Even though the UK horse racing season ends at Sandown at the end of April every year, that doesn’t mean that major jumps festivals come to a grinding halt elsewhere.

In fact, the Irish leave the best for last with the Punchestown Festival, which in 2024 will be held between the 30th of April and the 4th of May.

Unlike the biggest UK festivals, Punchestown runs for five full days, beginning with Champion Chase Day and continuing with Gold Cup Day, Champion Stayers Hurdle Day, Ladies Day, and rounding off with Festival Day.

Each day consists of eight races, one more than at Cheltenham, and over the course of the five-day event, there are 12 Grade 1 races in action.

Does that make it the biggest racing festival in Ireland? In terms of scale, yes, it does. Few other meetings come close to the depth of racing on offer there, which is why it is such a huge event on the horse racing calendar.

And where there are 40 races, there are horse racing betting sites ready to take your bets. So just who looks like they will clean up in 2024?

Three Biggest Punchestown Races In 2024

The Punchestown Festival dates back to 1824, making it one of the oldest horse racing festivals in Ireland.

Held at Punchestown Racecourse, in County Kildare, Ireland, that is where hundreds of thousands of racing fans will be heading to watch a mix of hurdle races, steeplechase, and flat races.

But among the 40 races on the card, which are the top three unmissable ones?

Punchestown Gold Cup

Undoubtedly the jewel in the Punchestown crown, the Gold Cup is the biggest race at the Festival.

Held on Day 2, which this year is Wednesday, May 1st, the Gold Cup currently has 9 potential runners, though this could change after final declarations.

However, barring a major upset, it looks like Galopin Des Champs, fresh off the back of his Cheltenham Gold Cup win, will be saddled by Champion trainer Willie Mullins.

His nearest rival in the betting markets is Fastorslow from trainer Martin Brassil, following the tragic death of Shishkin who would have been competing.

On home turf and heading into the race with three back-to-back Grade 1 wins, it is Galopin’s to lose.

The only chink of light for the rest of the field is that Galopin Des Champs did run in this race and lost last to Fastorslow last season. So anything is possible on the day.

The current odds for the Punchestown Gold Cup are below.
(*Correct as of 29th April 2024)

Horse Odds
Galopin Des Champs 4/6
Fastorslow 10/3
Corach Rambler 12/1
Hewick 12/1
Conflated 16/1
Journey With Me 18/1
Capodanno 33/1
Appreciate It 33/1
Gentlemansgame 50/1

Champion Chase

The Punchestown Champion Chase is scheduled to run on Day 1 of this year’s festival, on Tuesday, April 30th, at 5.25pm.

It is the biggest race of the day, and with only 9 potential runners still in contention, Willie Mullins trains six of them.

Dinoblue, the race favourite from Mullins, Captain Guinness from Henry De Bromhead, and Banbridge from Joseph O’Brien lead in the betting.

Run over 2m½f; this is a more open race than the Gold Cup. Dinoblue could only manage second place last time out in the Mare’s Chase at Cheltenham and had to concede to winner Limerick Lace on the day.

Captain Guinness capitalised on El Fabiolo’s disastrous run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase to take the win after a solid and strategic run from jockey Rachael Blackmore, with Gentleman De Mee just 1½ lengths behind them.

So, while Dinoblue may be the favourite, it’s not a sure thing, and savvy punters may be better off looking elsewhere in the market.

Horse Odds
Dinoblue 15/8
Captain Guinness 10/3
Banbridge 4/1
Gentleman De Mee 5/1
Saint Sam 14/1
Dysart Dynamo 18/1
Ash Tree Meadow 25/1
Fil Dor 25/1
Maskada 40/1

Champion Hurdle

The third feature race at the Punchestown Festival, and another Grade 1, is the Champion Hurdle on Day 4 (Friday, May 3rd) at 6pm.

This two-miler was won by State Man last season, and he is back to retain his crown. In his favour is that he has never lost at Punchestown, with four wins from four at the racecourse.

If he bags another Champion Hurdle, it will take him to twelve wins from fifteen starts and his earnings to over £1.2 million.

And that is also why he is currently the odds ON favourite to win again. His nearest rival is Irish Point from trainer Gordon Elliott, but with only seven potential runners set to line up, this one looks like it’s heading to Willie Mullins again.

That said, Lossiemouth is no slouch either though the smart money says that State Man is in a class of his own and should win this one without much fuss.

Horse Odds
State Man 2/5
Irish Point 9/2
Lossiemouth 7/1
Sir Gerhard 20/1
Colonel Mustard 40/1

Value and Importance Of The Punchestown Festival

The importance of the Punchestown Festival cannot be overstated in terms of its contribution to the Irish economy.

The festival attracts over 130,000 visitors each year, including a significant number of international tourists, and this influx greatly supports local businesses, including hotels, restaurants, and shops.

In terms of betting, it is estimated that tens of millions of euros are wagered over the course of the festival, contributing to the economy through taxes and fees associated with gambling.

But more than all of that, the Punchestown Festival is a key event in Ireland’s social calendar, comparable to other major racing events like the Galway Races or the Dublin Horse Show.

It’s a place to be seen by Ireland’s social elite and is known for attracting a mix of celebrities and political figures, enhancing its status and media coverage.

With 200 hundred years of traditions, it is an integral part of Ireland’s cultural heritage, showcasing Ireland’s strong connection to horse breeding and racing, which is deeply embedded in the country’s history and rural lifestyle.