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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/

Entries for Day 1 Winter Festival 

Entries for Day 2 Winter Festival 

 

 

 

Stable staff on duty at the upcoming Punchestown Winter Festival will not only enjoy lunch compliments of Midland Travel but will also be in with a chance to win a trip to Paris next summer thanks to Ireland’s leading provider of travel and sports package trips.

As part of their continued backing of Irish racing, long-standing supporters Midland Travel return to the home of Irish jump racing with a generous package focusing on the hard working stable staff team members at the upcoming Punchestown Winter festival.

Midland Travel will be sponsoring the stable yard canteen for the duration of the event ensuring that racing yard staff can enjoy a complimentary selection of hot dishes, tea, coffee and snacks. Furthermore, the centrepiece of the Midlands Travel package is their generous offering of a wonderful prize for two people to visit Paris next summer. The trip includes return flights, three nights bed and breakfast in four star accommodation and more. Stable staff on duty on 19th and 20th of November will have the opportunity to enter the free draw on either race day.

Stephen Bernie of Midland Travel explained the background to the package “Some years ago we were involved with a new initiative at Punchestown called the Up The Yard Challenge. We sponsored the prize for the winning rider of the inter-stable race”. Bernie continued “The whole idea of focusing on the hard working stable staff really appealed to us. We felt if anyone deserved a nice holiday it was them! When the opportunity arose to be involved in the Winter Festival we were delighted to take part and look forward to assisting the brilliant horse men and women of Irish racing when it comes to planning their well-deserved holiday at the end of the season”.

Leona Hughes, Punchestown Sponsorship Manager said “Midland Travel deserve so much thanks for this very generous sponsorship of the yard canteen and donation of such a great prize. We know that outside of racecourse staff, the teams from yards around the country are the first to arrive on site each race day and in many cases the last to leave. Some have long journeys ahead of them before returning to the yard to look after the horses before themselves. They are long days so to make sure everyone has a nutritious meal at some stage is important. We are constantly planning on improving and upgrading facilities. Recent plans were delayed due to the pandemic but we hope to focus on industry facilities going forward”.

The 2022 Punchestown Winter Festival takes place Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November. Featuring grade one, two, listed, rated and cross-country racing the two day fixture is quality start to finish. Action gets underway at 12.30pm on day one and 11.45am on Sunday. Live music, free children’s entertainment, tasty food options and shuttle bus after racing make up a great day out. Advance ticket deals available on www.punchestown.com

 

Punchestown Winter Festival Quick Guide:
When: Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th November 2022

Time: First race/last race 12.30 & 4pm  Saturday. 11.45 & 3.50pm Sunday.
Tickets:  €15pp in advance includes free racecard on arrival. €20 on the day. Seniors and students can purchase for €15 on the day. Children under 14 years FREE. Visit www.punchestown.com
Make Your Day: Live music and bus service into Naas after racing both days.
Dining: Race & Dine packages in restaurant or private suite from €52pp.
Hay Café and The Feedroom for carvery lunches, light snacks, pastries and barista coffee.
The Playroom – Free indoor child friendly room with games, activities, movie corner, face painting etc. This is not a crèche facility and a parent or guardian must supervise children please.
More: For the best info follow us on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Get the best deals when you sign up to our newsletter. Visit www.punchetsown.com or call the team who are happy to help.

Anglesey Lodge Give Back With New Punchestown Sponsorship

 

Monday 09/09/2022 – Internationally renowned equine hospital Anglesey Lodge will join the sponsorship line up for Punchestown’s season return meeting this Tuesday, September 13th when the Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Two-Year-Old Maiden will be the second race on the card at the Kildare track.

