The five-day Punchestown Festival starts next Tuesday, 25 April. Racing starts at 3.40pm each day on the first four days, giving racegoers a chance to do a bit of work before skiving off to the track in the afternoon. Last year a total of 115,000 people attended over the five days, and this included a record 41,000 on the Friday.

Billed as Ireland’s answer to Cheltenham, Punchestown is certainly a superb week’s racing but it is not comparable to Cheltenham as, relatively speaking, so few British-trained horses make the journey to Kildare to take on the Irish on their own turf.

Last year there were three British winners at Punchestown – Marie’s Rock won a Grade 1 hurdle race for Nicky Henderson and there were handicap wins for Lilith (Anthony Honeyball) and Camprond (Philip Hobbs).

In recent years Punchestown has best been described as a homecoming party or ‘lap of honour’ for some of Ireland’s brilliant Cheltenham heroes.

For example, the highlights last year included Allaho following up his Cheltenham romp by winning the Punchestown Gold Cup and Honeysuckle recording what was to be her final success on Irish soil in the Punchestown Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle was the 1/5 favourite that day and she was one of four odds-on favourites to win during the week. Willie Mullins trained the other three, the champion trainer coming away with 14 winners at the meeting, and you can be pretty sure that Mullins will again have at least 10 winners next week.

So, if you can only get to Punchestown on one day, which one should you pick? Well, whichever day has the best weather forecast should be your starting point. The raceday experience is so much better in the sunshine.

But let’s take a look at which equine superstars are likely to put in an appearance each day. For me, it has to be Wednesday if Galopin Des Champs is declared.


Energumene: The dual Champion Chase winner will be long odds-on to repeat last year’s success in the William Hill Champion Chase.

Marine Nationale versus Facile Vega: The first two home in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at Cheltenham could clash again in the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle.


Galopin Des Champs: Already winner of the Gold Cups at Leopardstown and Cheltenham this season. He looks unbeatable in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup.

A Dream To Share: The combination of 85-year-old trainer John Kiely and 18-year-old jockey John Gleeson provided one of the great stories at Cheltenham when winning the Bumper. Can they follow up in the Race & Stay Punchestown Champion Bumper?


El Fabiolo: A rising star, he looked a monster in both the Irish Arkle and Cheltenham Arkle. He could be the shortest price of all next week.


State Man: No match for Constitution Hill at Cheltenham, he should easily win the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle.


Love Envoi: Runner-up to Honeysuckle at Cheltenham, the English-trained mare deserves her turn in the spotlight.

Lossiemouth: The Triumph Hurdle winner is one of the most exciting novices in training.