Punchestown Team Count Down Towards Best-Ever Festival
Punchestown Racecourse’s General Manager, Dick O’Sullivan, today looked forward to what could be one of the greatest-ever Irish National Hunt Festivals at the County Kildare course.
An unprecedented number of the principal winners from Cheltenham last week look set to line up at the 2013 Punchestown Festival, staged from April 23 to 27. Connections of eight of the 12 Cheltenham Grade 1 winners (including at least three of the four championship scorers) and nine of the runners-up are considering a trip to Punchestown. Indeed, at least 14 of the overall 27 Cheltenham winners could be heading to Ireland’s top Jump meeting.
Among them is the brilliant Sprinter Sacre, who trainer Nicky Henderson is aiming at the Boylesports.com Champion Chase on Tuesday, April 23.
O’Sullivan said: “It’s no exaggeration to say that we’re gearing up to what promises to be one of the best-ever Punchestown Festivals.
“Not in living memory have we known so many of the star names from the Cheltenham Festival due to come on to Punchestown and we are building up to any number of mouthwatering clashes throughout the five days.
“Obviously, things can change in the coming weeks but at the moment it looks like we could have the successful horses from over half of the 27 races at Cheltenham coming to Punchestown and, remarkably, as many as eight of the 12 Grade 1 winners.
“I am sure Jump racing fans from across Ireland and the UK will want to come and watch such established stars as Sprinter Sacre, Hurricane Fly and Quevega as well as some of the big names of the future like Our Conor.”
Some of the week’s highlights include:
TUESDAY, APRIL 23
Boylesports.com Champion Chase (Grade 1) - Sprinter Sacre, already being dubbed Jump racing’s Frankel, is due to make his first visit to Ireland. Sizing Europe, runner-up to him in Cheltenham’s Queen Mother Champion Chase, could re-oppose. The outstanding Flemenstar, who missed Cheltenham, and Ryanair Chase winner Cue Card could also run.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24
Punchestown Gold Cup (Grade 1) - Cheltenham Gold Cup runner-up Sir Des Champs is due to line up alongside Ryanair Chase second First Lieutenant, also owned by Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown House Stud. Silviniaco Conti, who was travelling well when falling in the Gold Cup, could represent Paul Nicholls while David Bridgwater is considering running 2012 Gold Cup second The Giant Bolster and Kauto Star’s half-brother, Kauto Stone, has been kept fresh for Punchestown.
Betchronicle.com Champion INH Flat Race (Grade 1) - Briar Hill, winner of the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, will bid to emulate stablemate Champagne Fever last year by doubling up in this €75,000 event.
THURSDAY, APRIL 25
Ladbrokes.com World Series Hurdle (Grade 1) - Superstar Quevega, fresh from her fifth consecutive Cheltenham Festival success in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle, is likely to bid for an amazing fourth victory in this three-mile contest. A brilliant clash with Solwhit, winner of the Ladbrokes World Hurdle at Cheltenham, is on the cards. Quevega also has the option of the new Grade 1 Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Fillies’ Scheme European Breeders’ Fund Mares Champion Hurdle on the Saturday of Punchestown.
FRIDAY, APRIL 26
Rabobank Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) – One of the all-time great hurdlers, Hurricane Fly, will bid to win this contest for a fourth time. He lines up on the back of his second Cheltenham Champion Hurdle victory. Rivals look set to include Cheltenham runner-up and 2012 Champion Hurdle winner Rock On Rubyand the Nicky Henderson-trained Grandouet, who was travelling ominously well when falling at Cheltenham.
SATURDAY, APRIL 27
AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (Grade 1) – Jump racing’s young new superstar, Our Conor, is set to line up following his 15-length Triumph Hurdle victory at Cheltenham. The four-year-old was sold privately this week to owner Barry Connell.
Entries for the feature events at the 2013 Punchestown Festival close on Wednesday, April 3.
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