Jump season ends on a high with Punchestown Festival still to come next week

Jump season ends on a high with Punchestown Festival still to come next week

GALOPIN DES CHAMPS won for jockey Paul Townend pictured with the trophy.

THE Punchestown Festival brings the curtain down on another extraordinary national hunt season with the five day meeting commencing on Tuesday. 

Paul Townend will be crowned Champion Jockey after another superb season, while north Cork friends and racecourse rivals Darragh O’Keeffe and Shane Fitzgerald really caught the eye with some brilliant victories this winter.

Davy Russell choose his rides carefully and was denied a Cheltenham winner on Tiger Roll by his stable mate Delta Work after an epic clash. Jonathan Burke and Noel Fehily combined for a Cheltenham victory with Love Envoi which was fantastic while Jody Townend is enjoying a tremendous run of victories in bumpers. 

Of course, the return of crowds to all the major festivals really added to the atmosphere and Punchestown is always full of exciting clashes across the week.

But the star attraction at next week’s Punchestown Festival will be the two-time Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle who will defend her Grade 1 Paddy Power Champion Hurdle crown at Punchestown on Friday. 

Her trainer Henry de Bromhead says she is in good shape and he is delighted with the receptions that the unbeaten eight-year-old has received after her most recent victories.

Her victories with Rachael Blackmore aboard have really caught the public’s imagination.

Owners Tomas and Jack Singleton walk their horse Bugs Moran with jockey Jack Kennedy onboard after their win at Fairyhouse.
Owners Tomas and Jack Singleton walk their horse Bugs Moran with jockey Jack Kennedy onboard after their win at Fairyhouse.

 “She’s been great since the Champion Hurdle, not a bother on her. She’s tough out, she’s so hardy and she seems in really good form,"  De Bromhead said.

"She looks great and we’re happy. The support we get with her, and the support she gets, is incredible and she has such a following now and it’s brilliant to see it. 

"I was delighted to see the roar that she got at Cheltenham, and also the reception she got at the Hatton’s Grace. 

"The reception in the Irish Champion Hurdle was incredible as well, but it was lovely to see her get the roar in Cheltenham also.” 

All eyed will also be on Allaho and Paul Townend after Willie Mullins revealed plans to step his Ryanair Chase winner up to an extended three miles for the Grade 1 Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup at next week’s Punchestown Festival.

Mullins has always said Allaho is very versatile and could run over any trip, but he was very impressed with his win in the Ryanair at Cheltenham over an extended two and a half miles. 

Allaho won a Grade 3 novice hurdle over three miles at Clonmel and has been placed at that trip over fences in the Grade 1 RSA at Cheltenham a couple of years ago.

"Yeah, he’s very good over that 2m4f trip. I think he could stay the three miles of the Punchestown race," Mullins said.

"If Energumene or Chacun Pour Soi weren't in the two mile race I'd love to go back some day over two miles with him. 

"He has that sort of ability. The way that the race is setting up this year, I think we'll go for the three mile with him. 

"I imagine Henry de Bromhead might have a say in that race too! He’s got the top staying chasers around as well."

While Allaho is a dual Ryanair Chase champion this is going to be one of the races of the week. 

Al Boum Photo is a dual Gold Cup winner while Paul Nicholls and Clan Des Obeaux have won a pair of King George’s at Kempton. 

Constitution Hill ridden by Nico de Boinville clears a fence before going on to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Connections of Constitution Hill have been given an added incentive to take on Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival. Issue date: Monday April 11, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Punchestown. Photo credit should read Mike Egerton/PA Wire.
Constitution Hill ridden by Nico de Boinville clears a fence before going on to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle. Connections of Constitution Hill have been given an added incentive to take on Honeysuckle at the Punchestown Festival. Issue date: Monday April 11, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story RACING Punchestown. Photo credit should read Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

If all the leading entries take part the Punchestown Gold Cup will draw a bumper crowd next Wednesday. 

With perhaps too much pace in the Punchestown Champion Chase last year for Allaho, a tilt at the three-mile contest seems the logical move. 

He was as brilliant as ever at Prestbury Park in March, with another faultless performance leading to a second Ryanair success.

Clan Des Obeaux landed the spoils last year and, with him taking the same route via Aintree, Paul Nicholls will doubtless fancy his chances again. The Sir Alex Ferguson-owned ten-year-old was excellent in last year’s renewal, fending off Al Boum Photo to become the first English winner since Planet Of Sound in 2010.

Willie Mullins has taken four of the last eight renewals, and, although Allaho hasn’t won over three miles since his novice hurdling days, his potential presence in this alongside Al Boum Photo would give the defending champion plenty of food for thought.

The Easter Racing Festivals certainly didn’t disappoint and Galopin Des Champs made up for his Cheltenham disappoint when putting up an electric performance to win the featured Boylesports Gold Cup Novices Chase at Fairyhouse. 

The Paul Townend ridden six-year-old jump ceptionally well here, taking lengths out of his rivals and putting himself right when getting in close. Galopin Des Champs has now been installed 7/2 favourite for next years Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

"He was an armchair ride, lobbing along and jumping for fun. He was set to put in a massive performance at Cheltenham before his fall and the important thing is that he learned from it," Townend said.

"I was so happy with him today. He knew what he was doing and looked a real professional."

Finally, there was a fantastic crowd at Cork racecourse to see dual Champion Hurdle runner-up Melon defeat 2021 Grand National hero Minella Times to land Cork's featured Baroneracing.com Chase. 

HONEYSUCKLE and RACHAEL BLACKMORE celebrate with grooms Coleman Comerford and Chloe McNamara after their success.
HONEYSUCKLE and RACHAEL BLACKMORE celebrate with grooms Coleman Comerford and Chloe McNamara after their success.

Joe Donnelly’s colours have really come to the prominence in recent seasons with Al Boum Photo winning a pair of Gold Cups while Shiskin has been a phenomenal servant for the former Cork bookmaker.

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