Mullins six “all intended runners” in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown this weekend
A glittering array of talent looks set to line up in the inaugural Grade 1 hurdle of the season, with champion trainer Willie Mullins confirming that all six of his entrants “are intended runners” in Sunday’s Grade 1 Unibet Morgiana Hurdle (in memory of Michael Rafferty @AnalogsDaughtr), the feature of Punchestown’s weekend Winter Festival.
That provides the mouth-watering prospect of Closutton’s highly-touted Triumph Hurdle winner, Vauban taking on his Ballymore Novice Hurdle-winning comrade Sir Gerhard in the opening Grade 1 hurdle of the season. Mullins could also unleash the Punchestown Grade 1 Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle winner State Man, with the trio all representing different owners.
As well as the young gun Vauban, the only four-year-old in the field, Rich Ricci may have his famous pink and lime green spotted colours carried by previous Unibet Morgiana Hurdle winners Saldier and Sharjah, the latter triumphing here in 2018 and 2021 and his stablemate having scored in 2019. The undoubtedly classy Vauban is embarking on a Champion Hurdle path that few Triumph Hurdle winners can navigate but Sunday’s Punchestown highlight is the obvious starting point. “We are always well represented in the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle because it comes at a perfect time in the calendar for our horses,” Mullins said. “It allows us to go on to Christmas and continue the season from there then before we come back to Punchestown in April.”
Of his runners, Mullins added: “At this stage, all six are intended runners. Vauban is an exciting prospect after his win in the Triumph Hurdle last year but it is difficult for four-year-olds to win this race. I said if we’re going to make a Champion Hurdle horse out of him then let him take on good horses in the Morgiana.
“I’m going back over hurdles with Saldier for the first time in a while, when he disappointed at Gowran Park last February and he’s bound to be a little ring rusty. “Like Saldier, Sharjah won the race before and I think the ground is going to suit him so we’re looking forward to getting his season going after missing the spring following his fourth Matheson at Leopardstown. “Sir Gerhard has been doing things right at home. I’m very happy with him, while State Man is a horse that’s been improving all through last season. If he keeps improving, he’s the right age to make it into the Champion Hurdle field.”
The Mullins sextet is completed by Echoes In Rain, herself a course and distance winner at Peerless Punchestown, having won the 2021 Grade 1 eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle. “Echoes In Rain runs well around Punchestown. The two miles here might be a little sharp for her,” the champion trainer concluded.
The Unibet Morgiana Hurdle takes place on Sunday 20th November. Advance booking tickets with €5pp discount and free racecard are on sale until the day before your selected race meeting. There will be live music, bus transfers after racing, free kids entertainment and delicious food options across the weekend. Visit www.punchestown.com/fixtures/
Punchestown Returns with The Great Comeback Festival
Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April.
*Advance ticket sales up 80% * Hospitality Sold Out * 2020 Price Freeze *
*Big Business – 50 event sponsors & 800 companies involved *
*UK attendance increase despite Brexit in the interim*
Punchestown racecourse returns with The Great Comeback Festival from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April and all indications show that this could be the largest attendance in the events modern history with crowds of up to 137,000 expected over five days.
A prize fund of €3.6 million ensures that the biggest and brightest stars of jump racing will go to battle on the track at the season grand finale. History makers and record breakers like Rachael Blackmore, Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls OBE, Henry de Bromhead and Davy Russell will present a showcase of horse racing in front of an appreciative Punchestown Festival crowd for the first time since 2019. Amongst the equine all-star line-up is racing darling and dual champion hurdler Honeysuckle, along with Allaho, Energumene and UK raider Clan Des Obeaux who will bid to win back to back Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cups. The first of the 40 race programme including 12 grade 1 contests gets underway on Tuesday 26th at 3.40pm and concludes with the 31st running of the Punchestown Kidney Research Charity race on Saturday evening. Gates open 12.30 each day.
The impressive sponsorship portfolio at Punchestown is fully subscribed with 50 event sponsors and partners listed. Leading bookmakers Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill are title holders of feature races each day. Sean and Bernardine Mulryan’s Ballymore are front and centre on festival Saturday 30th April. The media, property, financial, hotel and tourism and construction sectors all feature among the corporate support line up. A majority of the flagship deals are three-year arrangements and offer an excellent commercial footing as the event rebuilds for the future.
