Paul Townend battles injury to hold off Rachael Blackmore for top jockey

Lisgoold native is nine wins ahead of the Tipperary star for Champion Jockey crown
Paul Townend battles injury to hold off Rachael Blackmore for top jockey

El Barra and Paul Townend win for owners Susannah and Rich Ricci and trainer Willie Mullins before his injury in early April. Picture: Healy Racing.

THE Punchestown Festival promises to be a real cracker with Honeysuckle, Minella Indo, Put The Kettle On and Flooring Porter among the 36 Grade 1 winners included in entries revealed this week.

It has been an extraordinary dominant year for Irish Racing with our horses mopping up at Cheltenham and Aintree.

Entries for the 12 Grade 1 races at the Festival, which runs from April 27 to May 1, also include the likes of Al Boum Photo, Allaho and Chacun Pour Soi, while Epatante, Goshen and Nube Negra are among the high-profile names from the UK.

Minella Indo and Jack Kennedy win for owner Barry Maloney and trainer Henry de Bromhead with groom Cathal Carmody. Picture: Healy Racing.
Minella Indo and Jack Kennedy win for owner Barry Maloney and trainer Henry de Bromhead with groom Cathal Carmody. Picture: Healy Racing.

Goshen has been such a frustrating horse for the Moore’s but they are a very shrewd operation and trainer Gary Moore is adamant that going right-handed will bring out the best in their talented hurdler. He gave Jamie Moore no chance at Cheltenham and almost ran off the track. But on his day Goshen can mix it with the best so he will be a very welcome visitor from the cockney trainer.

There is an intriguing battle going on to see who will be crowned Champion Jockey in a couple of categories.

Paul Townend is nine winners ahead of the woman of the moment Rachael Blackmore. The Tipperary native crowned an amazing season by winning the Aintree Grand National on Minella Times last weekend at Aintree.

Townend is currently sidelined with a leg injury and information about his return date is sketchy which is adding further intrigue to the title race.

The Lisgoold rider will do everything to get back for Punchestown but the big question is how many winners will Blackmore have ridden in the intervening period.

The battle for the Champion Amateur Title is even tighter with Patrick Mullins trailing Jamie Codd by just one winner, 41 v 40. Mullins will be fancied to emerge victorious given the army of horses his father runs at the meeting. These subplots for the jockeys' gongs add further intrigue to Punchestown.

The biggest race of the week for many punters is the eagerly awaited clash between Monkfish and Envoi Allen and it is still very much on in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase on the opening day of the Festival, while Shishkin, Energumene, Bob Olinger and Appreciate It are other star novices with entries over the five days.

much anticipated return of crowds for the 2022 Punchestown Festival.”

Irish trainers maintained their dominance of Britain’s biggest races this season when saddling the first five home in the Grand National and 10 of the first 11 finishers.

Rachael Blackmore became the first female rider to win the race after scoring aboard Minella Times, whose trainer Henry de Bromhead won the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Remarkably, De Bromhead also trained the 100-1 runner-up Balko Des Flos, who ran in the colours of the newly formed Racehorse Club and finished in the first two for the first time since winning the 2018 Ryanair Chase. Winning owner JP McManus was also represented by Any Second Now, who finished third for trainer Ted Walsh ahead of the Willie Mullins-trained Burrows Saint and Farclas, trained by Denise Foster.

Irish trainers would have been responsible for the first 10 home had it not been for 50-1 outsider Blaklion, who finished sixth for Dan Skelton who has emerged as one of the few rising stars among the British training ranks.

His brother Harry Skelton is odds on to be crowned Champion Jockey in the UK and the Skelton brothers are building a lovely team of horses in recent seasons.

Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase winner Put the Kettle On relaxing at home at Henry De Bromhead’s Stables. Picture: Healy Racing.
Queen Mother Champion Steeplechase winner Put the Kettle On relaxing at home at Henry De Bromhead’s Stables. Picture: Healy Racing.

Of course, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson will always be big players but the big Irish owners are buying the horses straight from the P2P fields here which is keeping most of the top horses in Ireland.

Irish trainers were responsible for the first three home in 2019 when Magic Of Light and Rathvinden chased home Tiger Roll, and the first four home the previous year, when Pleasant Company lost out to Tiger Roll by a head.

They have won four of the last 10 runnings of the race, with Rule The World beating the Kim Bailey-trained The Last Samuri in 2016 for Gigginstown House Stud, trainer Mouse Morris and David Mullins. The most recent British-trained winner was One For Arthur, who scored in 2017 under Derek Fox for Scottish trainer Lucinda Russell.

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