Punchestown rule out idea of six-day festival
Record-breaking attendances see Mullins and Walsh retain their respective titles
Apple’s Jade ridden by Bryan Cooper clears the last on the way to winning the AES Champion Four Year Old Hurdle during day five of the Punchestown Festival. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Punchestown officials have ruled out stretching Ireland’s National Hunt festival to six days despite last week’s record-breaking attendance figures.
Crowds over the five days from Tuesday to Saturday reached 114,438, up almost 15,000 on 2015 when the concluding ‘Family Day’ attendance was hit by bad weather.
The potential impact of weather was again illustrated on Saturday’s ‘Family Day’ programme when the biggest crowd of the week – 30,035 – witnessed Ruby Walsh crowned champion jockey for a record 11th time and Willie Mullins confirmed champion trainer for a tenth time.
A final day hat-trick, led by a Grade One double for Apple’s Jade and Whiteout, brought Mullins’ tally for the festival to 12 winners, contributing to an overall tally of 185 for the season which brought his prizemoney to just over €4 million.
Punchestown is embarking on the first phase of a €6.2 million redevelopment, with a second phase that includes building on a new €3.8 million grandstand due to start after the 2017 festival. However long-term plans don’t appear to include stretching the festival to six days, possibly taking in the Sunday of a Bank Holiday weekend.
“We have discussed the possibility of six days but our view is that it wouldn’t work commercially and we still want to maintain that quality of racing. We don’t want to weaken what’s here so we will focus on what we have,” racing manager Richie Galway said.
Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud were champion owners for the fourth time while Patrick Mullins was champion amateur jockey for a ninth time witha total of 45 winners. Nina Carberry was leading lady rider with 20 winners and champion conditional jockey was 17-year-old Jack Kennedy.
The featureCurraghFascinating Rock
The Athasi Stakes could see Willie McCreerys progressive Dolce Strega upset last year’s Matron Stakes third, Ainippe.