In recognition of the fortifying support and goodwill received by the Punchestown team from clients, sponsors, members and racing fans, Punchestown management committed to a price freeze at 2020 levels despite costs increasing by between 20% to 40% across the board. The level of anticipation ahead of the great Comeback Festival is evident in pre-event bookings with advance ticket sales up over 80%. The Punchestown festival is Ireland’s largest sporting corporate entertainment occasion and the sold out sign went up some weeks ago with waiting lists in place for last minute cancellations.
History maker Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle will be in action in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle Friday 29th April.
Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill looked ahead to the event: “It’s so good to be back. Interest is through the roof and everyone is keen to gather and celebrate. We say it repeatedly but people make Punchestown. We cannot explain how much it meant when so many sponsors committed to three-year deals back in the uncertain times of 2021, hospitality clients rolled over their bookings and money on account since summer 2019! We were one of few businesses that offered our members a full refund and I think three or four out of almost 600 availed of the offer. This is a testament to relationships we build and how we like our customers and clients to feel they are part of this special place. Like everyone, we are really feeling the increases in the cost of doing business but we committed to honouring our 2020 prices and know that what we do over the next five days will lay the foundations for the next five to ten years.”
Punchestown is big business with roughly 912 firms directly and indirectly involved. Despite apprehension about the impact of Brexit, the UK market has not only maintained but increased and accounts for much of the €25.2 million spent in the local and national economy with hotels, restaurants, visitor attractions, transport providers and retailers all enjoying benefits of the mass pilgrimage to the home of Irish jump racing.
Whilst the top quality racing takes centre stage, the Punchestown Festival is also renowned as one of the most colourful stylish events on the Irish social calendar. Over 17,000 hospitality clients from 802 companies, 163 of which are UK based, will enjoy delicious seasonal menus prepared and served by three catering companies, Aramark, Lily & Wild and Brook involving over 60 chefs, 420 catering staff and 250 bar staff. Three tonnes of fresh vegtables, over 60 kilos of artisan cheeses and 15,000 portions of petit four desserts and canapes will be enjoyed over the five days. Attendances are expected to reach record levels at Punchestown this week for The Great Comeback Festival.
Throughout the enclosures wonderful style will be at the forefront as the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady competition injects colour and glamour. One of Ireland’s most prestigious style competitions takes place from Tuesday with daily winners progressing to the grand final on Ladies Day, Friday 29th April. Festivalgoers and style seekers are invited to arrive early and make their way through the retail area on Osprey Avenue to the Style Quarter in the Bollinger Lounge and Garden. Alongside this venue is The Hunt Stand home to the famous Sky and festival bars and gateway to the pavilions and trackside lawns.
People make Punchestown and family and community feature strongly as always. The Ballymore Family day has been the success story of the festival with crowds reaching 36,000 in 2019 with children accounting for over 8,000 of this number. Socialisers and parents looking for an adult day out need not worry as there is a dedicated family fun area in the northern enclosure as the usual location is still required for HSE services. Community is intertwined with the festival and local GAA clubs Ballymore Eustace, Eadestown and Naas are involved in a stewarding capacity and receive donations to their club fundraisers.
The famous Bollinger Best Dressed competition takes place from Tuesday to the grand final on Ladies Day, 29th April. The overall winner will enjoy a money can’t buy trip to Paris and chateaux Bollinger in the champagne region.
Perhaps the most important race of the entire week, given that it makes such a difference to so many lives, is the Punchestown Kidney Research Charity race that acts as a curtain closer to the festival and indeed the entire jump racing season in Ireland. The remaining official charity partners include Kildare Autism Network, the Clongowes Wood College Duck Push, Cara Girls rescue Centre, Irish Wheelchair Association, The Irish Injured Jockeys fund and Samaritans.
Finally and very importantly the weather forecast for the week ahead appears favourable and mostly dry.
The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. Tickets from €30pp are available at www.punchestown.com or on the day itself, however, the racecourse advice is to to purchase in advance.
