was also successful in Grade 1 company over hurdles at the 2021 Punchestown Festival, Galopin Des Champs has seven potential rivals as he bids to give Willie Mullins a fifth straight win in the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase. Haut En Couleurs and the Cheltenham Festival winning Stattler are on the same mission to extend Willie Mullins’ winning streak to five in the John Durkan Chase, but the 2m4f Grade 1 has been a happy hunting ground for a variety of trainers over the years.
Patrick Mullins is focussed solely on his father’s crew and the champion amateur rider who assists his father in Closutton had an upbeat bulletin today. “This has been a lucky race for us in the past,” Mullins reflected. “This looks an ideal starting point for Galopin Des Champs and we’ve been very happy with him at home. Hopefully he can continue where he left off last year.”
Mullins added: “The race is probably a little bit on the short side for Stattler but options are limited and it will be a nice place to get his season up and running and work forward from there. “Haut En Couleurs is obviously a good bit wrong at the ratings but we will take a closer look at the race in the coming days and we’ll see if he runs or not.”
Household names decorate the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase roll of honour. Native Upmanship, Florida Pearl, Beef Or Salmon, Kicking King and The Listener were all heroes of yesteryear, while more recently Min made the race his own with a hat-trick from 2018 to 2020 after Cheltenham Gold Cup winners Don Cossack and Sizing John had lit up Kildare in December.
Gordon Elliott won the race previously with the aforementioned Don Cossack and his challenge relies on the Gigginstown-owned pair of Conflated and Fury Road this time around.
Joseph O’Brien’s four-time Grade 1 winning Fakir D’oudairies will be aiming to add his name to an illustrious roll of honour, while the Mouse Morris-trained French Dynamite will return to Grade 1 company after a fine effort in the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham last month.
Grade 1 performers aren’t confined to the Grade 1 titled race at Punchestown on Sunday as Appreciate It, Flame Bearer and Highland Charge all feature in the William Hill Beginners Chase. The William Hill Mares Novice Hurdle sees Deeply Superficial and La Malmason among the notable inclusions. Durkan Chase day action gets underway from 12.30pm with advance ticket discounts available on www.punchestown.com
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.
Patrick Mullins looks ahead to some main contenders for the Punchestown Festival
**WATCH THE FULL CHAT HERE**
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 email@example.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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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 email@example.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
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