All good things must come to an end as National Hunt racing heads to Punchestown for the finale of the jumps season - with 12 mouthwatering Grade 1 races on show.
The Punchestown Festival provides five golden days of quality action - featuring 40 races, including 12 Grade 1s - and attracts many of the biggest names from Ireland and Britain.
Irish racing is on a high after utterly routing the home team at the Cheltenham Festival with the likes of Appreciate It, Monkfish, Put The Kettle On and Minella Indo stealing the show.
On day one, Willie Mullins started off in perfect fashion as talented mare Echoes In Rain showed her class and found plenty to score the eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Novice Hurdle.
We also saw Chacun Pour Soi, who disappointed at Cheltenham, bounce back to his brilliant best to land the William Hill Champion Chase in emphatic style.
But then came the big one, the shock, the result that nobody expected.
:crown: Colreevy - the Queen of @punchestownrace
:eyes: What a way to cap her illustrious career as Colreevy defeats Monkfish with Envoi Allen pulled-up in the G1 Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase for @WillieMullinsNH & @dan2231 pic.twitter.com/gyRYjKTP6F
- Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 27, 2021
With a superb front-running victory in the Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase, Colreevy ended her racing career in a blaze of glory after upsetting big guns Monkfish and Envoi Allen.
It's all shaping up to be a thrilling conclusion to the jumps season and SPORTbible has the key dates for your diary so you don't miss a second of the action.
When and where does the meeting take place?
The Punchestown Festival 2021 gets underway on Tuesday, April 27 and concludes on Saturday, May 1.
The five-day meeting takes place at Punchestown Racecourse near Naas, County Kildare, with the first race off at 3.40pm and the last at 7.35pm.
The same starting times continue for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with Saturday's action beginning at 2.15pm
How can I watch it?
Racing TV will be broadcasting the festival across the five days, with ITV Racing starting coverage from Saturday with Ed Chamberlain hosting.
Alternatively, you can watch every race via a betting app of your choice through the watch and bet initiative.
Why is the meeting so important?
The Punchestown Festival is one of the most important jumps meetings in Ireland and many of the leading horses in training will have had campaigns tailored towards big races at the fixture.
It provides British-trained runners with the chance to take on the Irish on their home soil a month and a half on from the Cheltenham Festival and with just under €3m in prize money, it is not to be missed.
In 2019, a crowd of 126,840 attended the meeting, but this year it will be staged behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What are the big races?
Here's a quick breakdown of the big races on each day.
eCOMM Merchant Solutions Champion Chase (4.15)
Tip: Echoes In Rain
Result: Echoes In Rain
The first Grade 1 of the festival was for the two-mile novice hurdlers.
Willie Mullins' Supreme winner Appreciate It was not declared for the two-miler, but it didn't matter as Echoes In Rain ran out as the very impressive winner.
One to keep an eye on for Cheltenham next year? Perhaps.
William Hill Champion Chase (5.25)
Result: Chacun Pour Soi
The opening day was headlined by the William Hill Champion Chase, where Queen Mother Champion Chase second and third Nube Negra and Chacun Pour Soi were in action.
Champion trainer Willie Mullins announced that Allaho, perhaps the most impressive winner at Cheltenham when beating a competitive Ryanair Chase field from the front, would be dropping in trip to run in the two-mile classic.
But despite all in the class in the race, Chacun Pour Soi made light work of it and absolutely romped home.
Dooley Insurance Group Champion Novice Chase (6.30)
The Champion Novice Chase looked all but set to be the race of the week as outstanding novice chasers Monkfish and Envoi Allen went head-to-head.
But it was Colreevy - who was running her last race - that landed the spoils and took down the big guns with ease.
Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle (5.20)
Albert Bartlett winner Vanillier heads the likely contenders for the Irish Mirror Novice Hurdle.
Telmesomethinggirl was mightly impressive in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival - she takes a marked step up in trip here.
What's even more interesting is that she had other entries at the meeting, but connections clearly believe stamina is her strong suit.
Everything she touches turns to glory!@rachaelblackmor steers Telmesomethinggirl to ANOTHER victory at The Festival - this time in the Parnell Properties Mares' Novices' Hurdle#CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/8y3KwdhdBe
- CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 18, 2021
Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup (5.55)
There are three Grade 1s on the second day, but none carry more significance than the Punchestown Gold Cup.
Two-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo is the favourite after this year's Gold Cup heroin Minella Indo was ruled after suffering a bruised foot on Monday.
Al Boum Photo was beaten here by Kemboy after winning his first Gold Cup at the Cheltenham Festival back in 2018.
Can Kemboy land the spoils again today?
Has Clan Des Obeaux got what it takes to lower the colours of Minella Indo in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup this week?
Watch what happens live on Racing TV at 5.55pm on Wednesday.@punchestownrace @Ladbrokes pic.twitter.com/M4VGt6jaid
- Racing TV (@RacingTV) April 26, 2021
ITM - Supporting Irish Store Sales Champion INH Flat Race (6.30)
Tip: Sir Gerhard
The third Grade 1 on the card is set to feature Sir Gerhard and Kilcruit, first and second in the Champion Bumper at Cheltenham.
The Denise Foster-trained Ginto and Three Stripe Life also feature prominently in the market.
