Bone-dry Punchestown watered for second day of festival
Heavens open over course in morning for the first time in a long while
Runners and riders take the first hurdle, with the packed stand in the background, in The Martinstown Opportunity Series Final Handicap Hurdle, on the second day of The Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Fabiola Stein, from Longford, on the second day of The Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times
Into every racing festival, a little rain must fall. The heavens opened over Punchestown this morning for the first time in a long while.
The bone-dry course was watered earlier in the morning for the second day of the National Hunt festival. The course owners had expected 40mm of rain over the weekend: they got 4mm.
Today was a complete contrast to the day before. The trackside thermometer recorded 22 degrees yesterday; it struggled to reach 12 degrees today as a cold wind and dark clouds lurked over the track.
The ice cream vans were largely deserted as the women shivered in their finery and many of the punters headed for the warmth of the pavilion bars.
Yesterday’s attendance of 15,748 was slightly down on the equivalent day last year, but not bad given the day that was in it.
The feature race, the Bibby Financial Services Ireland Punchestown Gold Cup, was won by Boston Bob, the 5/2 Willie Mullins’s trained nine-year-old from First Lieutenant, who ran out of steam going down the straight.
It was another triumph for jockey Ruby Walsh. Six weeks ago he broke yet another bone, this time in his arm, and missed the Grand National, but a period of intense rehabilitation got him right again.
That win and the one by Nicky Henderson’s Beat That in another Grade One, the Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, made it a day for the punters.
Beat That, the heavily backed 11/8 favourite, set back the bookies €250,000, according to Coral spokeswoman Nicola McGeady.
Among those who turned out today were Fianna Fáil MEP candidates Pat “the Cope” Gallagher and Thomas Byrne, canvassing in the sprawling Midlands North-West constituency. Today the Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected trackside to press the flesh.
Former EU commissioner Charlie McCreevy, Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary and JP McManus were also in attendance.
The former Liverpool manager Roy Evans and the former Everton manager Howard Kendall both turned up together for the races.
Kendall’s son Simon lives in Naas. Evans will be hoping Liverpool will enjoy something of the luck he had today when he backed the first two winners of the day.
Evans said he loved coming to Ireland. “I just like the Irish hospitality and a few pints of Guinness,” he said.
Liverpool’s defeat to Chelsea last weekend has taken the club’s quest for a first league title out of their hands. They will now hope that Everton can do them a favour by beating Manchester City next weekend.
“The red and the blue get on great together,” explained Evans, “but it is a different story when it comes to the derbies.”