The day two highlight at the Punchestown Festival is for many the standout contest of the entire meeting. Regularly featuring runners to have taken part in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, as well as the English and Irish Grand Nationals, the Punchestown Gold Cup is always a race to savour.
Despite only being run for the first time in 1999, Ruby Walsh managed to pick up six wins in this race, making him the Punchestown Gold Cup’s most successful jockey. In fact, Walsh announced his retirement from the saddle after winning this contest with Kemboy for Willie Mullins in 2019.
Punchestown Gold Cup Course Map (Chase Course)
Punchestown Gold Cup Past Winners
|2022||Allaho||6/5||Willie Mullins||Paul Townend|
|2021||Clan Des Obeaux||10/3||Paul Nicholls||Sam Twiston-Davies|
|2019||Kemboy||13/8||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2018||Bellshill||4/1||Willie Mullins||David Mullins|
|2017||Sizing John||9/10||Jessica Harrington||Robbie Power|
|2016||Carlingford Lough||12/1||John Kiely||Barry Geraghty|
|2015||Don Cossack||5/2||Gordon Elliott||Paul Carberry|
|2014||Boston Bob||5/2||Willie Mullins||Ruby Walsh|
|2013||Sir Des Champs||2/1||Willie Mullins||Davy Russell|
|2012||China Rock||20/1||Mouse Morris||Barry Geraghty|
|2011||Follow The Plan||20/1||Oliver McKiernan||Tom Doyle|
|2010||Planet Of Sound||14/1||Philip Hobbs||Richard Johnson|
|2009||Notre Pere||15/8||Jim Dreaper||Andrew Lynch|
|2008||Neptune Collonges||9/10||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2007||Neptune Collonges||8/1||Paul Nicholls||Ruby Walsh|
|2006||War Of Attrition||4/5||Michael Morris||Conor O'Dwyer|
|2005||Kicking King||8/11||Tom Taaffe||Barry Geraghty|
|2004||Beef Or Salmon||5/4||Michael Hourigan||Timmy Murphy|
|2003||First Gold||7/4||Francois Doumen||Thierry Doumen|
About the Punchestown Gold Cup: A Star-Studded Chase
In horse racing, springtime is associated with the start of the new flat season. The National Hunt season never goes out with a whimper though. It’s brought to a close with the biggest Irish meeting of the year, the Punchestown Festival, a great five days that can rival Cheltenham for equine class, betting options and Guinness downed.
The biggest yards from Ireland and Britain are all represented at this five day extravaganza of racing which includes a host of Grade 1 contests. The Punchestown Gold Cup is among the very best and most valuable races of the lot.
Cheltenham Runners Go for Gold Once More
The Punchestown Gold Cup as we currently know it was only introduced around the turn of the century. Technically, the Grade 1, 3m½f race was brand new in 1999 but it actually replaced a previous version which was open only to novice chasers.
Opening up the Punchestown Gold Cup to all chasers aged five and older has seen it steadily increase in importance. That much is clear by the number of competitors from the Gold Cup at Cheltenham who are sent on to compete in County Kildare.
It took six renewals before Kicking King became the first horse to win both the Cheltenham and Punchestown Gold Cups in the same season. There was no wait for the next horse to complete the double though as War Of Attrition managed to take both prizes in 2006. There was an even bigger break before Sizing John’s double in 2017 but Don Cossack did win at Punchestown in 2015 and then at Cheltenham in 2016.
Same Season Cheltenham & Punchestown Gold Cup Winners: 1999 – 2022
|2017||Sizing John||Jessica Harrington||Robbie Power|
|2006||War Of Attrition||Mouse Morris||Conor O’Dwyer|
|2005||Kicking King||Tom Taaffe||Barry Geraghty|
In the years before 1999 the Punchestown Gold Cup had a reputation for producing top class chasers. The horse who many believe to be the best chaser of all time, Arkle, won the race whilst still a novice. He would go on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in each of the three years that followed.
A Great Test of the Best Stayers
The class of those repeat winners prove that this is a race that really sets the best staying chasers apart. Moreover, the conditions tend to be somewhere around good or good to yielding. That demands both stamina and pace. Horses must be able to remain in contention whilst keeping something in reserve for the kick for home as it’s unusual for the Punchestown Gold Cup to be an out and out slog.
Jumping is the other vital attribute. In total there are 17 fences to be navigated, each of which poses a real threat. Several horses have fallen when in a strong position and others have seen their chances end when making mistakes as the pressure is really turned on in the latter stages. That’s especially true when the ground is on the firmer side of yielding and the pace is turned up.
Class Applies to Jockeys and Trainers
The standard of performance required to win this race means that getting a confident ride from an experienced jockey can make the difference. Ruby Walsh holds the record for the new look Gold Cup with six wins, one ahead of Barry Geraghty with five. Both these jockeys are now retired but are the only riders to win this more than once between 1999 and 2022.
Sometimes their role was to guide some of the very best chasers of their peers safely through the race and keep mistakes at bay but at other times those two had to give their partners world class rides.
Like many of the races at the Punchestown Festival, unsurprisingly the Gold Cup has been a happy hunting ground for Irish horses and trainers. Big name trainers from the Emerald Isle including Willie Mullins, Jessica Harrington and Gordon Elliott have all saddled the winner but so have British trainers such as Paul Nicholls and Philip Hobbs and the French trainer, François Doumen.