Ladbrokes Champions Stayers Hurdle (5.25)
Tip: Flooring Porter
The best-staying hurdlers take centre stage on the third day.
Flooring Porter will try and complete a memorable spring double for Gavin Cromwell, with Sire Du Berlais, Beacon Edge, Ronald Pump and Lisnagar Oscar among the possible opposition.
Ryanair Novice Chase (6.35)
Energumene missed arguably the most eagerly awaited showdown at Cheltenham when absent from his Arkle clash with Shishkin after Mullins revealed he was lame in the days before the festival.
There is no Shishkin to contend with here and Energumene could star, with stablemate Janidil and Captain Guinness his biggest dangers.
Paddy Power Champion Hurdle (5.25)
Honeysuckle, the queen of the hurdling division, is set to try and extend her unbeaten record to 12 but is unlikely to have an easy time of it.
She faces still opposition in the 2020 Champion Hurdle winner Epatante, Aintree Hurdle victor Abacadabras, Sharjah and Goshen all set to line up.
Alanna Homes Champion Novice Hurdle (6.00)
Tip: Bob Olinger
Ballymore winner Bob Olinger leads the entries for this 2m4f Grade 1.
Ashdale Bob, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Gentlemansgame could also run.
Coolmore Kew Gardens Irish EBF Mares Champion Hurdle (3.20)
Tip: Burning Victory
Concertista was second best to Black Tears at Cheltenham, but the Foster-trained mare is not entered here.
Instead, Concertista has stablemate Burning Victory, last seen winning last year's Triumph Hurdle, Mares' Novices' Hurdle to worry about.
What a dramatic finish and it's Burning Victory who takes the JCB Triumph Hurdle at @CheltenhamRaces
Watch The Gold Cup LIVE from 3.30pm
:iphone: https://t.co/fJXuj4d6h6#ITVRacing #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/UL2QdsLHpn
- ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 13, 2020
Ballymore Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (4.00)
Tip: Haut En Couleurs
Triumph Hurdle winner Quilixios and fourth Zanahiyr, stablemates earlier in the season, are set to renew rivalry in the final Grade 1 of the season-ending festival.
Triumph third Haut En Couleurs, Jeff Kidder and Saint Sam add notable depth to the race.
Punchestown Festival 2021 full card and race times
Tuesday, April 27:
- 15.40 - Punchestown Novice Handicap Hurdle - 2m 100y
- 16.15 - Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) - 2m 100y
- 16.50 - Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) - 2m 100y
- 17.25 - Champion Chase (Grade 1) - 2m
- 17.55 - Bumper - 2m 100y - Race Closed
- 18.30 - Champion Novice Chase (Grade 1)
- 19.00 - Cross Country Steeplechase - 3m 1f
- 19.35 - Punchestown Flat Race - 2m 100y
Wednesday, April 28:
- 15.40 - Series Final Handicap Hurdle - 2m 5f
- 16.15 - Hurdle Series Final - 2m 4f
- 16.50 - Louis Fitzgerald Hotel Hurdle - 2m 4f
- 17.20 - Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) - 3m
- 17.55 - Punchestown Gold Cup (Grade 1) - 3m 120y
- 18.30 - Champion I.N.H. Flat Race (Grade 1) - 2m 70y
- 19.00 - Handicap Steeplechase (Grade A) - 2m 4f
- 19.35 - Mares Flat Race (Grade 3) - 2m 70y
Thursday, April 29:
- 15.40 - Handicap Hurdle - 3m 40y
- 16.15 - Handicap Steeplechase (Grade B) - 2m
- 16.50 - La Touche Cup Cross Country - 4m 2f
- 17.25 - Champion Stayers Hurdle (Grade 1) - 3m
- 18.00 - Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) - 3m
- 18.35 - Novice Steeplechase (Grade 1) - 2m
- 19.05 - Punchestown Mares Novice Hurdle - 2m 40y
- 19.35 - Flat Race - 2m 40y
Friday, April 30:
- 15.40 - Paddy Power Hunters Steeplechase for the Bishopscourt Cup - 2m 4f
- 16.15 - Novice Handicap Steeplechase (Grade A) - 2m 5f
- 16.50 - Mares Handicap Steeplechase (Grade B) - 2m 5f
- 17.25 - Paddy Power Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) - 2m
- 18.00 - Champion Novice Hurdle (Grade 1) - 2m 4f
- 18.35 - Champion Hunters Steeplechase - 3m 120y
- 19.05 - International Novice Hurdle - 2m
- 19.35 - I.N.H. Flat Race - 2m 2f
Saturday, May 1
- 14.15 - Cross Country Steeplechase - 3m 1f
- 14.50 - Punchestown Handicap Steeplechase - 3m 7f
- 15.20 - Mares Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) - 2m 4f
- 16.00 - Champion Four Year Old Hurdle (Grade 1) - 2m
- 16.30 - Pat Taaffe Handicap Steeplechase (Grade B) - 3m 120y
- 17.05 - Punchestown Handicap Hurdle (Grade B) - 2m 4f
- 17.40 - Punchestown Mares Handicap Hurdle - 2m 4f
- 18.10 - Punchestown (Pro Am) Flat Race - 2m
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Topics: Horse Racing