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Punchestown Festival

The Punchestown Festival is the major horse racing festival of the Irish National Hunt Season and is held at the Punchestown Racecourse every April.

It runs from Tuesday – Saturday and is seen by many as the Irish equivalent of the Cheltenham Festival and is even run in a similar manner.

There are a large number of major races at the Punchestown Festival including the:

  • Champion Chase
  • Ryanair Novice Chase
  • Champion Hurdle
  • World Series Hurdle
  • Herald Champion Novice Hurdle
  • Tattersails Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle
  • Growise Champion Novice Chase
  • Champion Four Year Old Hurdle
  • Champion INH Flat Race
  • Punchestown Gold Cup
Every day of the festival is created to be special. With different sponsors and events for each, there is always something on tap for everyone!
Tuesday – Boylesports Champion Chase Day
The opening day is a big, 7-race affair. Three major Grade 1 races take place on this day – the Boylesports Champion Chase, the Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, and the Growise Novice Chase.
Wednesday – Punchestown Gold Cup Day
Wednesday features the highlight of the chase calendar with the Grade 1 Punchestown Gold Cup. A lesser known but hotly contested Irish Champion Bumper also takes place on this day, as well as the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, and the Weatherbys GSB EBF Mares Flat Race.
Thursday – The Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle Day
The third day of the festival features the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle in addition to the Ryanair Novice Chase. The famous La Touche Cross Country race runs on day 3 as well.
Friday – The BETDAQ Champion Hurdle Day
Friday is the crown jewel of the festival. It’s the favorite among race goers, locals, and socialites as it always gets the largest crowd of any race day during the festival, creating a real party atmosphere.
Saturday – The AES Festival Family Day
Saturday has become the second biggest day of the festival, with the focus on the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle race. In addition to the races, this day offers many activities for kids and families to enjoy while taking in the races.

Major Races

Champion Chase

The Punchestown Champion Chase is a Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase open to horses aged 5-years and up and is run over a distance of 2 miles. During the race there are eleven fences to be jumped. Sponsored by BoyleSports, the Champion Chase usually includes horses that ran in the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. This race takes place on the Boylesports Champion Chase Day.

Leading Horse
  • Shower of Silver – 2 wins (1955-1956)
  • Muir – 2 wins (1969-1970)
  • Skymas – 2 wins (1972-1973)
  • Light the Wad – 2 wins (1982-1983)
  • Klairon Davis – 2 wins (1996-1997)
  • Sizing Europe – 2 wins (2012, 2014)
Leading Jockey
  • Pat Taaffe – 5 wins (1951, 1953, 1954, 1961, 1966)
Leading Trainer
  • Tom Dreaper – 6 wins (1961, 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971)

Ryanair Novice Chase

The Ryanair Novice Chase is very similar to the Champion Chase but with one major difference. Like the Champion Chase, it is  Grade 1 National Hunt Steeplechase open to horses aged 5-years and up and is run over a distance of 2 miles with eleven fences to jump. The major difference, however, is that it is for “novice” horses.

A novice horse in horse racing is a horse which has not won in a particular type of race prior to the start of the current race season. A novice remains a novice until the end of the season in which it gains its first win in that particular category no matter how many wins it collects.

With that being the case, there can of course be no repeat winners by horses. Jockeys and trainers on the other hand can run yearly. This race takes place on the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle Day.

Leading Jockey
  • Barry Geraghty – 4 wins (2002, 2008, 2012, 2014)
  • Ruby Walsh – 4 wins (2003, 2013, 2015, 2016)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 5 wins (2009, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Champion Hurdle

The Punchestown Champion Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race in Ireland. It is open to horses aged 4-years old and up and is run over a distance just shy of 2 miles. There are nice fences to be jumped throughout the course.

The race takes place on the Betdaq Champion Hurdle day which is seen as the crown jewel of the event. This day gets the largest crowd and is known for its party like atmosphere.

Leading Horse
  • Hurricane Fly – 4 wins (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
Leading Jockey
  • Ruby Walsh – 6 wins (2002, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 8 wins (2002, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017)

World Series Hurdle

The World Series Hurdle, also known as the Champion Stayers Hurdle, is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race in Ireland open to horses ages 4-years old and up and run over a distance of 3 miles with 14 hurdles to be jumped.

The main attraction of the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle Day, this race is the Irish equivalent of the Stayers Hurdle run in Britain.

Leading Horse
  • Quevega – 4 wins (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)
Leading Jockey
  • Ruby Walsh – 5 wins (2006, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 6 wins (2003, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)

Herald Champion Novice Hurdle

Taking place on opening day, the herald Champion Novice Hurdle is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race that is ran over a distance of 2 miles with a total of 9 hurdles to be jumped. The race is for novice hurdlers ages five-years-old and up. It is one of the two biggest novice races on the Punchestown schedule.

Leading Jockey
  • Tony McCoy – 4 wins (1998, 2008, 2011, 2012)
Leading Trainer
  • Noele Maede – 5 wins (1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008)
  • Edward O’Grady – 5 wins (1980, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2011)
  • Willie Mullins – 5 wins (2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2017)

Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle

One of the smaller novice races on the schedule in terms of purse (95,000 Euros), the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle is a Grade 1 National hunt hurdle race open to horses ages four-years-old an up. Run over a distance of 2.5 miles with 12 hurdles to be jumped, it is one of the more physically taxing novice races of the festival.

Leading Jockey
  • Ruby Walsh – 8 wins (2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2014, 2015)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 9 wins (2002, 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017)

Growise Champion Novice Chase

One of the most physically demanding races on the schedule is the Growise Champion Novice Chase. Taking Place on the first day of the festival, the Growise is run over a distance of just over 3miles with 17 fences to be jumped. The race is for novice chasers aged five-years-old and up.

Leading Jockey
  • Davy Russell – 3 wins (2011, 2012, 2016)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 3 wins (2010, 2012, 2015)

Champion Four Year Old Hurdle

The feature race of the AES Family Festival day, the final day of the festival, is the Champion Four Year Old Hurdle. It is a Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race open to horses that are four-yeas of age. Run over 2 miles with 9 hurdles to be accounted for, the Champion Four is for novice horses only.

The field usually includes horses that ran in the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham, so doing some homework not hat race could help you when it comes to betting on this one.

Leading Jockey
  • Ruby Walsh – 5 wins (2001, 2003, 2013, 2014, 2017)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 7 wins (2001, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)

Champion INH Flat Race

The Champion INH Flat Race is a Grade 1 National Hunt flat race for amateur riders which is open to horses aged four to seven years. It is run over a distance of 2 miles and usually includes horses that ran in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, a good resource to use when betting this race.

Leading Jockey
  • Patrick Mullins – 3 wins (2008, 2011, 2015)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 7 wins (1995, 2008, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016)

Punchestown Gold Cup

The race of all races at the festival is the Punchestown Gold Cup. Run on the second day of the festival, it is the highlight of the chase race calendar. The Gold Cup is run at a distance of just over 3 miles with 17 fences to be jumped. The race usually features horses which ran in the Cheltenham Gold Cup which serves as a good precursor for betting strategies.

Leading Horse
  • Neptune Collonges – 2 wins (2007, 2008)
Leading Jockey
  • Ruby Walsh – 5 wins (1999, 2000, 2007, 2008, 2014)
  • Barry Geraghty – 5 wins (2001, 2002, 2005, 2012, 2016)
Leading Trainer
  • Willie Mullins – 3 wins (2002, 2013, 2014)
The Next Punchestown Festival will take place in 2018, from April 24th – April 28th. Punchestown Racecourse is a flat course located in County Kildare, Ireland.
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