Generally regarded as home of jumps racing in Ireland, Punchestown Racecourse is world renowned and plays host to one of the biggest yearly National Hunt meetings – the Punchestown Festival.
The track is situated within the parish of Eadestown, near Naas in County Kildare. It is close to a number of other top Irish race tracks, being only around 35km from the centre of Dublin.
- Address – Punchestown Racecourse, Punchestown, Naas, County Kildare, Ireland.
- Owner – Kildare Hunt Club.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Fittingly given its status, Punchestown is absolute quality. The track is right-handed, galloping in nature and features a climb to the line lasting throughout the final five furlongs.
Punchestown provides a strong test of jumping for chasers, so make sure your horse has a good record over fences, with eleven of them to jump on each circuit.
As well as the case and hurdle courses, there is a cross-country course here which is windy and long, taking runners over numerous banks and quirky obstacles. There are both right and left-handed turns on the XC course.
For chasers in particular, the track is testing enough but totally fair. As long as you’ve got the other boxes ticked and your horse is a proven stayer over the advertised trip, there should be few excuses for you as a punter.
Jockeys have long fed back great things about Punchestown, especially regarding the chase course which may well be simply the best in Ireland.
The fences, according to riders, are stiff enough but generally fair. You’ll need to stay well given that uphill finish, but not many jocks come in blaming the course for them not winning.
The hurdle course is much more undulating, those ridges causing problems for many horses. The bends are tighter on the hurdle track too, something jockeys have complained about, meaning you want a handier type than over fences.
Essentially then, with jockeys’ comments in mind, Punchestown does not ride the same when it comes to chases and hurdles. A long-striding, galloping stayer will do well over fences, while a nippy, well-balanced speedy type may do better over the smaller obstacles.
Visiting Punchestown Racecourse
Punchestown is very well situated from the point of view of those coming from afar to watch the races, especially from over in the UK.
It is in the racing heartland, near several other top tracks, and close enough to Dublin to make travel to and from the course pretty simple.
How to Get to Punchestown
If you’re in Ireland and are driving to Punchestown Racecourse, then it’s easy enough. Dublin city centre is around 35km away using the N7 and R410. Use those roads to head towards Punchestown, then follow signs for the racecourse.
From Dublin Airport the journey is around 48km using the M1, M50, N7 and R410. From Cork, drivers should take the N8, N7 and R410 with the journey lasting approximately 2 hours 40 minutes, and from Galway the journey time is similar using the M6, M4, M50, N7 and R410.
It’s even closer from Belfast, the M1, M50, N7 and R410 taking only 2 hours 20 minutes, meaning Belfast International and Belfast City airports are also an option.
You can use Irish Rail from Heuston Station in Dubline out to Sallins, which is just outside of Naas. From there, taxies are available and they are allowed to drop off at the main gates for Punchestown Racecourse.
For the Punchestown Festival only, a free shuttle bus is also made available. The bus runs from outside of Lawlors on Poplar Square, Naas, and Ulster Bank South Main Street on each day of the festival. The bus starts from 12.30 and runs until around 4.30 – 5.00 depending on demand.
Where to Stay
Although Punchestown is commutable from Dublin, the towns and villages surrounding the track are beautiful and feature a number of recommended places to stay. There is a fine mixture of B&B’s, rental properties and hotels up to 5* very close to the racecourse.
It must be said that Dublin, at least in the centre, can be very expensive to eat, drink and stay in making the nearby accommodation around Punchestown the better option for racegoers, especially when staying for the entire festival.
Major Events at Punchestown
Punchestown hosts various meetings throughout the year and there is quality spread all throughout the season.
The main focus on the track comes during the Punchestown Festival, however.
