Punchestown Festival 2018

Sir Anthony McCoy, rider of a record 4,357 winners and Brand Ambassador for Close Brothers, gives his thoughts on the Punchestown Festival and what we can expect to see across the next five days of racing.

Punchestown is the highlight of the Irish racing calendar. It’s the end of the season and there is a Grade 1 race every single day, so there are a lot of races in the week with a lot of prize money to be won. 

A battle of two trainers

In many ways, the festival will be similar to last year, having a huge bearing on the result of the trainer’s championship in Ireland. Gordon Elliott, is €500k ahead of Willie Mullins in the championship going into the week. But he was in pretty much the same position last year, and Mullins beat him by €250k. The betting, going into Punchestown has Elliott as a short-price favourite. It’s going to go down to the wire, but looking at it, Mullins has a much stronger hand in the big races than Elliott. 

BoyleSports Champion Steeplechase (Tuesday, 5.30pm)

There’s no Altior in this race. Min was second at Aintree, while Great Field and Douvan look strong. Douvan will be everyone’s fancy, but he’ll know he’s had a good race when he gets past Great Field. 

Coral Punchestown Gold Cup (Wednesday, 5.30pm) 

Bellshill was unlucky not to win the Irish grand national, and I’ll be keeping an eye on him, but Road to Respect could be the one to win. He has the best form and finished fourth in the Gold Cup.  

Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle (Thursday, 5.30pm)

Identity Thief won in Aintree, with his first try over three miles, which was a surprise. Penhill won his first race in a year or so at Chelternham, beating Super Sunday so will be in form. 

The Close Brothers Mares Novice Hurdle (Thursday, 7.15pm)

The good thing about this race is that the likes of Lareena, who’s the best mare on the scene, will be running in one of the championship races. This leaves it open for the others. Even Willie Mullins wouldn’t be able to call it, despite the number of horses he’s entered.  

BETDAQ Punchestown Champion Hurdle (Friday, 5.30pm)

There are rumours that Gordon Elliott is looking to run the very good novice Samcro against the experienced horses, taking on senior rivals. Whatever race he’ll be in, he’ll be the favourite. Dry ground will definitely help Melon. He has a lot of speed, and will be hard to beat.   

Finding fresh legs

A lot of the horses will be at the end of a tough season so you want to find ones that haven’t been overly raced. It’s hard to keep good horses on the boil for so long. Horses that haven’t run the other side of Christmas are a good bet as they’ll be fresher. That being said, finding fresh horses that are also good enough to beat the others will be the difficulty. 

I wish you the best of luck and hope you have a fantastic time if you’re attending or watching Punchestown this week. 


Please note that the opinions expressed are those of Sir Anthony McCoy and not those of Close Brothers Group plc.

Article published on 23 April 2018. Horses running may be subject to change.

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