Punchestown completes the thoroughbred county hat trick as Anglesey Lodge are already involved with both the Curragh and Naas racecourses. Practice partner Mark MacRedmond (MVB CertVPM MRCVS) explained the thinking behind the contribution: “Our reason to be involved is pretty straight forward – we simply want to give back to the industry. Anglesey Lodge has been fortunate enough to work alongside so many brilliant training establishments from yards big and small throughout the region for over 45 years. Sponsoring and contributing to the prize funds is the most effective and direct way we can further support the industry and give back. MacRedmond continued “Another particularly important factor is of course was the passion that practise founder and renowned vet Ned Gowing had for Punchestown. Ned Gowing established Anglesey Lodge back in 1976 and throughout his distinguished career he would always make time for racecourse duty at Punchestown, a place he just loved”.

 In addition, the Anglesey Lodge team celebrate one year at their new Friarstown base having moved from their former facility of 19 years which was located next door to the final straight of the Curragh racecourse. The new Anglesey Lodge home is a custom built facility on 12.5 acres with state of the art facilities including 70 stables, double surgical theatres, blood sample laboratory,  diagnostic and examination rooms. A panel of 18 vets, specialist surgeons, nurses, nursing assistants,  grooms, lab technicians, practise managers and admin staff combine to make up what has become one of the most highly regarded teams in the global equine hospital industry. Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital offers a full service from specialist surgery, lameness and pre-purchase exams to advanced nuclear scintigraphy.

 Welcoming the new sponsors to the home of Irish jump racing Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill said “We are fortunate to have the fantastic people resources of Anglesey Lodge available to us on race days as part of the vet support panel. Horse welfare and safety is paramount at Punchestown and to have such strength and depth of veterinary experience on our doorstep means horses that compete here have the very best of assistance should they require it. We take this opportunity to thank Mark, Thomas, Juan and the team for their contribution to our first meeting of the 22/23 season and look forward to continuing our association with Anglesey Lodge  for many years to come”.

 The Anglesey Lodge Equine Hospital Two Year Old Maiden is the second race on the only all flat fixture at Punchestown. Action gets underway at 2pm.

 

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.

Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi go head-to-head once more in William Hill Champion Chase

Sir Gerhard and Bob Olinger also feature on day one of the Punchestown Festival 

The five-day Punchestown Festival will begin with a feature race to savour as stable companions Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi lock horns in the Grade 1 William Hill Champion Chase.
Declarations for the opening day of Irish jump racing’s biggest fixture were made this morning and will see Queen Mother Champion Chase winner Energumene try to fend off his six-time Grade 1 winning neighbour Chacun Pour Soi in a race that has attracted five runners.

Opposition to the two Willie Mullins runners at the head of the field will be eyeing an upset and Henry de Bromhead saddles the five-time Grade 1 winner Envoi Allen and the course and distance winner Captain Guinness, while Gordon Elliott is represented by the Cheltenham Festival runner-up Andy Dufresne.

Speaking this morning, de Bromhead declared that he was looking forward to the challenge at the start of another important week for the Waterford trainer.

“We were delighted with Envoi Allen in Cheltenham,” de Bromhead said on Sunday morning. “He jumped really well, travelled well. His wind just isn’t as good now as it was so I’d say the ground just caught him out. We’re hoping the better ground will suit him. He’s in super form.

“He is so classy, I think any trip would nearly suit him to be fair. He’s got such a high cruising speed, and he showed that at Cheltenham that jumping and travelling at that pace isn’t a problem. We’re really happy with him.”
Captain Guinness will also take his chance on Tuesday and de Bromhead added: “The extra half mile in Aintree caught him out so we’ll go back to two miles with him. We’re happy to go again to Punchestown. It’s always a chance but he seems in good form so we’re happy to give it a lash and see. There is great prize money on offer, as is the case throughout the week.”
Speaking about the William Hill Champion Chase when looking ahead to the Punchestown Festival, Patrick Mullins, who will renew his association with Chacun Pour Soi said: “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.”

Reflecting on Energumene’s Cheltenham success and a first win in the Champion Chase there for the stable, Mullins added: “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.”

While success in the William Hill Champion Chase might be something of a surprise for de Bromhead, the trainer will saddle one of the brightest stars on show this week as Bob Olinger lines up in the Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase.

