The flat season may be getting into its stride in the UK and Ireland but, for jumps fans, all eyes will be on Punchestown next week as the 2021 Punchestown Festival gets underway. Following its cancellation in 2020 due to COVID, it’s a welcome return for one of the highlights of the Irish jumps racing calendar. With 40 races over five days, it’s an unmissable event and, in preparation, we’ve taken a look back at the top three performances from the 2019 Punchestown Festival in the hope that there’s plenty more to come this year.
2019 Punchestown Festival best performances
Kemboy (Punchestown Gold Cup)
This race had it all – a thrilling finish between two top-class horses and the bombshell of Ruby Walsh retiring immediately after.
Having fallen at the first fence in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Kemboy redeemed himself with a scintillating victory over Gold Cup victor, and stablemate, Al Boum Photo The duo pulled a mile clear of the rest of the field and battled it out up the run-in with Kemboy and Ruby Walsh holding on by two lengths.
If that wasn’t thrilling enough, Walsh then announced his retirement from the saddle after the race – fittingly going out at the top of his game with a winner for Willie Mullins.
Kemboy and Al Boum Photo are set to do battle once more in this year’s renewal as both horses are still entered at this stage Having been successful in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown in February, Kemboy once again disappointed at this year’s Cheltenham when he was down the field in the Gold Cup.
Having won at this Festival twice before though, connections will be hoping he can make it a hat-trick of Punchestown wins this year, following his success at the 2019 festival.
Chacun Pour Soi (Ryanair Novice Chase)
This was the race where Chacun Pour Soi announced himself as a potential superstar, blowing away a high-class field in the hottest novice chase of the season.
Having created a huge impression at Naas to win his previous race (following a 1089 day break) Chacun Pour Soi lined up against the JLT winner Defi Du Seuil, Arkle hero Duc Des Genievres, Aintree scorer Ornua, and Grade 1 winner Voix Du Reve.
With Ruby Walsh retired, Robbie Power took over in the saddle and gave the Rich Ricci-owned horse a peach of a ride with the pair eventually seeing off Defi Du Seiul by just over four lengths to land a victory at the 2019 Punchestown Festival.
Chacun Pour Soi is on schedule for this year’s Punchestown Festival as he looks to put a disappointing run in the Champion Chase at the Cheltenham Festival behind him. He arrived at Cheltenham on the back of three victories this season, including in two Grade 1 contests as Leopardstown
Sent off the 8/13 favourite for the Champion Chase, he led over the last but faded up the infamous Cheltenham hill to eventually finish 3rd behind Put The Kettle On and Nube Negra.
A return to home turf could well see him back to winning ways though and connections will be hoping he can do just that in the Punchestown Champion Chase.
Buveur D’Air (Punchestown Champion Hurdle)
It had been a frustrating 2019 for Buveur D’Air, arriving at Punchestown on the back of falling during his attempt to land a third consecutive Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, and then going down to Supasundae in the Aintree Hurdle.
Revenge over Supasundae was to come at the 2019 Punchestown Festival though, as Buveur D’Air bounced back to his best and landed the Punchestown Champion Hurdle, leaving Supasundae to occupy the runner-up spot.
With Davy Russell deputising for the injured Mark Walsh, Buveur D’Air was sent off the 2/1 joint-favourite along with Apple’s Jade and he put in a superb round of jumping to run out a comfortable winner.
That was Buveur D’Air’s last success in what has been an injury-plagued period and he ran below par last month to place 4th in the Aintree Hurdle.
At the age of 10, his best years are clearly behind him but he’s set to return to Ireland next week as he looks to defend his Punchestown Champion Hurdle crown.
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