Punchestown team excited by Flat racing return after 18-year gap

Thu 3 Sep 2020

Punchestown will host a full card of Flat races for the first time in nearly 18 years on Thursday.

The Kildare track has not welcomed any horses since February, with measures imposed during the coronavirus pandemic forcing the cancellation of their headline spring jumps Festival.

Irish racing has since resumed behind closed doors, with several months of postponed fixtures re-scheduled and relocated as the racing authorities seek to salvage the season.

As such, Punchestown, the home of Irish jump racing, is staging eight races in a one-off meeting on the level before beginning its established autumn and winter calendar on September 8.

“We’re very excited – we’re really looking forward to the return of Flat racing to Punchestown,” said racecourse chief executive Conor O’Neill.

“Obviously it’s been 18 years since our last Flat fixture here, so we’re all very excited.

“We had a trial of our Flat course last week with the jockeys, and the feedback was extremely positive.

“It’s been very well supported from all the top Flat yards in Ireland – which is fantastic. Fingers crossed all goes to plan, we’re very much looking forward to it.”

Aidan O’Brien, Jessica Harrington, Jim Bolger, Willie Mullins and Ger Lyons all send runners to the track, with each race well subscribed.

“We’ve some good fields, and the last race has been divided as well,” O’Neill said.

“It’s been very well supported. The majority of Flat trainers are represented, so it’s great to have their support behind us.”

As with all Irish fixtures, spectators are not permitted on site as the sport continues to take place behind closed doors in line with Government restrictions.

“It’s very much in the hands of the Irish Government,” said O’Neill.

“We have to abide by the protocols that are in place.

“We haven’t raced in Punchestown since February, so it’s been quite a long and challenging time since then and we’re very much looking forward to getting back racing, albeit behind closed doors.

“It’s certainly a step in the right direction.”

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