Punchestown Festival Races (April):
|Mares’ Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Mares’ Only, Novice Hurdle, Listed Race||2m½f|
|Champion Novice Hurdle||5yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||2m½f|
|Champion Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||2m|
|Champion Novice Chase||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 1||3m½f|
|Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||3m|
|Punchestown Gold Cup||5yo+, Chase, Grade 1||3m|
|Champion INH Flat Race||4-7yo Only, Flat Race (Bumper), Grade 1||2m½f|
|Mares’ Flat Race||4-7yo Only, Mares, Flat Race, Grade 1||2m½f|
|Champion Stayers Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m7½f|
|Novice Chase||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 1||2m|
|Mares Chase||5yo+, Mares Only, Chase, Grade 2||2m5f|
|Champion Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m|
|Champion Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 1||2m3½f|
|Mares Champion Hurdle||4yo+, Mares Only, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m3f|
|Champion Four Year Old Hurdle||4yo Only, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m|
Other Top Races at Punchestown:
|Novice Chase||4yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 3||2m2½f||October|
|Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 3||3m||October|
|Novice Chase||4yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 2||2m1f||November|
|Florida Pearl Novice Chase||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 2||2m6½f||November|
|Grabel Mares Hurdle||4yo+, Mares, Hurdle, Listed Race||2m2f||November|
|Morgiana Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 1||2m||November|
|Mares Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Mares, Novice Hurdle, Listed Race||2m3½f||December|
|Moscow Flyer Novice Hurdle||5yo+, Novice Hurdle, Grade 2||2m||January|
|Kildare Novice Chase||5yo+, Novice Chase, Grade 3||2m4f||January|
|Grand National Trial||5yo+, Handicap Chase, Grade B||3m4f||February|
|EBF Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle, Listed Race||2m||February|
About Punchestown Racecourse
Punchestown is very much a racecourse anyone who’s visited can and probably will recommend. Punchestown boasts a Grade 1 track, has a massive festival and also has the facilities to match it.
The track can cater for all types. To the owners at Punchestown, the significance of the racecourse to Irish National Hunt racing is not lost and so the team put together here is one of experience. This very much translates into the service you can expect when visiting.
There is a long history of racing in this area, as you’d expect, with events known simply as the Punchestown Races.
In 1861, the races were reconstituted, reorganised and renamed as the ‘Kildare and National Hunt Steeplechases’.
By this time, fences and hurdles had both been introduced at the venue. Racing was growing apace, especially at the hugely popular Punchestown, where crowds even in the mid-1860’s were reaching some 40,000.
Punchestown had a little bit star quality at this point in history too. In 1868 Albert Edward, the then Prince of Wales, attended the races meaning huge crowds flocked to see him. Apparently, some 5,000 people travelled from Dublin by train alone to attend.
Since those early days the track, the facilities and the race programme have continuously grown, reaching the point we are at today whereby Punchestown is known as the home of Irish jumps racing. It’s springtime festival is the highlight not only of Punchestown’s year, but of the whole Irish jumps season.
The Punchestown Festival is still known as the major National Hunt racing festival in Ireland, despite the emergence of Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival in February.
Though not the fault of Punchestown, the run of ‘festivals’ at a certain time of year has meant jumps horses in Ireland and especially in Britain being raced scarcely until after the turn of the year.
The Dublin Racing Festival is in February, linking nicely into the Cheltenham Festival in mid-March. Some of those horses go on to Aintree in early April, with Punchestown coming later still at the end of the month, sometimes creeping over into early May.
Punchestown Festival is held across five days of racing, from Tuesday to Saturday. This five-day festival has worked well for many years and is in part being used by Cheltenham organisers to justify moving their festival to a similar format, rather than stopping on Friday.
Races of significant importance at the Punchestown Festival include the Champion Chase, Champion Hurdle, Champion Novice Hurdle, Champion Novice Chase, Champion Four Year Old Hurdle and of course the Punchestown Gold Cup.
These events, and others, are run at Grade 1 level and are collectively worth millions in prize money. Today, the festival attracts around 130,000 racegoers across the week and many more via TV coverage, include in the UK on Racing TV.