The Punchestown Festival brings the curtain down on another wonderful Jumps Season. Ireland’s premier meeting is held over five days with Grade 1 action all the way. The home of Irish National Hunt Racing will entertain around 100,000 during the week, with the emphasis on great racing coupled with a relaxed fun atmosphere.
In recent times the meeting has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Irish Champion trainer Willie Mullins. With 13 winners in 2013, he looks certain to dominate again with a team that looks as strong as ever.
Punters should be warned however, not to simply jump blindly aboard the ‘Mullins Express’ in search of winners. The opening day of last year’s meeting saw four Mullin’s favourites out of seven races, yet only one found his way to the winners enclosure. Two of those defeated had won at the Cheltenham Festival just a month earlier.
It’s slightly disappointing that British trainers do not target the meeting in greater numbers. Many of course look to Aintree rather than Punchestown, and after a long winter campaign decide that a trip to Ireland at the end of April is a trip too far.
Having said that, the meeting is often a target for a select number of British trained horses, especially from the Nicky Henderson and Philip Hobbs stables. Both have had their share of success over the years. Last year was notable with the wonderful Sprinter Sacre travelling over and thrilling the Irish public. David Pipe was also successful when The Liquidator won a Grade 1 flat race. Indeed he travels over again to compete in the Champion Novice Hurdle on Tuesday.
As at Cheltenham in March, this week’s meeting will see equine stars looking to retain their crowns after years of domination. Two horses in particular will look to achieve the incredible feat of five straight wins. Quevega has followed up her mares successes at Cheltenham with World Series Hurdle wins. Her achievement has been mirrored at Punchestown by Hurricane Fly with his wins in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
Both now ten-year-old’s, Hurricane Fly in particular has plenty on his plate. Soundly beaten in March by Jezki in the Champion Hurdle he again has that horse to beat if he is to reign supreme. A victory for Jess Harrington’s star hurdler would be especially emotional after the recent passing of her husband John. Yet ‘The Fly’ has been so dominant in Ireland it would come as no surprise to see him once again creating all the headlines.
Quevega is set to take on British raiders At Fishers Cross and Fingal Bay. Yet her toughest opponent, should he take up his entry, could prove to be stablemate Diakali. Mullins’ young hurdler now stepped up in trip, could prove to be a star over the next few years.
Other potential stars to watch for include Faugheen and Vautour from the powerful Mullins Yard. Both are set to build on their success at Cheltenham, though over different distances. Other stable stars in action include Champagne Fever who takes on Balder Succes. Annie Power will be expected to get back to winning ways in the Mares Champion Hurdle. And then there is the enigma that is Boston Bob; he will hope for a decent round of jumping as he takes on Long Run and First Lieutenant in the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Some week! A sensational finale to a simply wonderful winter of National Hunt Racing.
Be sure to enjoy the craic!
Punchestown tip will be provided in our Community area throughout the Festival. You can sign-up for instant access from just £6. JP