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.
Bective Stud Launch Grade 1 Action With Punchestown Festival Sponsorship
Tuesday 12th April 2022 – With only weeks until Punchestown returns with the Great Comeback Festival from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April, the racecourse today announced an exciting new sponsorship as Noel and Valerie Moran’s Bective Stud take over title honours of the first grade one contest at the prestigious season grand finale.
The €125,000 Grade 1 Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle will take place on the opening day of the highly anticipated 2022 Punchestown Festival. The winners list for this two-mile contest, which ran under the eComm Merchant Solutions banner in 2021, features stars such as Hurricane Fly, Jezki, Faugheen and Douvan. Like so many of the Punchestown feature races, champion trainer Willie Mullins has dominated winning six of the last seven runnings. A sequence punctuated in 2016 by the J.P. McManus owned Don’t Push It ridden by Barry Geraghty and trained by Jessica Harrington.
Recently published entries for the Bective Stud contest feature Cheltenham sensation Constitution Hill, Sir Gerhard, Three Stripe Life, Aintree winner Jonbon, while County Hurdle winner State Man would be an intriguing contender.
The Moran’s purchased the 180 acre Bective Stud in 2016 and have undertaken a considered and highly detailed restoration project of the beautiful house, yard and gardens that date back to 1852. Situated on the banks of the Boyne between Trim and Navan, Bective Stud is a truly unique immersive stud experience for racing patrons and enthusiasts. Operating as a dual purpose bloodstock enterprise with both racing and breeding stock, the stud welcomes paying guests to enjoy the recently refurbished luxurious self-catering apartments, the newly opened tearooms and gardens. In addition, patrons of the tea rooms and apartments will soon enjoy the first phase of the walking trails which is due to open later this month. The vision does not end there as there are plans for a five star hotel in the pipeline. For full information please visit www.bectivestud.com
Bective Stud owners and great supporters of national hunt racing Noel and Valerie Moran commented: “We are delighted to be working with Punchestown Racecourse again this year, this time under Bective Stud, after sponsoring this race last year with eCOMM Merchant Solutions. We are passionate about National Hunt racing and we wish the team at Punchestown all the very best with this year’s Comeback Festival. This year we sponsor the Grade 1 Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle which is one of the main races at the Festival and we are thrilled to support one of the best festivals in the Irish racing calendar. Bective Stud is open for business with 5 Luxurious self-catering apartments in the middle of the working stud farm. We also recently opened our new tea rooms and Restaurant on the estate. Come visit our horses and Alpacas. We would be thrilled to welcome racing patrons to the estate.”
After their inaugural festival sponsorship was behind closed doors, Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill looks forward to welcoming the Morans in person: “Noel and Valerie have been so supportive of Punchestown and indeed Irish jump racing as an industry. They stepped up last year despite the fact that due to racing behind closed doors they were unable to enjoy the ‘in-person’ benefits of being a sponsor at Punchestown. We hope this year we can more than make up for it as we host Valerie, Noel and their guests. O’Neill continued: “The level of vision, passion, attention to detail that has gone into Bective Stud is a testament to the Moran’s commitment to the project. You can see why Noel and Valerie are so successful in business when you see the project that they have delivered at Bective Stud. A visit to a fully operational successful stud such as Bective would be such an amazing experience for racing fans and we really look forward to seeing what future plans bring.”
The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. For full event details and tickets please visit www.punchestown.com
The 2022 Grade 1 Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle
1. Adamantly Chosen – WP Mullins
2. Brandy Love – WP Mullins
3. Bring On The Night – WP Mullins
4. Classic Getaway – WP Mullins
5. Colonel Mustard – Mrs. L. Fowler
6. Constitution Hill – Nicky Henderson
7. Dysart Dynamo – WP Mullins
8. El Fabiolo – WP Mullins
9. Farout – WP Mullins
10. Flame Bearer – PMJ Doyle
11. Gatsby Grey – O McKiernan
12. Gibraltar – WP Mullins
13. Grangee – WP Mullins
14. Ha D’or – WP Mullins
15. Highland Charge – N Meade
16. Hunters Yarn – WP Mullins
17. Jondon – Nicky Henderson
18. Kilcruit – WP Mullins
19. Largy Debut – H de Bromhead
20. Micro manage – WP Mullins
21. Mighty Potter – G Elliott
22. Sir Gerhard – WP Mullins
23. State Man – WP Mullins
24. Three Stripe Life – G Elliott
25. Vina Ardanza – G Elliott
Equine Greats lead the way at the Punchestown Festival in The Great Comeback
HoneyHill clash, Clan Des Obeaux title defence & Galopin Des Champs/Bob Olinger rematch just some of the treats in store
A stupendous catalogue of some of jump racing’s most lustrous talents feature as the entries for the Punchestown Festival’s 12 Grade 1 races are released today.
