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Punchestown is back with a bang as record attendances hit the festival

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Festival fever is in the air in Punchestown as the five-day event, which starts today, looks set to smash all previous attendance records.

Top chefs are predicting that 137,000 bettors will make their way to Kildare Racecourse this week to celebrate the festival renamed the ‘Great Comeback’.

In a clear sign that punters are eager to get their fill of racing action, ticket sales have increased by 80 percent compared to previous years and more than 20,000 corporate hospitality tickets have sold out.

Even the weather appears to be playing its part, with Met Éireann forecasting dry and sunny days for the next few days.

For Punchestown CEO Conor O’Neill, this week will be the culmination of months of planning after he promised to make the 2022 event “one of the best festivals yet”.

“We always say about Punchestown that it’s the people that make the festival,” he said. “It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three years since we attended the festival.

“We have five fantastic days of racing ahead of us. We are very excited.

“This is the most important festival for Punchestown in the next five, ten years.

“It’s been three years since we’ve taken people through the turnstiles and it’s going to be one of the first big events since Covid, so it’s very much about rebuilding the event and bringing it back for years to come.”

He said that last September, course management took a “strategic position” to maintain the festival’s ticket prices for 2020, even though costs have risen by as much as 40 percent.

It was a show of goodwill following the tremendous support they received for the last major meeting of the Irish National Hunt season.

“To say demand has been phenomenal is an understatement,” said Mr. O’Neill.

“This was unprecedented, both in terms of our corporate hospitality, which sold out with over 20,000 corporate customers over the course of the week, and overall ticket sales.

“We wondered if corporate clients would be a bit more conservative if people didn’t go back to the office fully. But that was not the case. The demand for tickets is exceptional.”

It’s been a challenging time for the entire racing industry, but Mr O’Neill said the majority of festival sponsors and supporters stood behind them during the break, with a total of 800 companies on board this year.

“They said, ‘Leave the money in the account and when you get back we’ll get back to you.’ That gives you great confidence for the business. We are very excited and
I’m looking forward to a great week,” he said.

Next week there will be a program with 40 races on the track, with a total of 3.6 million euros in prize money up for grabs.

Racing fans will be interested in today’s feature race, the William Hill Champion Chase, one of three Grade One races on today’s schedule.

The prestigious Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup takes place tomorrow, while the Ladbrokes Champion Stayers Hurdle is played on Thursday. The week’s races culminate in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday, which is also Ladies’ Day, so it’s expected to be one of the busiest days of the festival.

As always, Punchestown will also host the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady competition, selecting a winner each day who will be sent to the finals on Friday with a variety of goodies.

The organizers’ advice from those hoping to steal a fashion award is: “Style has no fashion award”.

“Winners in the past have worn high street, vintage, homemade and reconditioned,” they say.

“That’s how you put it together. It’s about sustainability, an investment purchase, a bargain or something traditional.

“Be comfortable and enjoy what you wear. When you feel good, you look good, move well, carry yourself better and generally exude confidence.”

The race on today’s opening day starts at 3.40 p.m.

https://www.independent.ie/sport/horse-racing/punchestown/punchestown-is-back-with-a-bang-as-record-crowds-head-for-festival-41587118.html Punchestown is back with a bang as record attendances hit the festival

Fry Electronics Team

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