All the news from the first day of the Punchestown Festival


            Trainer Noel Meade was delighted to round off Disko‘s season with a top-level victory when the grey justified 13/8 favouritism to take the Grade 1 GROWISE CHMPION NOVICE CHASE over an extended three miles in the colours of Gigginstown House Stud.

          “Eddie O’Leary found him in a small stable in France and he has been the apple of my eye ever since he arrived in my yard,” said Meade. “He wasn’t sparkling after Cheltenham but he was in great form last week and I thought we’d win today, but I didn’t imagine he’d win so easily.

          “He beat Our Duke in the Flogas Chase and people suggested he might not stay today. But he was coming back at the line at Leopardstown and I was hoping he’d stay. Bryan (Cooper) said he was jumping so well today that every time Acapella Bourgeois went on we came back to him again. He filled himself up and was full of running at the line.

          “He’s not had a real hard season, we’ve picked our races with him and he should improve over the summer. He was a frame of a horse when he came to us and he’s still only six.

          “Everyone would love to win a Gold Cup but that’s just a dream. It’s just great to have a horse that can run in Grade 1s. We have two lovely horses for Gigginstown, him and Road To Respect. We’ll get them fit and see who goes where next season. I suppose the race at Down Royal would be one we think about.”

          Cooper added: “He did it very well and got into a lovely rhythm. He loves that good ground and did it well. His most impressive start was when he won here first time out on good ground.

“He showed me more gears than I thought he would. I think he made one mistake but other than that he was good. It’s great to get one on the board early.”

Gigginstown House Stud doubled up in the concluding DOOLEY INSURANCES FLAT RACE when Gordon Elliott saddled 25/1 chance Roaring Bull to score under amateur Lisa O’Neill who has enjoyed a great season.

Robert Tyner won the 100,000 euros GOFFS LAND ROVER BUMPER over two miles when Derek O’Connor partnered newcomer Vision Des Flos (12/1) to victory. Tyner was winning for a second successive year following the victory of Coeur De Lion 12 months ago.

“This means more than last year because we sadly lost Coeur De Lion, he had an accident in the field,” said Tyner. “We bought this fellow off Norman Williamson, the same vendor, at Goffs. I’m not sure we’ll manage three!

“He’s always travelled well in his work at home and he stays – he’d be better over two and a half miles. We were hoping to have got a run into him before today and he’ll go jumping next season. He’s only a four-year-old and will have a little break at grass now.”

          O’Connor, whose sister-in-law Grainne owns the winner, added: “He is a beautiful horse. It was a very brave call from Robert to come here first time out. He is usually more tame and goes down the point-to-point route.

“This is a very good horse. He is a big four-year-old and done all his schooling for point-to-pointing. Robert had great faith in him, so we came this route.

“I was surprised Robert had so much faith as usually talks down his chances. So when he makes a decision like this, he has a good one.”


Today’s attendance was 19,686, compared to 19,825 on the same day last year.

