One of Ireland’s favourite social and sporting events, the Punchestown Festival, gets underway tomorrow, Tuesday 24th and runs until Saturday 28th April. Over 125,000 people are expected to enjoy the top class racing, buzzing social scene and recently refurbished facilities at the famous Kildare venue.
The centre piece of the five day spectacular is the top quality racing with 38 contests including 12 grade 1’s for a record breaking €3,047,500 prize fund. All eyes will be on the champion trainer title battle between 11 time champion Willie Mullins and Grand National winning trainer Gordon Elliott who was so narrowly defeated at the final hour last season. The championship title is based on the prize money won by the trainer throughout the season and Elliott will kick off the week with a lead of just over €520,000. The Gold Cup winning Colin Tizzard team will spearhead the British raiding party.
The Punchestown Festival is one of the country’s leading corporate events with over 17,000 hospitality guests booked into the tracks six restaurant, three pavilion and 18 private suite venues. Over 725 companies are directly involved as sponsors, suppliers, contractors and customers. Of this number there are over 43 commercial sponsors and eighteen of those are county Kildare based companies. Based on findings of independent research carried out by the National University of Maynooth the Punchestown Festival contributes over €60 million to the local economy. Hotels, restaurants, transport providers, salons, boutiques and attractions benefit from the huge influx of people to the locality with at least 20,000 of those in visitors travelling from Great Britain and beyond.
Punchestown prides itself on being ‘more than a one horse town’ with a full programme of live entertainment on offer throughout the enclosures. New for 2018 is the €4 million Hunt Stand which will be the centre piece of the reserved enclosure, the social hub of the festival. Located just metres from the finishing straight this 13,000 square feet facility will be the new permanent home of the Bollinger Champagne Lounge, increased capacity Festival Bar, Fox Den Café and is next door to the famous Punchestown Sky Bar where the legendary aprés racing sing along session will take place on festival Friday.
With ladies accounting for almost 50% of the festival attendance style plays a major role across the week. This years Bollinger Best Dressed Lady competition will take place over the first four days with a finalist selected each day to go forward to the grand final on Friday 27th April. The winner will receive a trip of a lifetime to France where they will visit the home of Bollinger in the champagne region, enjoy Michelin star dining, private transfers and luxury accommodation.
Another new addition at Punchestown 2018 is The Street festival shopping experience. Over 50 exhibitors will showcase handmade jewellery, millinery, sculpture and art shown alongside fashion, homewares, garden pieces and much more. Junior racegoers can enjoy free entertainment on Saturday 28th April with over 60,000 square feet of indoor activity space with bouncy castles, face painting, pony rides and interactive entertainment throughout the day. All children under 14 years of age race for free at Punchestown.
Looking forward to a special week at Punchestown, General Manager Dick O’Sullivan said “ Going by the buzz ahead of this year’s festival we think it is going to be something very special indeed. We’ve had a long, tough winter and everyone is ready to get out and enjoy themselves. With the Irish racing scene better than it has ever been, fantastic new facilities and great crowds we reckon this Punchestown Festival is an event not to be missed!”