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Punchestown: Off and running at the home of jump racing

This week’s Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) column is all about the home of National Hunt racing, Punchestown Racecourse.

People make Punchestown. Nothing has proven this more than recent times and the team at the Co Kildare venue are keen to pay tribute and offer thanks to the racing industry, its customers, sponsors, members and local community for their support, goodwill and patience over the last 20 months.

The pandemic has been challenging to varying degrees for everyone so this collaborative effort has been so encouraging for the team. Many will be aware that the southern half of the Punchestown site has been dedicated to the HSE and this is where the event centre has been one of the busiest drive-through Covid testing centres in the country.

The Hunt Stand and Punchestown Pavilion buildings have adapted to a new and very worthwhile role as one of the main vaccination centres in Leinster.

All the while racing continued to run in tandem with the HSE services. In fact, the 2020/2021 season was the busiest on record at Punchestown. The usual 18 meetings became 28 leading to three meetings per month on soft to heavy ground in a majority of cases. With 2,599 runners competing on multiple circuits, 574 of which were at the 2021 Punchestown Festival which took place behind closed doors.

Big Thanks

Punchestown are especially keen to say huge thanks to their track team lead by Sean Ryan and also their clerk of the course, Brendan Sheridan, for their immense efforts. Whilst Punchestown appears to have a vast amount of racing surface, this is dictated by the finishing straight, so providing 28 fresh tracks was no mean feat.

In September, Punchestown welcomed back the public to their flat fixture, followed by their two day jump season opening fixture in mid-October. These race days had complimentary admission as the staff felt it was paramount for people to reacquaint themselves with what they enjoyed so much about an afternoon at the races. It was also a great opportunity to showcase that the racecourse is a safe environment with ample space and generous indoor venues.

Now Punchestown is delighted to welcome back hospitality guests for their Winter Festival taking place on Saturday, November 13th and Sunday 14th. The Watch House Panoramic Restaurant will be in operation next weekend and many suites have been booked by groups from both Ireland and Britain. The La Touche Restaurant will become the Owners’ and Trainers’ Lounge for the remainder of the winter fixtures.

First grade 1

The Winter Festival hosts the first Punchestown Grade 1 of the season with the Unibet Morgiana Hurdle taking centre stage on day two. Racing action gets underway around 12 noon on both days and tickets are €15 or €10 for seniors and students. A selection of public bars, the Hay Café and The Feed Room will be in operation following Fáilte Ireland protocols.

Racegoers are reminded that a Covid vaccine cert or proof of recovered status will be required should you wish to remain indoors for dining and beverages. For those of you unable to attend, the track is delighted to welcome RTÉ, TG4 and Racing TV to the home of Irish jump racing, ensuring that fans will have coverage of the action, interviews and analyse on both days.

Looking ahead, tickets for the 2022 Punchestown festival are now on sale, with a 20% early bird discount available for a limited time. The sales and hospitality team will be back in place from next week and, based on the demand and level of enquiries, indications are that the 2022 Punchestown Festival will be quite the come-back celebration event!

By Leo Powell

Irish Field

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