Back By Popular Demand: Up The Yard Challenge 2023
Punchestown racecourse is delighted to announce the return of the Up The Yard Challenge Race for Irish stable and stud staff on Sunday 19th February.
First introduced in 2017, the concept was to host a challenge race to provide an opportunity for stable and stud staff to achieve the ambition of riding not just on the a racecourse but t the home of Irish jump racing.
Event organiser and Punchestown Sponsorship Manager Leona Hughes explains the thinking behind the initiative: “Most who work in horse racing usually have a dream to ride in a race at some stage. Ireland is full of brilliant jockeys. It’s such a competitive industry and we all know some talented horse men and women who ride out every day but for whatever reason didn’t go on to become jockeys. The Up The Yard Challenge gives them a chance to take centre stage and show everyone what they can do.” Hughes continued “We encourage anyone who always wanted to ride on the track to check out the qualifying criteria and then be brave and get nominated!”
The Up The Yard Challenge will take place after the last official race on Sunday 19th February 2023 over a distance of around one mile and seven furlongs. Yards and studs around the country are asked to nominate riders that meet the criteria by 16th December 2022. From the nominees a final list of sixteen riders and four reserves will be selected. All selected riders must qualify to take part by completing a one-day charity race assessment at the RACE centre in Kildare. This is organised directly by Punchestown and the RACE team.
The inaugral running of the Up The Yard Challenge took place in 2017 was won by Louise Magee on Taglietelle representing the Gordon Elliott team. Camilla Sharples on Markhan landed the spoils the following year for the same Cullentra establishment with Jimmy Finn’s stable taking the 2019 honours.
The Up The Yard Challenge is part of Punchestown’s continued commitment to Irish Stable Staff as explained by Leona Hughes “We are delighted to bring back this race. We’ve had plenty of interest and enquiries over recent years but for obvious reasons we couldn’t hold the race until now. We work alongside the stable staff and wherever possible we would always try to source a sponsor for the stable yard canteen to ensure that everyone working that day gets a complimentary meal. In addition, we recently worked with Midland Travel who very generously sponsored an amazing prize of a trip to Paris next summer for someone working in the yard over the Winter festival weekend. At the festival Red Mills hosted pop-up interactive zones with prizes and giveaways in the yard. It’s all part of on-going programme which will hopefully include upgrades to facilities following our current major track project which is taking up available resources but we are always planning for the future here at Punchestown.”
Up The Yard Challenge Race Checklist
The Rider Criteria:
- Nominated riders must be 18 years of age and over.
- Nominated riders must not have ridden under rules on the track/point to point in any jurisdiction prior to the event.
- Riders must be 12st or under with an allowance of 5lbs for mares.
- From the nominees, twenty riders will be selected. There will be sixteen participants and four reserves.
- Riders must qualify to ride by passing a charity race one-day competency assessment in January at RACE in Kildare. This will be organised with the riders by Punchestown.
- Nominees must be submitted by email with sign off by the trainer whose yard the rider will represent.
Nominations (including name, date of birth, contact number, nominating yard) for riders that meet the above criteria must be submitted by Friday 16th December to Leona Hughes on email@example.com
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.
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.
Patrick Mullins looks ahead to some main contenders for the Punchestown Festival
**WATCH THE FULL CHAT HERE**
Sir Gerhard is very versatile, he can go for either the Bective Stud Champion Novice Hurdle or the Alanna Homes Novice Hurdle as he has won Grade 1s over both trips. I suppose it will be a case of what way you split our three up with Dysart Dynamo and State Man there as well. We’ll have to see closer to the time what way Willie will split them up but Sir Gerhard came out of Cheltenham very, very good. He jumped much better there and we don’t know what got into him at Leopardstown at the Dublin Racing Festival – maybe he was just feeling something on the day. I thought his performance at Cheltenham could be marked up hugely on account of how keen he was early on. I think he is very versatile and will be very difficult to beat over either trip.
For me Punchestown really plays to Dysart Dynamo’s strengths. He has won there twice. He gave me a horrendous time last year – it was like wrestling a bear around! I think hurdles helps him concentrate a little bit and it should definitely do after Cheltenham but I think Punchestown is a track that suits his strong running style.
I’d be very disappointed if he’s not a Grade 1 winner in the future. He showed plenty of speed to win the County Hurdle and it’s just about splitting up the novice hurdlers. There is a fantastic crop there going forward for next year.