The unbeaten chaser was a 40-length winner of the Turners Novice Chase last month although that doesn’t tell the full story with Galopin Des Champs exiting at the final fence, but de Bromhead is expecting to see a more familiar performance from Bob Olinger on Tuesday.

“I think it’s a logical progression to go to three miles with Bob,” de Bromhead said. “He seems really well again. Obviously, it was great to win but he was disappointing in Cheltenham in terms of the level of his performance but it seems good now and we’re happy with him. We’ll see where we go after learning more on Tuesday.
“He definitely wasn’t right in Cheltenham. Definitely. He had this torn muscle. It wasn’t bad but it was definitely torn and it probably ties in. Rachael (Blackmore) said he made a terrible noise after he jumped the sixth-last, where he twisted in the air. So it definitely didn’t look like him.

“We were always going to go for the three-mile race at Punchestown and as we’re happy with him now that the muscle tear has cleared up, it’s all systems go.”
Millers Bank earned Grade 1 honours in the Manifesto Novices’ Chase at Aintree and is a fascinating inclusion for Oxfordshire-based trainer Alex Hales alongside Grade 1 winners in Beacon Edge for Noel Meade and the Gordon Elliott-trained Fury Road, who both wear the Gigginstown House Stud silks.
Local trainer Paul Fahey is rolling the dice at the top table with his talented mare Ballyshannon Rose and the field is completed by the Jessica Harrington-trained Lifetime Ambition, Capodanno, who is the only runner for Willie Mullins in the three-miler.

The opening Grade 1 of the Punchestown Festival is the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle and Mullins is setting the scene for the week with another clash of two from his championship winning stable.
Five runners will go to post for a race that has thrown up winners such as Moscow Flyer, Brave Inca, Hurricane Fly, Faugheen, Douvan and Klassical Dream since the turn of the century and Ballymore Novice Hurdle winner Sir Gerhard will once again aim to show his versatility as he drops back to two miles to take on Dysart Dynamo, who was a faller in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Gordon Elliott’s Grade 1 winner Mighty Potter, who will be looking to put a line through his disappointing appearance at Cheltenham when pulling up in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and his stablemate Vina Ardanza also feature alongside Gatsby Grey who would be a popular winner for Oliver McKiernan if the 15-length Naas winner could upset the odds here.

 

The Great Comeback is full of great racing as entries for opening three days of Punchestown Festival are revealed

