Punchestown Racecourse

Punchestown

Punchestown Races

Punchestown Racecourse in County Kildare is widely known as the home of National Hunt racing in Ireland. Located just 20 miles outside of Dublin, racing began at the track back in 1824.

The track hosts several Grade 1 races throughout the season, including the John Durkan Memorial Chase in December, won in 2018 by Willie Mullins-trained Min and the Morgiana Hurdle, a race won by Mullins for the last eight years with the likes of Nichols Canyon, Hurricane Fly and Faugheen.

Punchestown also brings the curtain down on the jumps season in the UK and Ireland with the star-studded Punchestown Festival, featuring 12 Grade 1 races as well as the famous La Touche Cup over the cross-country course – the only one in Ireland. The festival also provides a chance for smaller trainers to have their day in the sun, with plenty of low-grade races with lucrative prize money.

It hosts arguably the best Supreme Novices’ Hurdle trial, with the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle in January often throwing up several winners at Cheltenham. Horses such as Kicking King, Douvan and Vautour have all landed the spoils in the Grade 2 hurdle before going on to further successes at the major spring festivals.

Punchestown also hosts the Grade 1 Dublin Chase, a race usually used as preparation for the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Sizing Europe won the race in 2012 and 2013 for Henry De Bromhead while Moscow Flyer was a famous double winner in 2003 and 2005.

The Course at Punchestown

Punchestown Racecourse is a very fair track, with the hurdles course spanning one mile and six furlongs while the chase track is two miles long on the outer of the hurdles course.

It is a right-handed, galloping, undulating track with a steady uphill run through the last five furlongs, providing a stiff finish.

It is a very fair test of a jumper with 11 fences to a circuit that would not be testing by British standards. The obstacles pose few problems to sound jumpers and would be easier to jump than those at both Cheltenham and Aintree.

The hurdles track is slightly trickier, with a downhill section after the winning post which can make life tough for jockeys. Being on the inside of the chase track, the bends are tight - especially after the second-last hurdle. For that reason, it is more of a speed track than stamina and it can often pay to be towards the head of the field in running.

The cross-country course is a long and twisting one over a variety of banks and other obstacles, with many hurdles and fences jumped more than once. The hills known as ‘Ruby’s Double’ - named after the recently-retired jockey Ruby Walsh - are very testing with two banks in close proximity and can often see horses lose all momentum. The final brush fence is the sole obstacle jumped on the racecourse proper before the final straight.

Punchestown races: 2019-20 fixtures

15th October 2019 – Welcome Back Raceday

16th October 2019 – The Irish Daily Star Chase Day

16th November 2019 – Winter Festival Day 1

17th November 2019 – Winter Festival Day 2

26th November 2019 – Mid Week Winter Racing

8th December 2019 – John Durkan Memorial Chase Day

31st December 2019 – NYE Countdown In Town Day

12th January 2020 – Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle Day

1st February 2020 – Dublin Chase Day

28th April 2020 – BoyleSports Champion Steeplechase Day

29th April 2020 – Coral Punchestown Gold Cup Day

30th April 2020 – Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle Day

1st May 2020 – BETDAQ Champion Hurdle Day

2nd May 2020 – Annie Power Mares’ Champion Hurdle Day

13th May 2020 – Final Wednesday Race Meeting

The festival at Punchestown

Punchestown Festival is without doubt the biggest in Irish National Hunt racing, providing a stunning five-day meeting with a total of 12 Grade 1 races as well as over €3.2 million worth of prize money to be won.

On the opening day, the Grade 1 BoyleSports Champion Steeplechase gets the meeting off to a bang, having been won by the brilliant Un De Sceaux for the past two seasons.

The following day sees the staying chasers take centre stage as the Punchestown Gold Cup often attracts the King George, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Aintree Bowl winners. In 2019, Aintree winner Kemboy held off a late rally to defeat Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo in a race that turned out to be Ruby Walsh’s last ride.

Day three is the turn of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle, won in 2019 by Unowhatimeanharry who reversed the Cheltenham form by sweeping clear in the closing stages to claim the €177,000 top prize.

Friday sees the BETDAQ Champion Hurdle take place, having been won four times by the brilliant Hurricane Fly. Jessica Harrington’s Supasundae was a shock winner of the race in 2018 after a dramatic running that saw both Melon and Samcro fall at the same hurdle.

And on the final day, it is the turn of the mares with the Annie Power Mares’ Champion Hurdle as well as the Champion Four-Year-Old hurdle, a race that usually sees the Triumph Hurdle winner attempting to confirm that form from Cheltenham.

The 2020 Punchestown Festival will take place between Tuesday April 28 and Saturday May 2 inclusive.

Punchestown Results

Punchestown’s annual Festival again provided some high-class winners to go along with the high-class racing on offer in 2019. The major race winners were as follows:

2019 BoyleSports Champion Steeplechase: Un De Sceaux (11/4)

2019 Coral Punchestown Gold Cup: Kemboy (13/8f)

2019 Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle: Unowhatimeanharry (16/1)

2019 BETDAQ Champion Hurdle: Buveur D’Air (2/1jf)

2019 Annie Power Mares’ Champion Hurdle: Benie Des Dieux (2/5f)

Punchestown Racecourse location and how to get there

The Racecourse is well positioned in County Kildare and is only 20 miles from Dublin City Centre as well as a further 10 miles away to Dublin City Airport.

Flying into Dublin City Airport is fairly simple and flight times are usually around an hour from anywhere in the UK, with Ryanair and Aer Lingues the main operators.

If you are in the city centre before racing, a taxi fare cost around €50 but you can get a train from Dublin’s Heuston Station to Sallins, just outside of Naas. From there, you can get a free shuttle bus to and from Poplar Square in Naas.

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