Anticipation is building for what is being billed as ‘The Great Comeback’ as the five-day Punchestown Festival gets under way on Tuesday, April 26 and continues right through to Saturday, April 30.
Quality is the watchword throughout all the categories, as a host of previous Grade 1 winners, Cheltenham and Aintree victors, elite champions and stars of the future eye the Punchestown Festival to bring the curtain down on another thrilling season of jumps racing.
The dream heavyweight clash between record-breaking champion, dual Champion Hurdle winner and 2021 PADDY POWER CHAMPION HURDLE victor Honeysuckle and the pretender to her throne, Constitution Hill is still in the pipeline.
The eye is drawn to a host of delectable treats right through the five-day carnival but the prospect of HoneyHill unfolding at such an arena and with so much at stake has the entire racing world on tenterhooks.
The Friday, April 29 feature has attracted ten entries in total, with Henderson also opting to give an entry to Epatante, Honeysuckle’s predecessor as Cheltenham Champion Hurdle winner, who chased her home in March before recording an impressive triumph in the Aintree Hurdle on Saturday.
Gordon Elliott has entered Teahupoo and Zanahiyr. The former disappointed in the Cheltenham Champion Hurdle when hotly fancied, Zanahiyr was a brave third before falling at the last flight in the Aintree Hurdle when still in contention.
Elliott has enjoyed a very strong campaign, with five domestic Grade 1s, two Cheltenham successes and then Saturday’s stunning Grade 1 double at Aintree, on the same day that Delta Work finished third in the Grand National.
He has many fond memories of the Punchestown Festival and emphasises it as a high priority in his year.
“We’ve made entries for all the Grade 1 races at Punchestown and we will be well represented throughout the week,” said Elliott.
“It’s our season-ending Festival in Ireland and a fantastic five days. We’ve had a bit of luck there in the past and hopefully we can finish the season off with a high. It’s where my owners want to have runners and it’s where I want to have runners.
“We had two winners at Cheltenham and two Grade 1 winners at Aintree and the horses have been running well. We haven’t always had the best of luck in the last few weeks but a lot of the horses that weren’t winning were hitting the crossbar and finishing second so it was brilliant to have the couple of big winners at Aintree and see Delta Work and Escaria Ten run so well in the National itself.
“We’ve had some great days at Punchestown. It’s a brilliant place and they’ve a great team there on the track and behind the scenes and they provide beautiful ground which is so important at this time of year.
“My memories of Punchestown go way back. I won the Grade 1 Champion Bumper there on King’s Road in 1998 for Nigel Twiston-Davies. For me to win a Grade 1 as a jockey was a brilliant thrill and that was another great day… that wasn’t today or yesterday though!
“We won the race with Fayonagh then in 2017 when she did the Cheltenham/Punchestown double which was another great day. She was a special mare.
“I’ll never forget the day Don Cossack won the Punchestown Gold Cup there in 2015. I had made no secret of how much I thought of Don Cossack and he showed how tough and talented he was that day after being third at Cheltenham and winning at Aintree he still came back and put up one of his best performances to date to win at Punchestown.”
Three Stripe Life was among Elliott’s Liverpool leviathans and the six-year-old is included a stellar line-up in Friday’s other Grade 1, the ALANNA HOMES CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE, where he could be joined by Minella Crooner, who is also among the IRISH MIRROR NOVICE HURDLE entries.
“I’d hope to have a runner in each of the novice hurdles. Three Stripe Life was brilliant at Aintree and will go over fences next season so he might take in Punchestown but again, he’ll tell us over the next few days. He’s a horse to really look forward to next season.