WATCH PATRICK MULLINS CHAT THROUGH CLOSUTTON CONTENDERS HERE  

The 2022 Punchestown Festival is being billed as ‘The Great Comeback’ as the grandstands are set to fill up to witness Ireland’s biggest racing meeting for the first time since 2019.
But it’s not just the public that will be packing into the famed Kildare auditorium of jump racing to reacquaint themselves with the five-day festival from Tuesday April 26th to Saturday April 30th, as equine stars such as Clan Des Obeaux, Allaho, Minella Indo, Energumene, Chacun Pour Soi, Klassical Dream and Paisley Park are just some of the household equine names also returning to Punchestown.
Today marked the forfeit stage for the opening three days of the Punchestown Festival and the Closutton clash of Willie’s Mullins’ leading two-mile chasers Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi is well and truly on in the William Hill Champion Chase, with Joseph O’Brien potentially throwing a spanner in the works with recent Aintree winner Fakir D’oudairies getting an entry although the trainer admitted a return to three miles might be on the agenda for him.
Envoi Allen and Captain Guinness may represent Henry de Bromhead, while Andy Dufresne is in the mix as well as Allaho although the latter is also more likely for Wednesday’s vintage renewal of the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.
Paul Nicholls is no stranger to Punchestown success and for the second year running will try to do the Aintree/Punchestown double with Clan Des Obeaux who heads the entries for the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup alongside the winners of three Cheltenham Gold Cup’s, Al Boum Photo and Minella indo.
Nicholls said on Thursday: “I’m really looking forward to next week. We’re always made very welcome. We love it and in the future, maybe we’ll have even more to come. If we have the right ones, we’ll be there.
“It’s about running the right horses in the right races. We thought that the Ladbrokes Gold Cup would suit Clan and that’s why we’re coming back again this year. It’s gonna be a tough old race if Allaho runs and he had a harder race at Aintree than last year but it was a career best in many ways.
“But this race suits him, the track suits him and the way he ran last year shows it suits him and you’ve got to target those races for him.”
Nicholls added: “It’s a waste of time running him around Cheltenham. He hates it, as Silviniaco Conti did but you’ve got to run them in the right races, as we did bringing two horses to Punchestown last year and they both won.”
Speaking about Fakir D’oudairies, who is among the 13 in Wednesday’s feature race as well, Joseph O’Brien said options would be kept open for now.
“Fakir is an intended runner in one of the Grade 1s, probably more likely the Ladbrokes Gold Cup over three miles than the William Hill Champion Chase over two but we’re keeping our options open,” O’Brien said.
“He has been good since winning at Aintree. We decided to sidestep Cheltenham in favour of the Melling Chase and that decision paid off and I thought he did it well.
“He has come out of the race well and we’re looking forward to lining up at the Punchestown Festival now.”
On Thursday the feature event is the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, a race Patrick Mullins commented on yesterday by saying he would be disappointed if Klassical Dream couldn’t claim back-to-back renewals. Paisley Park is a fascinating inclusion for trainer Emma Lavelle and owner Andrew Gemmell, however.
Mullins said on Wednesday: “We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing. I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win next week at Punchestown.”
Among his 12 potential rivals are Cheltenham Festival winner Commander Of Fleet and Aintree victor Sire Du Berlais, both for Gordon Elliott who looks to hold his strongest hand in this championship race.
“Both horses are in good form and have come out of Cheltenham and Aintree well so we’ll hopefully let them take their chance,” Elliott said.
In the novice hurdle ranks over the opening three days, champion trainer Willie Mullins will characteristically keep his cards close to his chest for now as he is responsible for eight (Bring On The Night, Dysart Dynamo, El Fabiolo, Gibraltar, Ha D’or, Kilcruit, Sir Gerhard and State Man) of the 15 entries in the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle and six (Bronn, Classic Getaway, Kilcruit, Minella Cocooner, Ramillies and The Nice Guy) of the 17 that stood their ground in Wednesday’s Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Tuesday’s Dooley Insurance Champion Novice Chase features the Henry de Bromhead-trained Bob Olinger who is the standout name in a field that also features Grade 1 winner Beacon Edge for Noel Meade.
The Barberstown Castle Novice Chase on Thursday looks a very strong contest with Aintree Grade 1 winner Gentleman De Mee potentially facing off against Arkle runner-up Gabynako for Gavin Cromwell.

VIEW ENTRIES HERE

Like father, like son – Mullins Jnr wants more at “Ireland’s biggest festival”

Patrick runs the rule on big guns bound for Punchestown

**WATCH FULL INTERVIEW CHAT HERE**

When it comes to an insatiable appetite for success, the apple did not fall far from the Willie Mullins tree when it comes to his son, Patrick.
Mullins Jnr, who is also assistant trainer at Closutton, has broken countless records as an amateur jockey and will be crowned champion for a staggering 14th time at the Punchestown Festival next week.

Included among a glittering array of prizes in a stacked CV is a remarkable tally of 22 Grade 1s, the majority of them coming over obstacles against the professionals – quite an achievement for a 6’1’’ man, though he plays down any notion of an achievement on his part to have done so much and lasted so long given that stature and a sweet tooth.

Quite a number of those Grade 1s have come at “Ireland’s biggest festival”, as he labels the climax to the jumps campaign, and indeed, he reveals an ambition to complete the Grand Slam of championship races at Punchestown, having secured the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle, William Hill Champion Chase and Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle.
All that is left is the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup, in which he once finished runner-up in, and with dual Ryanair Chase hero Allaho likely to be participating along with dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner, Al Boum Photo, who he warns is not a beaten docket yet having not been suited by a steady pace in the Prestbury Park feature last month, he might just get an opportunity to tick off another incredible box.