Chacun Pour Soi
He walked into the third fence (in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham) and then got back jumping. While watching the race you would say I was going well, and I probably was, I wasn’t surprised that he put down. I just didn’t feel that he was giving me the feel that I was expecting him to. I don’t feel he was on his ‘A game’ on the day. I’m just disappointed as he shouldn’t be making mistakes like that. It wasn’t the Chacun Pour Soi we know but look, I thought the William Hill Champion Chase at Punchestown was one of the races of the season last year. I thought Paul was excellent on him the way he bounced him out and that was a huge performance the way he got Allaho out of his comfort zone completely. He is 10 now and Energumene is in his prime at eight, so it’s probably going to be difficult for Chacun Pour Soi but I’d be expecting him to be much more like his old self next week and perhaps he might just be a better ground horse. It’ll be a fantastic race and I wouldn’t rule him out.
In reality, the Champion Chase at Cheltenham turned into a Grade 2 but Engergumene travelled through the race like the good horse he is. We’ll take it, a Champion Chase, we never had one before but we will have to take on Shiskin again and settle it once and for all.
His options are limited. We didn’t go to Aintree as he put in a huge performance at Cheltenham and we thought asking him to come back that quick would be tough. When we probably have two good horses in the two mile race, the Ladbrokes Gold Cup over three miles at Punchestown would look the obvious race for him to go to. It’s not like he doesn’t stay three-miles, he ran Minella Indo very close over an extended 3m1f on better ground. He is just probably at his optimum over two and a half miles but he is still a very good horse over three miles. I do think he is a better horse going left handed as he does adjust to his left but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could win a Punchestown Gold Cup.
Al Boum Photo
He ran all right at Cheltenham. I think it turned into a bit of a sprint which obviously suited A Plus Tard and it didn’t suit our fella – not that it would have made any difference. I think he ran quite well and he ran really well (at Punchestown) last year when he was second to Clan Des Obeaux. I just wouldn’t forget about him, he hasn’t suddenly become a second-class horse. He is still a very, very good horse and if Allaho does run he’d be a very nice spare ride to pick up!
All our good horses go to Punchestown so this has been the plan. The Champion Bumper at Punchestown is worth more than the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham so it would be madness not to go for it. He has come out of the race bucking and squealing and David Porter is very happy with him. Better ground shouldn’t inconvenience him and obviously his dam (Quevega) used to go from Cheltenham to Punchestown so hopefully it won’t be any problem for him.
St James’s Gate
He ran a fabulous race in third at Cheltenham. He only came into the yard at Christmas and Tornado Flyer is the last horse that fitted that type of profile so he could still be improving.
We got the good start in Leopardstown and (at Cheltenham) Klassical started backing up backwards and Paul ended up jumping off last and we are 10 lengths behind Flooring Porter straight away so was that just the swing. I was a little bit disappointed with how weakly he finished. He travelled up there very well but I don’t think that was him at his best and I’d be disappointed if he couldn’t win next week at Punchestown.
I’d imagine he will go here. The good ground will help and he is a horse with a lot of speed. It turned into a bit of a sprint in the Triumph Hurdle and that probably played to his strengths but for him to be able to miss the last and be able to pick up and run away from the other two, I think he is better than your average Triumph Hurdle winner. Hopefully he can back that up but I can’t see any reason why the track or the ground wouldn’t play to his strengths.
The ground on the first day at Cheltenham was proper good ground, quicker than it would normally be there and the Fred Winter was very unusual in that they went very slowly. We got beaten by a Galileo horse, a flat bred, in a sprint on good ground. He started to jump right, maybe just feeling the ground a little bit as he is a big jumping type horse and I think he is better than the bare form and he was probably unlucky on the day with circumstances. Is he going to beat Vauban? Maybe not, but he’s definitely one going forward for next year that we are very excited about.
DOOLEY INSURANCE GROUP TO TOP AND TAIL PUNCHESTOWN FESTIVAL
One of Ireland’s largest independent, family owned and run insurance brokers, the Dooley Insurance Group will once again ‘top and tail’ the Punchestown Festival and will sponsor two races during the famous festival. The Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase will run at Punchestown on the opening day, Tuesday, 26th of April. The group will also sponsor the Dooley Insurance Group WFA Cross Country Steeplechase on the closing day of the festival, Saturday, 30th of April. The €125,000 Grade 1 contest is set to be one of the most thrilling races of the season and has attracted a top-quality field of 20 entries including two of the most exciting chasers on the circuit, Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs. The race is expected to produce some very exciting racing action when this pair are expected to lock horns at the curtain raiser of the festival.