       Trainer Colin Tizzard sent Fox Norton (5/2) on a successful foray to Punchestown to overhaul 10/11 favourite Un De Sceaux by a length and three quarters to win the feature €250,000 Grade 1 BOYLESPORTS.COM CHAMPION CHASE over two miles.
            “Ever since Cheltenham and Aintree, I was wondering whether we were going one step too far by coming here,” said Tizzard. “But he’s turned into a beautiful horse and he had had three months off before Cheltenham. He just looked lovely this morning and Robbie (Power) was cool in the race, he didn’t get involved in any battles. He said he was flat out all the time.
            “Two miles is his absolute minimum but you have to stay to get that distance in a championship race. If there had been a race over two and a half, we’d have gone for that and I’m sure he’ll get three miles next season. Perhaps he’ll be a King George horse. A lot of the best horses have been good two-milers as well, look at Sizing John.
            “We were lucky that when this horse was on the market we had Mr (Alan) Potts. But Fox Norton doesn’t do much at home – slow three-milers would beat him on the gallops. But winning at places like Punchestown is what we get up for in the morning for.”
            Robbie Power, retained jockey for the owners and gaining his seventh G1 this season, added: “It has been an unbelievable season and to get a Grade 1 here at Punchestown for Mr and Mrs Potts is just fantastic. Fox Norton needed to be brave. He was flat to the boards the whole way as I didn’t want to give Un De Sceaux too much rope. Because of that, he made one or two little mistakes, but I knew when we turned in we would pick them up.
            “He is going to be a hard horse to beat in the Ryanair Chase next season. He wants a trip – two miles is sharp enough for him and he is a very relaxed horse. He’ll have no bother getting further. The King George could be a possibility but Mr and Mrs Potts have another horse for that race.”
            Un De Sceaux’s trainer Willie Mullins ate into Gordon Elliott’s lead in the Irish trainers’ championship in the Grade 1 HERALD CHAMPION NOVICES’ HURDLE over an extended two miles. Elliott’s representative 5/2 chance Labaik refused to start and it was left to Mullins’ seeming second string Cilaos Emery (8/1) to come home a length clear of stablemate Melon (5/4 favourite).
            “I’m under no illusions but it’s a great start,” said Mullins in reference to the championship. “My team are in good order but we have a big mountain to climb.
            “Davy Russell (on the Tizzard-trained Pingshou) and Ruby (Walsh on Melon) took each other on in front and killed each other. Davy thought he had more stamina than he did and I can understand why Ruby had to go with him – it wouldn’t look too clever if he had been unable to rein in Davy. Meanwhile, David Mullins (on the winner) waited and finished with a wet sail. Cilaos Emery deserved it. He was half unlucky the last day and he’s got his Grade 1 now. It’s fantastic for (owner) Luke McMahon, he’s a great supporter of the yard.
            “I was just hoping one of them would win but I’m disappointed for Melon. I think there’s plenty of improvement to come from him. It’s still only his third run over hurdles. He was beaten fair and square at Cheltenham, but that was just his second start, then the two in front cut each other’s throats today.”
            David Mullins added: “He has done everything right today. He settled a lot better than he did at Cheltenham and everything fell into place. He ran a bit keen during his work at the Curragh last week, but he just lobbed along going to the start today and was a different horse. We didn’t go a good gallop at the start – we were barely going fast enough – but it suited him rather than having the full choke out the whole way.”
            Western Boy (14/1) advertised the talents of Co Carlow handler Pat Fahy when, having his first start since running on the Flat in August, he got up to win the KILLASHEE HANDICAP HURDLE over an extended two miles.
            “He’s lucky to be here because he got kicked in the face and broke his nose when coming down in this race last year,” said Fahy. “They did a great job to get him here.
            “He just needs everything to go right for him, he has a great cruising speed but it takes time for him to get everything together. He could maybe go for the Galway Hurdle or run on the Flat again.”
            Jockey Jody McGarvey added: “He was running a blinder in this race last year when coming down two out. I felt he was going very well. He hadn’t run over hurdles since then and fair play to Pat Fahy. He was sweet on him before we went out and he was bang on the money. In fairness, he did it nicely.”
            Few things mean more to local trainer Peter Maher than a winner at Punchestown and he began the 2017 Festival on the best possible note when 12-year-old Enniskillen justified 6/4 favouritism in the opening KILDARE HUNT CLUB FR SEAN BREEN MEMORIAL CHASE FOR THE LADIES PERPETUAL CUP over three miles.
            “He deserved it – he’s always the bridesmaid but he was the bride today,” said Maher. “He’s always thereabouts and rarely out of the frame at Punchestown. He can just go anywhere or do anything but fortunately he didn’t let me down today. Someone said to me earlier that there were other racecourses to have winners at as well as Punchestown, I told him no there wasn’t – winning here is everything!”
            The victory also helped rider Jamie Codd in his bid for the amateur’s championship. “Every winner is important,” said Codd. “It is an amateur title at the end of the day but, to myself and Patrick (Mullins), it means a lot. It’s brilliant to get a winner on the board so early on.
            “It’s my first winner over the banks as well. Peter, Caroline and all the Maher team produce these banks horses in great form. This old horse has been very lucky to me – I think that I am the only person to win on him, so he has been good to me anyway.”
The 2017 Punchestown Festival takes place from today, Tuesday, April 25, to Saturday, April 29.
Full event information and tickets are available from
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