“Minella Crooner has options of the Alanna Homes and the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdles. It was disappointing that he picked up a setback just before Cheltenham but it was very minor. We were just forced to miss a few days with him at the wrong time but he’ll go to Punchestown fresh now and I’ve been happy with him in the last couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to getting him back out.”
Sir Gerhard denied Three Stripe Life at Grade 1 level at the Dublin Racing Festival and Cheltenham and he is also included in the entries for the Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle. Other top-tier victors from the Willie Mullins yard, The Nice Guy and Minella Cocooner could also line up, while Aintree Grade 1 winner Jonbon is another possibility to represent Nicky Henderson and champion owner, JP McManus.
The Punchestown Festival kicks into gear on Tuesday, April 26 with three Grade 1s, the BECTIVE STUD CHAMPION NOVICE HURDLE starting it all off. Constitution Hill, Sir Gerhard, Three Stripe Life and Jonbon hold entries in this contest too, while County Hurdle winner State Man would be an intriguing contender.
Three Stripe Life’s fellow Cullentra inmate, Mighty Potter got the better of him in the Paddy Power Future Champions Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown over Christmas but will be on the redemption trail after being pulled up in the Supreme at Cheltenham.
“Mighty Potter didn’t run his race at Cheltenham but has come home well and he’ll definitely go to Punchestown and I’d love to have a big winner there for his owners, Andrew and Gemma Brown.
“We also have Fil Dor for them as well and he’ll go for the BALLYMORE CHAMPION FOUR-YEAR-OLD HURDLE on the Saturday. He has to try turn the tables with Vauban, who beat him at Cheltenham and the Dublin Racing Festival but we’ll give it a go. Punchestown is a different type of test and if he can run his race we’d be delighted.”
Tuesday’s other Grade 1s include the DOOLEY INSURANCE CHAMPION NOVICE CHASE and WILLIAM HILL CHAMPION CHASE.
The latter may only have attracted seven entries but it offers the likelihood of the Cheltenham champion Energumene resuming rivalries with his Closutton stablemate Chacun Pour Soi, who came a cropper five out at Prestbury Park and has a fantastic Punchestown Festival record. Another stablemate, Ryanair Chase winner Allaho is also included, along with the Joseph O’Brien-trained Aintree Grade 1 winner Fakir D’oudairies.
Meanwhile, the DOOLEY INSURANCE NOVICE CHAMPION CHASE offers the possibility of a fantastic rematch between Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger, with the former having fallen at the last with the Turners Novice Chase at his mercy. Bob Olinger picked up the pieces but was reported afterwards by trainer Henry de Bromhead to have suffered a muscle injury.
There are three more Grade 1 prizes up for grabs on Wednesday, April 27, the most sumptuous dish on the menu perhaps being the LADBROKES PUNCHESTOWN GOLD CUP, which features the Paul Nicholls-trained defending champion, Clan Des Obeaux attempting a remarkable ‘Double Double’, having repeated his Betway Bowl success of 12 months ago at Aintree last week. His bold, front-running effort in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup last year was one of the highlights of the entire week.
Dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo was a length-and-a-half second on that occasion is likely to be back in the fray, as is his Cheltenham successor Minella Indo, who finished second in this year’s renewal to stablemate, A Plus Tard.
Another Grade 1-winning chaser set to take part is the Gordon Elliott-prepped Galvin, who finished just two and a half lengths behind Minella Indo in fourth last month. Elliott has also given an entry to Delta Work, who followed his Cross-Country Chase defeat of Tiger Roll with a very brave run in Saturday’s Grand National.
“Galvin is in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup and hopefully he’ll go there,” Elliott revealed.
“He kept answering every call for us this season and earned his crack at the Gold Cup. He ran well, he finished fourth and if we can freshen him up and get him back to Punchestown in good order he has some very solid form and it would be nice to give him another go at a race like that before he goes on his summer holidays. Delta Work has probably done enough for the season but we’ll have a chat with Michael and Eddie. They are very sporting in how they make their entries and they’ll let the horse tell us how he is closer to the time.”
The RACE & STAY AT PUNCHESTOWN INH FLAT RACE offers the possibility of another interesting reunion in the form of exciting Cheltenham Champion Bumper Facile Vega and American Mike, who was a valiant runner-up.