Established over sixty-five years ago the Dooley Insurance Group is now one of Ireland’s largest independent insurance brokers with over 12,000 clients throughout the country. The Dooley Insurance Group are also an official insurance partner of Punchestown Racecourse. Despite the challenges of the pandemic the group has grown and has acquired the long-established business of Padraic O’ Connor Insurances in Offaly in December 2021 with further acquisitions on the cards. The company now has 15 members of staff and will soon double its office space at the Naas office at Millennium Park in order to accommodate new team members.
Tim Dooley, Managing Director of the Dooley Insurance Group said, “We began sponsoring at Punchestown in 2017 and since that time our support has grown in importance and stature and is Grade 1 status since 2019. The Grade 1 race has attracted some of the most incredible horses and we are particularly thrilled this year with the quality of the entries. The prize money too has also gone up from €100,000 to €125,000 which is testament to the importance of the fixture. The growth in our business over the last 18 months has been phenomenal and the pandemic has reminded customers how important it is to have adequate cover and to protect the things and people that matter most you. Health insurance, business insurance and cyber security insurance are particularly important now, and we offer all of these services to our ever-growing client base. Ultimately, though our growth is due to our strong relationships with our customers. They want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to a ‘real person’ and get bespoke and unbiased advice, and that is what we offer. We can offer people solutions and products from over 50 different providers so we will always offer the ‘best fit’ solution for our clients. We are delighted to be part of Punchestown again and to have the opportunity to showcase our brand and services – it’s an iconic festival.”
Mary Healy Dooley, Marketing & PR Director of The Dooley Insurance Group said, “Punchestown has always been at the heart of the community here in Kildare and this sponsorship offers us the perfect platform to promote our business and our brand to our target audience through the mediums of television, radio, print and social media. It also allows us to increase our digital footprint as more and more racing fans will watch the action unfold through their smart phone or other digital devices.”
Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill said, “The Dooley Insurance Group have been brilliant supporters of Punchestown as both sponsors and service providers. We aim to engage with dynamic, market leading businesses and always seek out local providers where we can so the Dooley Group are an ideal fit here at Punchestown. The Grade 1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase has been one of the most hotly contested races in recent times and this year’s renewal is billed as one of the highlights of the season. We are really looking forward to it.”.
The Punchestown Festival will run from Tuesday, 26th April to Saturday 30th of April. For more information on the Dooley Insurance Group please see www.dooleyinsurances.ie or call (045) 431642. For further information on the Punchestown Festival see www.punchestown.com
For further press information, photography or to interview Tim Dooley of the Dooley Insurance Group please contact Aileen O’Brien, O’Brien PR. (045) 407017 or mobile (086) 8403624 firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE TO EDITORS:
The Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase and is open to horses aged five years or older. It is run over a distance of about 3 miles and ½ furlong (3 miles and 120 yards, or 4,938 metres), and during its running there are seventeen fences to be jumped. The race is for novice chasers and has seen some past winners going on to find racing glory in both the UK and Ireland.
There’s No Place Like Home – Ruby Walsh Joins the Punchestown Team
Champion Ruby Walsh To Champion Punchestown
As the much anticipated 2022 Punchestown Festival approaches the racecourse today announced Ruby Walsh as Punchestown Brand Champion in a move that will see the 12 time champion jockey officially champion the home of Irish jump racing.
The Ruby Walsh story is one that has roots in Punchestown racecourse itself, a place that is very special to Ireland’s winning most national hunt jockey of all time. Born and raised only a few miles as the crow flies from the famous venue, Punchestown has been the stage for many highlights of Walsh’s illustrious career. Now a new chapter begins. In addition to a history-making career between the rails the 42-year old has successfully transitioned to broadcast pundit, presenter and columnist. For Walsh Punchestown is personal. His new role at the home of Irish jump racing extends beyond that of brand ambassador, consultant, expert or advisor. Walsh will work alongside the Punchestown team as they continue to improve, enhance and safeguard the future of the iconic racecourse.
Looking forward to embracing the role Walsh said “For me Punchestown is home and there’s no where like home. It’s is such a special place for me and my family. It’s always been a massive part of my life ever since I was a kid riding ponies and now I bring my own girls there for pony camp. From the festival in spring to the launch of the national hunt proper in the autumn I always seem to be at Punchestown whatever the season. This is more than a passion project and I will focus on areas that I consider to be key to the quality and appeal of racing such as attracting more UK runners to the festival and throughout the season. It’s a fantastic track with brilliant prize money and great hospitality for connections.”
