Winners alright: vendors reap spoils of flush spenders at Punchestown

Price proves irrelevant as racing punters enjoy good times again at Co Kildare track

Champion jockey Ruby Walsh, who announced his retirement during this week’s Punchestown Festival. Photograph:  Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

Champion jockey Ruby Walsh, who announced his retirement during this week’s Punchestown Festival. Photograph: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

 

The boom was back at Punchestown this week as vendors at the finale of the Irish jump-racing season reported good times and buoyant sales again.

Attendance may have been down slightly on last year’s figure over the first three days at the Co Kildare racecourse, but the commercial tent felt like an extension of the winners’ enclosure.

Alan Redmond of Naas-based Redmond Fine Art, surrounded by paintings and sculptures, several priced at between €3,000 and €5,000, said last year was his first “successful show” in 10 years.

Pointing to a painting of Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo by British artist David Dent, Redmond says the picture, priced at €6,500, would not have been displayed in the post-crash years.

“In 2010 and 2012, you would haven’t put up a €6,500 painting. If you did, you would have put it up as wallpaper,” he said.

“Now, it is not ‘if’ we will sell it but who we will sell it to. We have three people in a little bidding war over it.”

Cash-rich buyers

Aoife Hannon, a milliner based in Listowel, Co Kerry, says Punchestown this year has been good for business with cash-rich buyers who are not even considering cost.

“In the past two days, people who have ordered from me haven’t even asked for the price at all. In other years, they would have been guided by price,” she says.

Sarah Lennon, a Dublin-born artist now based in Co Down, said there has been much more impulse-buying of her paintings on display at Punchestown.

“If they see something that they love, they will just choose to buy it,” she said.

Punters were still absorbing the biggest news of this year’s festival: the retirement of 12-time champion jockey Ruby Walsh on the second day of the festival.

Reflecting on his 24-year career, Walsh told RTÉ’s Sean O’Rourke on Friday that over the years the physical pain from his many injuries was easier to deal with than “the disappointment and anger at watching something that I should have done”.

Frightened

The only occasion that he felt frightened during all his races was following a fall at Cheltenham one New Year’s Day when he fell on his head, crushing vertebrae.

“I couldn’t get air – that was the only time I was ever scared,” he said.

He said he had managed to keep his weight down by only ever eating lunch and dinner and fasting for 18 hours a day and never eating breakfast – a pattern he intends to continue.

“I never felt hungry before so I don’t see why I will feel hungry now,” he said.