Thursday 18 January 2018

Punchestown organisers basking in healthy results

Damien McElroy

Favoured by sunny weather all week, another successful Punchestown festival yielded a splendid dividend for the organisers, the Tote and bookmakers as well as champion trainer Willie Mullins.

A splendid Saturday crowd in excess of 18,000 pushed the five-day overall attendance to close on 93,500, marginally down on the 2009 figure despite the airline blackout.

"We're delighted with another fantastic festival as we have been up on four of the five days. The first day caught us out because of the flight situation," explained manager Dick O'Sullivan. "We had several thousand tickets sold to people in Britain who weren't able to travel."

The Tote did consistently brisk business, boosted by healthy wagering via their French counterparts, with an aggregate in excess of €4.1m compared to €3.3m 12 months ago. While the bookmakers' figure dipped slightly, their market share of the on-course wagering at €7.89m was highly satisfactory in the view of the recession as the National Hunt season came to a close.

Horse Racing Ireland marked the occasion by making presentations to the champions in the various categories, notably Mullins for extending his stranglehold in the trainers' division. A repeat of his amazing dozen victories in 2009 was the icing on the cake here for Mullins, whose Irish runners alone earned in excess of €2.5m after recording 146 successes, thus readily bettering the combined total of his main rivals Noel Meade with 59 wins and Edward O'Grady (53).

Ruby Walsh, who partnered 10 Punchestown winners for Mullins last year but missed his local meeting this time due to injury, collected the jockeys' crown for the eighth time, again foiling Davy Russell (108-91). Willie's son Patrick retained the amateur riders' title and Shane Hassett is the new junior champion with 18 winners.

Russell's principal employer Michael O'Leary became the new owners' title-holder, ending the long-held domination of JP McManus.

Irish Independent

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