Today and tomorrow sees the return of the Winter Festival at Punchestown, featuring graded, cross-country and listed racing, live music, free children’s play room, dining packages, ticket bundles and bus services, what’s not to love!
At the centre of the double header is top class racing, and this weekend’s Punchestown Winter Festival welcomes many stars of the game as they launch their season campaigns. Household names like Rachael Blackmore, Willie Mullins and champion jockey Paul Townend will set out their stalls in the first Grade 1 hurdle of the season.
The prestigious Unibet Morgiana Hurdle takes centre stage on Sunday and is a wonderful opportunity to see Champion Hurdle contenders in the flesh. The supporting card more than holds its own, with spectator favourites like the Risk Of Thunder Cross Country race and the Grade 2 Florida Pearl Chase being obvious highlights.
Day one, today’s Saturday programme, is full of likely thrillers, and kicks off with two chases over the famous Punchestown fences before enjoying four hurdle races, two of them graded, and a bumper.
Off the turf, there’s superb entertainment for all ages. Live music will take place in the grandstand after racing each day, with a wide selection of bars including the Open Gate, Loft and Archive bars, all providing excellent viewing, seating and access for your comfort. Furthermore, there will be a bus service into Naas after racing each day.
Punchestown is a family friendly venue with free parking, free admission to all under 14 years, ample buggy friendly hard-core space, and child friendly dining options. The Playroom is a complimentary indoor facility and is located next to the horse walk where a selection of games, a chill-out movie corner, face painting and other activities will keep the younger racegoers entertained.
For families who may have outgrown the face painting stage, Race and Dine packages are a wonderful way to enhance quality time or celebrate a special occasion. The excellent Kildare-based Lily and Wild team offer a selection of delicious seasonal dishes as part of the three-course dining element. A reserved table, guest tipster, bar, betting and full access to enclosure services, like the parade ring and bookmakers ring, are all part of the package.
Conor O’Neill is the Punchestown CEO, and he shares the team’s focus to provide value to racegoers. He said: “We are all very much aware of just how expensive life has become! When choosing how to spend your hard-earned money you want to get value and a quality day out for you and your family or pals. We get that. We all do the same.
“With this in mind, we have discounts and free racecards for those who book in advance, children under 14 always race for free at Punchestown and can enjoy free entertainment. We have worked hard with our catering and beverage partners to deliver quality and variety at the best price point that we can.
“An afternoon at the races with up-close access to world-class stars of the sport offers hours of entertainment and certainly represents good value by comparison to many other options. On behalf of the team I’d like to say that we look forward to seeing visitors of all ages enjoy Punchestown this winter as ‘people make Punchestown’.”
So the message from Punchestown is to dress up, or wrap up, but to certainly round up the gang and come racing this winter at this special venue. For details visit Punchestown. com. The Association of Irish Racecourses (AIR) wishes its chairman, Conor O’Neill, and all his team at Punchestown the very best of luck with this weekend.
By Leo Powell