Sire Du Berlais put up a career best performance in claiming the scalp of dual Stayers’ Hurdle hero Flooring Porter at Aintree on Saturday and Elliott will see how JP McManus’s two-time Cheltenham Festival winner recovers from those exertions before deciding whether he takes on the likes of his Coral Cup-winning stablemate Commander Of Fleet, as well as Klassical Dream, Thyme Hill and the Emma Lavelle-trained former champion stayer, Paisley Park in the LADBROKES CHAMPION STAYERS HURDLE on Thursday, April 28.
“Sire Du Berlais probably did surprise me a small bit but he had the form to put up that type of performance and it was great to get him back to that,” Elliott enthused.
“He beat a very good horse in Flooring Porter and we were delighted. He is in the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers at Punchestown and we’ll just see how he comes home from Liverpool over the next few days and I’ll speak with JP McManus and Frank Berry and we’ll see what we do.
“We’ve got Commander Of Fleet in there as well and he deserves to take his chance after Cheltenham. He is a horse we’ve always liked and he was good and tough in Cheltenham and is on the ticket for Punchestown.”
Gentleman De Mee lowered the colours of Arkle Chase winner Edwardstone in Aintree last week and he heads a seven-strong Willie Mullins team in the BARBERSTOWN CASTLE NOVICE CHASE that also includes Dublin Racing Festival Grade 1 winner, Blue Lord as well as Gavin Cromwell’s Arkle runner-up Gabynako, who finished just ahead of Blue Lord at Cheltenham.
A fantastic feast concludes on Saturday, April 30, with two Grade 1s. The second of those is the aforementioned Ballymore Champion Four-Year-old Hurdle, while Nicky Henderson includes Epatante as well as Cheltenham Mares’ Hurdle winner Marie’s Rock in the COOLMORE IRISH EBF MARES’ CHAMPION HURDLE.
Bollinger, sponsor of the Best Dressed Competition at the Punchestown Festival in April has announced a most exciting change of format to the high-profile event for 2020. The Bollinger Best Dressed Competition will not only include the most fashionable ladies from all across the country this year but also the most stylish gents will now compete for the much-coveted title and amazing prizes too!
The Punchestown Festival, the social and sporting highlight of the Irish calendar takes place from Tuesday 28th of April until Saturday, May 2nd. The search for the best dressed ladies and gentlemen will be held over the first four days of the festival. Each day style scouts will be tasked with finding the most stylish attendees and selecting finalists, from which a daily winner will be chosen to progress to the grand final on Ladies’ Day, held on Friday, May 2nd.
The decision to widen the format of the competition to include the thousands of men in attendance at the festival was an obvious one according to organisers. Michelle O’Sullivan, Champagne Bollinger said “It’s a very exciting year, with the highly anticipated release of the new Bond movie in April, which celebrates 25 years of James Bond. Bollinger’s association with the world’s most famous spy is synonymous and we felt it was an appropriate fit to celebrate this with a new improved format at Punchestown. Champagne Bollinger, distinctive, elegant and stylish – reminiscent of the famous special agent and the qualities that our judges will be looking for in this year’s Punchestown winner.”
Shona Dreaper, Punchestown Racecourse commented “When it comes to high profile sporting events Punchestown bucks the demographic trend with the number of ladies and gents in attendance pretty much equal and so it’s time for the guys to enter the style stage! It is a festival in the truest sense and race goers really enjoy the opportunity to dress for the occasion. As you stroll through the enclosures the sharp tailoring and attention to detail by the gents certainly merits strong contention for the coveted Bollinger Best Dressed Title. Afterall, Bollinger is the champagne of choice for the ultimate male style icon James Bond. It will be interesting to see how the judges handle it as there can only be one Bollinger Best Dressed Winner! One thing’s for certain, the judges will have their work cut out for them.”
The Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 28th of April to Saturday 2nd of May. The action-packed, fun-filled, style showcase attracts over 125,000 people to the Co. Kildare venue with packages ranging from high-end hospitality to great value admission only tickets available at www.punchestown.com or by calling +353 (0)45 897704. Prices start from as little as €30pp with concessions for groups, seniors and students. The famous Punchestown hospitality package range is available from just €129pp.