Walsh added: “In 2023 Punchestown celebrates 200 years. Obviously whilst I won’t be around to see it I’d like to make a contribution and play my part in safe guarding the home of Irish jump racing for another 200 years!”
Conor O’Neill Punchestown CEO welcomed Walsh by saying: “Ruby has proven himself to be as capable on the ground as in the saddle when it comes to strategy, policy and the general awareness of the realities of balancing the commerciality of racing as a product whilst respecting the tradition and heritage of the game and the contribution of those who invest in it. With an incredible network of contacts and a career that has spanned 24 years, 213 grade one wins, 12 jockey championships and success in Ireland, the UK, Japan, Australia, France and the United States qualifies Ruby as somewhat of an expert in our eyes!”
The Walsh family is intrinsically linked to Punchestown. The only track in Ireland to showcase the traditional cross-country style racing, the track features the synonymous ‘Ruby’s Double’ a grass double bank which was erected in 1995 by the Moran Family of Pennsylvania in memory of their friend Ruby Walsh senior, father of Ted. The Morans of course owned 2000 Grand National and Irish National hero Papillon trained by Ted and ridden by Ruby. Both Ruby’s sister, top amateur Katie, and sister-in-law Nina Carberry decided to hang up their boots with winning rides at the 2018 Punchestown Festival.
Call it destiny, luck or fate but Walsh’s first win at Punchestown came by default when as a wetbehind the ears 17-year-old amateur he was in the weighroom preparing for home. Enda Bolger had just ridden in the champion bumper but was standing down for the rest of the day. As Bolger walked through the weighroom he tossed a set of colours to Walsh and said “you ride that in the next”. The set of colours were the famous plain navy of Sue and John Magnier, the next was the champion Hunters Chase and ‘that’ was Dixon Varner. Walsh won. The die was cast.
Walsh himself would say that many of his memorable career moments came at Punchestown. He is the winning most jockey in what is now the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup and the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle with six wins in each. Walsh’s gold cup story begins at the very start. Upgraded from a handicap, 1999 was the inaugural running of the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup that we know today. The horse was Imperial Call who in 1996 became the first Irish trained horse to win the Cheltenham Gold cup after a ten-year drought. Imperial Calls career was interrupted by injury but as a ten-year-old now trained by Ray Hurley with a 19-year-old Ruby Walsh on his back Imperial Call returned to the winners enclosure and entered the history books as the first winner of the Punchetsown Gold Cup. The following year an even better tale comes to fruition. Undoubtedly, the most remarkable season in the Walsh family’s racing history to date. Ruby and his father Ted team up to win the Aintree Grand National with Papillion. The show rolls on to the to Easter at Fairyhouse – another national in the bag this time with Commanche Court. Fast forward a couple of weeks to Punchestown and the Dermot Desmond owned ‘Commanche’ steps up to grade 1 glory in the Punchestown Gold Cup. At 20 years of age Ruby Walsh has exceeded and excelled.
Soon after Walsh was balancing a hugely successful arrangement as first rider for both Willie Mullins and Paul Nicholls. The Walsh-Nicholls partnership certainly benefited Punchestown whilst reaping rewards for the duo and to this day Neptune Collonge is the only back to back winner of the Punchestown Gold Cup. Two of Walshs three Punchestown champion wins came from the Nicholls stable with the quirky Twist Magic (2008) and the brilliant Master Minded (2009).
The Punchestown champion hurdle has been the stage for some of Walsh’s most memorable Punchestown moments. The brilliant Hurricane Fly dominated the number one spot for four consecutive years and whilst Walsh missed out on the 2010 win due to injury it was a copy and paste scenario in 2011, ‘12 and ‘13. Vroum Vroum Mag and the wonderful Faugheen delivered the goods in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
And so to 2019. Rumours rumbled but there was no farewell tour or fanfare. A gold cup win and a wave as he crossed the line on Kemboy for longtime boss Willie Mullins. Walsh family members with emotion etched all over their faces started to gather in the parade ring and the reality began to sink in. Tears ran down Ted seniors face. Then, during his post-race interview over the racecourse PA system Walsh called it a day. Low key, on his own terms, at his favourite track surrounded by family and friends. Class.
Looking ahead to the future Ruby’s first assignment will be at Aintree. A word of advice to winning connections – plan ahead for a trip to Punchestown! One thing is sure, what Ruby Walsh applies himself to he succeeds at through dedication, strategic thinking and hard work and Punchestown will continue to be a beneficiary of this sporting icon.
The 2022 Punchestown Festival takes place from Tuesday 26th to Saturday 30th April. For full event details and bookings please visit www.punchestown.com
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