Discount group deals are now sold out. Concession senior, student and teen tickets are only available to purchase on the day. There will be contactless and cash payment throughout the venue but visitors are advised to collect cash in advance of their arrival to avoid queues.
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.
Tuesday 22nd March 2022 – Barberstown Castle was today unveiled as a major player on the Irish hotel and sporting hospitality scene with the announcement of a dual racecourse sponsorship that will see the county Kildare venue feature at both Punchestown, the home of Irish jump racing and The Curragh, home of Irish Flat racing.
The newly sponsored €125,000 Grade 1 Barberstown Castle Novice two mile chase is one of the features on Punchestown Festival Thursday. The race is arguably one of the most prestigious of its category on the calendar with an all-star line-up of previous winners including Douvan, Moscow Flyer, Un De Sceaux, War Of Attrition, Chacun Pour Soi and Big Zeb. British trainers have fared well in this contest with Tom George’s Gods Own and the Philip Hobbs trained Captain Chris both landing the spoils. This feature sponsorship is part of a multi-year accommodation partner arrangement at the famous jump season grand finale.
Meanwhile, across the county at flat racing headquarters, Barberstown Castle will become an official hotel partner of the racecourse in an overall package that includes the sponsorship of the five race ‘Barberstown Castle Series’. The first leg of this initiative kicks off on the opening day of the flat season, this Saturday 26th March and takes in races at some of the major classic weekends before the finale on 23rd October.
Amanda Torrens, the new owner of Barberstown Castle who also has enjoyed success as a racehorse owner commented on the announcement: “Our vision is clear, we wish to establish Barberstown Castle as the first choice for the racing community, horse tourism and bloodstock industry. We embrace the wonderful opportunity to partner with both the home of Irish jump and flat racing. Barberstown Castle is open for business and we look forward to welcoming the racing family here. It is wonderful to be in a position to combine two of my passions, racing and Barberstown in this exciting venture”.
Highly regarded in the hotel industry, Barberstown Castle’s Managing Director Ted Robinson welcomed the news: “ These are exciting times at Barberstown Castle because with racing power houses like The Curragh and Punchestown preparing to launch their seasons we here at the hotel are preparing to relaunch and rebuild this wonderful historic venue. We have 60 bedrooms, are located 30 minutes from Dublin airport, 20 minutes from both racecourses. We are situated at the gateway to the thoroughbred county and Hidden Heartlands and we are excited for what this venture will bring.
Punchestown’s Conor O’Neill commented: “This partnership is the ideal collaboration in the sense that both the Barberstown Castle and Punchestown teams share the ethos that the racing experience does not begin and end at the racecourse. Indeed, it is the hospitality, value, quality of food and accommodation and the money can’t buy aspect of genuine friendliness that sets the experience apart and makes visitors return again and again. This is why the whole package needs to work. There is no more powerful marketing tool than the word of mouth and we look forward to working with Amanda, Ted and the Barberstown team to achieve this joint ambition. O’Neill added “We’d like to take this opportunity to thank outgoing sponsor Ryanair who have transported so many of our overseas clients to the festival and will continue to do so before their onward journey to our hotel partners like Barberstown Castle!”
Evan Arkwright, Curragh Racing and Sponsorship Manager said,“We are delighted that Amanda Torrens and her team at Barberstown Castle have joined our portfolio of sponsors and look forward to developing a long and successful partnership with particular emphasis to work with them on a variety of initiatives to raise the profile of the hotel and to ensure the Castle is one of the premier destinations for our many overseas visitors. The race series will be an exciting addition to our season and it is very positive that stable staff will be acknowledged for their hard work and dedication
The Barberstown Castle Series will kick off this Saturday, 26th March, followed by races taking place during the Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Festival, Juddmonte Irish Oaks Weekend and Goffs Million Race Day, while the finale of the series will feature on Sunday 23rd October.
The winning owner, trainer and jockey of all five races will win a voucher to include an overnight stay in the hotel, while the trainers of the first four horses in each race will accumulate points with the highest point scorer winning a cash prize to be donated to the charity of their choice.
The Grade 1 Barberstown Castle Novice Champion Chase will take place on Thursday 28th April on day three of the 2022 Punchestown Festival.
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.