This is among a number of topics the 32-year-old discusses in an online interview ahead of the Punchestown Festival. He also comments on the likely clash between Cheltenham Champion Chase victor Energumene and stablemate Chacun Pour Soi as well as the scheduled Punchestown appearances of some of the yard’s other record-breaking haul of Cheltenham winners (ten), Sir Gerhard, Facile Vega and Vauban among them. He also asserts an expectation that Klassical Dream will win the Ladbrokes Stayers’ Hurdle for a second consecutive season. (See Punchestown Festival Stable Tour below).

His observations on his father’s enduring hunger are notable though, particularly when he describes his own disappointment at losing his championship to Jamie Codd in 2017 and how driven he was and continues to be to prevent that happening again until he retires.
“I remember pulling up on Wicklow Brave (after winning the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle) and David Mullins gave me a tap on the back and said, ‘Oh that’ll make up for not winning the championship,’ and I kind of shook my head and David couldn’t understand it,” Mullins details.

“We have our knees-up at the end of the meeting but I went off and got a McDonald’s on my own and rang a friend in England just to chat. I was after having four winners, two Grade 1s, but to lose the championship was very disappointing and definitely I was determined to get it back the next year because I feel that riding for Willie, you should be winning it.
“Last season it went down to the wire again, myself and Jamie, and we came out the right side of it. Not that I got no pleasure out of it, but I got no pleasure out of putting Jamie into the position where I had been. When you put a lot into the season and you just come up short in the last couple of days, it is tough.”

As evidenced by the setting of new goals, despite all he has achieved, Mullins wants more. Listen to his description of his father, and whether he recognises it or not, he might as easily be talking about himself.
“What sums Willie up is the year we lost the 60 Gigginstown horses. Willie would’ve been in his late 50s, he’d have been champion trainer eight or nine times, it would have been very easy just to sit back and consolidate. But he didn’t. He went out and got more owners, he got more horses, he got more staff, he got more problems and now we have more horses than we had before then.
“Being a good trainer is more than having fit horses. He’s well able to source good owners and he’s well able to source good horses for those owners and that’s the key.

“We have so many expensive horses coming into our yard every season. There’s new blood every year and that’s it. He’s never sat back. He’s continually looking for the next crop of horses and the next crop of owners as well.”
Long before he was successful at the Punchestown Festival, Mullins had fond memories of it, even when Closutton was not the pre-eminent operation and Noel Meade was the perennial champion. “Florida Pearl was the horse. He’d a big, white face. The red colours of the O’Learys from Cork. Him winning the Gold Cup under Barry Geraghty stands out.”

The aforementioned triumph on Wicklow Brave was part of a famous day in 2017 when Mullins rode a treble, including two Grade 1s to help his father leapfrog Gordon Elliott and snatch the champion trainer title on the penultimate fixture of the season.
The following year, “Duracell Bunny”, Un De Sceaux gave him the thrill of galloping to victory in the William Hill Champion Chase. Last season, he finished leading rider and bagged two more Grade 1 prizes, including the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers’ Hurdle on Klassical Dream.

Earlier on, there was a first ever Cheltenham/Punchestown Champion Bumper double, achieved with Cousin Vinny in 2008, when he was just a Leaving Cert student. He repeated the trick on Champagne Fever in 2012 and this time, celebrated appropriately.
Uncle Junior’s two La Touche Cup wins might stand out most of all, however.
“He was a real character, he was grumpy. He had a big wart on his ear, he wasn’t very pretty. Some days he’d go, some days he wouldn’t. He used be way out the back and then fly home.

