Punchestown is the most prestigious National Hunt course in Ireland and home to the Punchestown Festival in the spring. The course is in Eadestown, near Naas in County Kildare about 30km south of Dublin. It is clearly sign-posted for road travellers from the N7 via the R410. Irish Rail run a service from Dublin Heuston to Sallins, just outside Naas. Shuttle buses operate for the Festival meeting or you can take a taxi service direct to the racecourse.
Punchestown is regarded as the home of jump racing in Ireland. It is a right handed undulating track of around two miles. The fences are quite stiff and it is not the ideal course for a suspect jumper. The hurdles track is more undulating and tighter than the chase course. Those looking for Punchestown betting tips should certainly be looking for horses who like to race up with the pace.
If you are looking for Punchestown Festival tips, look no further than the Cheltenham Festival. Some inexperienced horses are kept in reserve for Punchestown but the lure of Cheltenham attracts the cream of Ireland’s National Hunt horses.
Punchestown Racing History
Racing has taken place at Punchestown since 1824 and the current site was purchased by the Kildare Hunt Club a year later. A new Grandstand was in operation in time for the first two-day meeting in 1854. The racecourse was attracting crowds of 40,000 by the mid 1860’s with upwards of 5,000 making the trip from Dublin by train.
Significant early races include the National Hunt Steeplechase and the Bishopscourt Cup. The latter takes place on the Friday of the current Punchestown Festival. The Conyngham Cup was first run in 1854 and was won six times in the early 1900’s by Harry Breasley. It has since been renamed the Amateur National and now takes place in January.
Punchestown’s La Touche Cup can be traced back to the early 1900’s with horses running over a four-mile cross country course. The Festival meeting continues to grow, year-on-year, with total prize money exceeding 30million Euros in 2018.
Punchestown stages 17 race meetings each season, highlighted by the five-day Festival meeting in April. There are 12 Grade 1 races during the week, including the Punchestown Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle. There are also significant meetings for the Morgiana Hurdle in November and the John Durkan Memorial Chase in December.
The first important race of the season at Punchestown is the Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle in January. The Grade 2 Tied Cottage Chase is the main event in February but most of the Grade 1 events take place at the Festival meeting in April.
The week-long event mirrors the Cheltenham Festival and attracts many of the top performers from that meeting. The Punchestown Gold Cup is the feature chase on the Wednesday, usually involving horses involved in the finish of the Cheltenham equivalent. The Punchestown Champion Chase, World Series Hurdle and Punchestown Champion Hurdle are the other headline events at a meeting packed with quality.
The Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle in November is supported by the Florida Pearl Novice Chase. The John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase brings the curtain down Punchestown’s racing year in December.
Famous Races and Racehorses
The Punchestown Gold Cup was first run in 1999 with victory going to Imperial Call. He is one of four horses to win this race and the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Sizing John became the first horse to win both races in the same season in 2017. Neptune Collonges won the race for successive seasons in 2007 and 2008 and would win the Aintree Grand National on his final career start in 2012.
Hurricane Fly won the Punchestown Champion Hurdle for four successive seasons between 2011 and 2013. He provided four of a record eight wins in the race for Willie Mullins, six of them ridden by Ruby Walsh.
The Punchestown Champion Chase is the two-mile championship race of the Festival meeting. It is often the target for horses following the Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham. The roll of honour for this race includes Viking Flagship (1993), Klairon Davis (1996 and 1997), Moscow Flyer (2004), Master Minded (2009) and Sprinter Sacre (2013).
Quevega is yet another Mullins-trained horse to star at Punchestown. The remarkable mare won the Champion Series Hurdle for four successive years. This came during her spell of winning the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham for six years running, 2009 to 2014. Faugheen provided Mullins with a record seventh win in the race in 2018 when beating stable companions Penhill and Shaneshill.
The Mares Champion Hurdle was added to the Festival meeting in 2004 and Willie Mullins has won five of the last six. Two of those victories were provided by Annie Power (2014 and 2015), herself a Cheltenham Champion Hurdler in 2016.
The Morgiana Hurdle is a recognised trial for the Champion Hurdle. Hurricane Fly also won this race three times (2012–2014), matching the achievement of Limestone Lad (1999, 2001 and 2002). Faugheen made it a record seven victories in a row for Mullins in 2017.
There have been many high class winners of the John Durkan Memorial. Djakadam (2015 and 2016) became the sixth horse to win it twice. He joined Straight Fort (1971, 1972), Fort Fox (1976, 1977), Jack Of Trumps (1978, 1979), Bobsline (1984, 1986) and Native Upmanship (2000, 2002). Perhaps most remarkable of all was the achievement of the Sean Connery owned Risk of Thunder. He was a seven times winner of the cross country La Touche Cup between 1995 and 2002. He was denied an eighth victory when the meeting was abandoned in 2001.
Punchestown Betting Tips
When picking out your best horse racing tips for Punchestown today, it pays to follow the powerful stables of Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott. They are dominant at Punchestown, both numerically and in terms of prize money won over the past three seasons. Mullins has maintained an impressive 27% strike rate over fences and 21% over hurdles, producing a level stakes profit.
Trainer Jessica Harrington also features high on our list of Punchestown racing tips, having shown a big level stakes profit with her runners over hurdles during the same period. Colin Tizzard also does extremely well with the limited number of runners he sends across the Irish Sea.