Punchestown Racecourse is a National Hunt horse racing facility located in Co. Kildare, just outside Naas, Ireland. The facility is regarded as the most prestigious racetrack for National Hunt races that invites the best horses from Europe to participate in its racing features.
The article provides a brief but insightful account of the history, physical attributes, and racing calendar of Punchestown Racecourse.
Punchestown Racecourse History
Racing at Punchestown racecourse has been taking place since 1824. However, the first races held under the patronage of the Kildare Hunt Club can be traced to 1850. The racecourse had humble beginnings and lacked even the basic facilities to accommodate spectators for watching the races.
The absence of stands for the spectators led to small crowds, while the course was in bad shape due to continuous rains and lack of proper maintenance. However, things began to improve in the following years. In 1854, a wooden grandstand was added to the course. Soon the racecourse gained popularity, and notable members of the society, including the royalty, began attending races at Punchestown.
In the early part of the 20th century, the political situation in the country began to worsen, which impacted other aspects of society. Horse racing was no exception, and Punchestown Racecourse was forcibly closed in 1919. This had severe repercussions for the economy of Naas County and the surrounding areas.
Racing returned two years later, and things began to improve until the advent of World War II when racing was again suspended between 1941 and 1943. When Punchestown Racecourse resumed races in 1944, the locals received it enthusiastically.
The racecourse experienced a significant boost towards the 1960s when a new track was built for hurdle races, and brush fences were added. During this time, permanent stands and enclosures were also added to the facility.
Over the years, Punchestown Racecourse has undergone various renovation and upgrade projects to modernise its facilities and keep them up-to-date. These efforts have led to Punchestown Racecourse being recognised as the most prestigious National Hunt horse racing venue in Ireland.
Punchestown Racecourse Facilities
The right-handed racecourse features a flat, chase, and hurdle track. The chase track at Punchestown Racecourse is one of the best in the region, with undulations that make it challenging for the horses. The track comprises 11 fences placed around the track, with the last two fences in the home straight placed relatively close to each other.
Horses must have a lot of stamina to conquer this track, as the last two tracks are quite a feat to master for the tiring race participants. Once the horses have completed the previous two obstacles, they must run for only one furlong to finish the race.
The hurdle track is inside the chase course and has more undulations than the chase track with tight turns. The last turn is challenging, with the track going downhill toward the end. There is another alternative hurdles track enclosed within the main track. The outer track is a 2-mile circuit, while the inner is 1 mile and three-quarters.
Besides these tracks, Punchestown is also home to a cross-country track, the only one in Ireland. It is an impressive track with challenging left and right turns twists, and obstacles.
Punchestown Racecourse also features various fast food outlets, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, stalls, and sweet shops. The facility is also home to trackside pavilions used for parties and events.
Punchestown Racecourse Fixtures & Calendar
Punchestown Racecourse is home to 17 National Hunt meetings, which are regarded as the finest and most prestigious in the world. The most notable racecourse feature is the five-day Punchestown festival held in April. It comprises 12 Grade 1 National Hunt races, in which the strongest competitors take part and show their skills before the season end.
In the earlier part of the season, the racecourse also hosts the Morgiana Hurdle, which is held in November, and John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, held in the following month.
How to get to Punchestown Racecourse
Punchestown Racecourse is located just outside Naas, around 30 km south of Dublin. The nearest railway station is Sallins. During regular days you can reach the racecourse via bus service or shuttle services to Naas and book a ride to the racecourse. During Punchestown festival, private coaches can take you from Dublin to Punchestown. Buses and shuttle services are also readily available.