“I think his first La Touche is one of the favourite races of my career, if not the favourite… he had 12-7 on his back and we got up in the last stride. I just thought, 12-7, four and a half miles, getting up and winning by a short head; that was for me what jump racing is all about and I got immense satisfaction from that.

“A couple of years we got up and beat Nina (Carberry) in a tight finish on good ground and any time you beat Nina was memorable. He was a horse who gave me some fabulous memories.”

Patrick Mullins looks ahead to some main contenders for the Punchestown Festival 

**WATCH THE FULL CHAT HERE**

Sir Gerhard 
Sir Gerhard is very versatile, he can go for either the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle or the Alanna Homes Novice Hurdle as he has won Grade 1s over both trips. I suppose it will be a case of what way you split our three up with Dysart Dynamo and State Man there as well. We’ll have to see closer to the time what way Willie will split them up but Sir Gerhard came out of Cheltenham very, very good. He jumped much better there and we don’t know what got into him at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival – maybe he was just feeling something on the day. I thought his performance at Cheltenham could be marked up hugely on account of how keen he was early on. I think he is very versatile and will be very difficult to beat over either trip.

Dysart Dynamo 
For me Punchestown really plays to Dysart Dynamo’s strengths. He has won there twice. He gave me a horrendous time last year – it was like wrestling a bear around! I think hurdles helps him concentrate a little bit and it should definitely do after Cheltenham but I think Punchestown is a track that suits his strong running style.

State Man  
I’d be very disappointed if he’s not a Grade 1 winner in the future. He showed plenty of speed to win the County Hurdle and it’s just about splitting up the novice hurdlers. There is a fantastic crop there going forward for next year.

Chacun Pour Soi
He walked into the third fence (in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham) and then got back jumping. While watching the race you would say I was going well, and I probably was, I wasn’t surprised that he put down. I just didn’t feel that he was giving me the feel that I was expecting him to. I don’t feel he was on his ‘A game’ on the day. I’m just disappointed as he shouldn’t be making mistakes like that. It wasn’t the Chacun Pour Soi we know but look, I thought the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown was one of the races of the season last year. I thought Paul was excellent on him the way he bounced him out and that was a huge performance the way he got Allaho out of his comfort zone completely. He is 10 now and Energumene is in his prime at eight, so it’s probably going to be difficult for Chacun Pour Soi but I’d be expecting him to be much more like his old self next week and perhaps he might just be a better ground horse. It’ll be a fantastic race and I wouldn’t rule him out.

Energumene 
In reality, the Champion Chase at Cheltenham turned into a Grade 2 but Engergumene travelled through the race like the good horse he is. We’ll take it, a Champion Chase, we never had one before but we will have to take on Shiskin again and settle it once and for all.

Allaho 
His options are limited. We didn’t go to Aintree as he put in a huge performance at Cheltenham and we thought asking him to come back that quick would be tough. When we probably have two good horses in the two mile race, the Ladbrokes Gold Cup over three miles at Punchestown would look the obvious race for him to go to. It’s not like he doesn’t stay three-miles, he ran Minella Indo very close over an extended 3m1f on better ground. He is just probably at his optimum over two and a half miles but he is still a very good horse over three miles. I do think he is a better horse going left handed as he does adjust to his left but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could win a Punchestown Gold Cup.

Al Boum Photo
He ran all right at Cheltenham. I think it turned into a bit of a sprint which obviously suited A Plus Tard and it didn’t suit our fella – not that it would have made any difference. I think he ran quite well and he ran really well (at Punchestown) last year when he was second to Clan Des Obeaux. I just wouldn’t forget about him, he hasn’t suddenly become a second-class horse. He is still a very, very good horse and if Allaho does run he’d be a very nice spare ride to pick up!

Facile Vega 
All our good horses go to Punchestown so this has been the plan. The Champion Bumper at Punchestown is worth more than the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham so it would be madness not to go for it. He has come out of the race bucking and squealing and David Porter is very happy with him. Better ground shouldn’t inconvenience him and obviously his dam (Quevega) used to go from Cheltenham to Punchestown so hopefully it won’t be any problem for him.

