Punchestown Racecourse is only a ten minute drive from Ballymore Eustace and is a fascinating attraction on our own doorstep. You can see some of the finest horses and the most successful trainers and jockeys at the Punchestown Festival . Punchestown is known as the home of jump racing in Ireland.
The first race recorded at Punchestown Racecourse is as far back as 1824. In 1837 the first Kildare Hunt Cup Steeplechase was held. Over the next few decades Punchestown became a huge attraction and the Prince of Wales even attended a meeting in 1868.
At one stage the Catholic Church forbid priests from attending race meetings. They didn’t listen and this led to what is known as “Priest’s Hill” where they all watched the races relatively hidden.
Now, the Punchestown Festival is the one of the biggest weeks in horse racing and it all kicks off this Tuesday the 28th of April and runs until Saturday.
Punchestown Festival -Racing
Punchestown has become one of the biggest attractions on the horse racing calender in Ireland with the five day festival in late April early May each year. The festival attracts over 100,000 punters.
The now five day festival is seen as the grande finale of the jump season with the best trainers, jockeys and most importantly, horses from both Ireland and the UK and indeed further afield.
The festival boasts 12 Grade 1 races, each highly competitive.
Day one, the Tuesday of the festival features the Boylesports.com Champion Chase, a highly prestigious race with former winners such as Moscow Flyer.
Day two, Wednesday features the highlight of the chase calender with the Grade 1, 3 mile Punchestown Gold Cup. One of the most famous races with a roll of honour containing Beef or Salmon, Kicking King and War of Attrition over the years.
Day three, Thursday has the fan favourite Avon Rí La Touche Cross Country race . Known as the “daddy of all cross country races” , the La Touche is the most traditional, prestigious and longest race of its kind. Kilkenny based trainer Enda Bolger has the best record in the race with 11 wins out of the last 12.
After the excitement of the Cross Country race comes day four and the Punchestown Champion Hurdle. The great Hurricane Fly won four in a row from 2010 onwards. Day four is the day to be there, packed to the rafters, people from all walks of life united in an interest in horses.
The closing day of the festival is a family affair with face painting, bouncy castles and pony rides.
Unfortunately AP McCoy has decided to not take part in the festival which many had hoped he would to end his career there.
Admission for U14’s is free and teenagers u18 get in for €12 on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday while Thursday is €15 and Friday is €18.
Punchestown Festival- Non Racing
The festival is a must for any sporting enthusiast but you simply cannot limit the festival to that, there is something for everyone.
There are two stand out locations to eat at the festival. Dobbins Food Hall serves an array of dishes with top quality ingredients. Then there is the La Touche Cafe where you can pick up a quick coffee and snack on the way to inspect the parade ring.
Of course there are many food stands dotted throughout the vast grounds of Punchestown .
For the few days Punchestown has a very lively “nightlife” that just happens to be during the day. There is a buoyant atmosphere in the many enclosures as people discuss their betting fortunes or lack thereof. You can get a pint of Guinness or a glass of champagne, whichever you would fancy.
Weather permitting, Madigan’s Bar is the place to be as it is a sun trap right beside the horse walk. You can enjoy a pint, watch the horses go past and make the quick dash to the betting facilities nearby.
Madigan’s also have a larger bar on the ground floor of the grandstand. There is also Lawlor’s Bar which is on level one of the grandstand. Guinness Festival Bar and The Champagne Bar are two other bars all close to track, parade ring and betting area.
You will find live music after the races in all of these venues and it is all part of the experience of the Punchestown Festival.
If the bars don’t tickle your fancy then there is even a shopping venue. There are a multitude of different stands for you to shop at instead of the gambling. Kids clothing, jewellery, fine art and garden furniture are just some of the products on offer. If you want the shopping and the racing you are in look as the shopping area opens two hours before the first race.
As with all of the big racing festivals, there is a Lady’s Day and subsequent Best Dressed Competition on day four. This year the prize for best dressed lady is provided by Gold Fever. The winner will get Gold Fever products for the year and a trip to South Africa and the safari to the value of €24000. The competition runs over the first few days with a daily winner picked to then contest the overall prize on Lady’s Day.
The closing day of the festival is the family fun day and if your kids have any interest in racing or horses then this is obviously the best day to go. There is a fancy dress parade, a festival art competition, and a draw for a family car. There is a toddlers soft play area, a bouncy castle, an obstacle course, a pet farm, a disco and many more.
Punchestown is a great day out, in fact it is a great few days out if you are so inclined. We are very nearby in Fogarty’s in the square in Ballymore Eustace. Don’t hesitate to drop by before or after your day of racing.