PUNCHESTOWN RACECOURSE, Co. Kildare
(Gaelic: Baile Fuinse. Meaning: The Valley of the Ash Trees)
The first recorded race meeting at Punchestown was in 1824 when the racing was quite different to what we are used to today. Races were based on a cross-country style back then, each one involving the negotiation of obstacles that were part of the local terrain such as single/double banks and stone walls, and were staged over distances of 4 miles. Today, Punchestown still retains the great spectacle of the old fashioned racing of yore over banks and walls.
Punchestown stages some of the finest jump racing, not just in Ireland but in the world because, simply put, it is the place where the champions of jump racing meet. Racing at the course is always about quality and the Autumn and Winter seasons there include many excellent fixtures, the highlight being the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase in December, won in recent years by such greats as Kicking King and Beef or Salmon.
Then, just when the jump racing season is coming to its end in late spring, Punchestown, like a sleeping giant which has been waiting in the wings while other festivals have come and gone, awakes from its slumber and delivers the piece de resistance of the season giving vigour to the old truism of "saving the best until last". The purest, most satisfying moment of any spectator sport is when seeing it's best performers doing what they do best, at their best, and the Spring Festival at Punchestown delivers on that remit with exciting results for the viewing public.
The present racecourse is right-handed with an undulating hurdle and steeplechase track. The hurdle course is 1 mile 6 furlongs in distance and the chase is 2 miles. Punchestown also proudly boasts the only cross country banks course in Ireland.
For more details, see www.punchestown.com