St James’s Gate
He ran a fabulous race in third at Cheltenham. He only came into the yard at Christmas and Tornado Flyer is the last horse that fitted that type of profile so he could still be improving.

Klassical Dream
We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing. I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win next week at Punchestown.

Vauban 
I’d imagine he will go here. The good ground will help and he is a horse with a lot of speed. It turned into a bit of a sprint in the Triumph Hurdle and that probably played to his strengths but for him to be able to miss the last and be able to pick up and run away from the other two, I think he is better than your average Triumph Hurdle winner. Hopefully he can back that up but I can’t see any reason why the track or the ground wouldn’t play to his strengths.

Gaelic Warrior 
The ground on the first day at Cheltenham was proper good ground, quicker than it would normally be there and the Fred Winter was very unusual in that they went very slowly. We got beaten by a Galileo horse, a flat bred, in a sprint on good ground. He started to jump right, maybe just feeling the ground a little bit as he is a big jumping type horse and I think he is better than the bare form and he was probably unlucky on the day with circumstances. Is he going to beat Vauban? Maybe not, but he’s definitely one going forward for next year that we are very excited about.

Have the conversation – say yes to organ donation”

 

PUNCHESTOWN  CHARITY RACE PILOTS PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM FOR PATIENTS.

Wednesday 20 April 2022: The 2022 Punchestown Festival will host the 31st running of the Annual Charity Race on Saturday 30th April in aid of the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund. (P.K.R.F.).

This fantastic fundraising initiative has stood the test of time and remains as popular as ever with applications oversubscribed each year. This year was particularly challenging with a much reduced preparation time but a huge effort by organisers and participants saw the plan come to fruition. The race involves 25 ‘amateur’ riders, battling it out over one mile and seven furlongs around the famous Punchestown course. Each rider must raise €1,500 for the P.K.R.F.  and pass an assessment in order to participate. 

In 2022, the PKRF is looking forward to partnering with the Irish Kidney Association to set up a Pilot Peer Support Program to help kidney patients and their families who are starting out on the road to dialysis or looking at the possibility of a life-saving kidney transplant.  This support network will enable people to reach out and connect with a trained volunteer  to discuss their concerns about dialysis and transplantation.

Kilcullen Butcher, James Nolan initiated both the charity and the race having received the GIFT OF LIFE when his sister Catherine Doyle donated one of her kidneys to him on the 25th July 1987. He has ridden in the race himself 13 times and won it on 50 to 1 shot Nero’s Dancer in 2002, an experience he describes as one of the highlights of his life.

The Punchestown Kidney Research Fund Charity Race was founded in 1990 and has raised €1.6 million to date.  They have invested these funds in projects that improve the quality of life for patients on dialysis, projects that establish ways to maximise the life span of the transplanted kidney and identify projects that examine the causes that lead to renal failure. Unfortunately, due to the Covid19 pandemic the race could not place in both 2020 and 2021. As a result, the PKRF had no major projects during this time but have supported the following projects from 2016 to 2019:

Leona Hughes, Punchestown Sponsorship coordinator explains why she is taking part in this year’s race “Whatever about challenging yourself I think this race makes you consider how lucky we are to be in a position to choose. There are plenty of people who would love to take part in something like this but unfortunately cannot due to illness. I hope we raise plenty of money for James and his team because the work they do is amazing. The atmosphere is always brilliant and we feel it is the most important race of the entire festival because it makes such a difference to so many lives”.

The Punchestown Kidney Research Fund uses the Charity Race as a major Organ Donor Awareness Event in Ireland.  Indeed the simple measure of carrying an Organ Donor Card or having the conversation about Organ Donation and informing one’s next of kin of one’s wish to donate organs can save someone’s life.

*ENDS*

For further information please contact: The Punchestown Kidney Research Fund 

C/o James Nolan – 086 2349919

Main Street, Kilcullen, co. Kildare