Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
Irish Mirror
Irish Mirror
Danny De Vaal

Gold Cup winner Paul Townend picks up more silverware after thrilling day at Punchestown with Energumene

Three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Paul Townend picked up more silverware at Punchestown with another victory with Energumene in the William Hill Champion Steeplechase.

The jockey had to pull out all the stops following a thrilling battle with Chacun Pour Soi which nearly cost him a first-place finish.

Both Chacun Pour Soi and Energumene are trained by legendary Irish trainer Willie Mullins.

READ MORE:Families welcome 'important day' as fresh Stardust fire inquest set to begin

Energumene, who belongs to Brighton FC owner Tony Bloom, was tipped as a favourite before the race - after an impressive 11 wins out of 14 runs.

Speaking after the victory, Paul Townend said: "It shows how good a horse he actually is (Energumene) to do things not perfectly today and win because we know how good Chacun can be on home soil as well."

Mullins said: "He normally wins his races with class, but today he had to get down and fight it out. He answered every call from Paul and showed his grit.

"Paul really pulled that race out of the fire and that's the difference between a good jockey and a great jockey.

"You can see probably the end of the season getting to him. Paul said he wasn't as sharp as his last run at Cheltenham and he missed two fences, which isn't like him."

2023 Punchestown Racing Festival - William Hill Champion Chase Day, Punchestown Racecourse, Kildare 25/4/2023 Paul Townend celebrates winning The William Hill Champion Steeplechase (Grade 1) with Energumene Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy (©INPHO/Morgan Treacy)

It wasn’t Townend’s only victory of the day after a smashing win with Facile Vega in the KPMG Champion Novice Hurdle beforehand.

Mullins, 66, who dominated the day, said he was feeling "very good" for Punchestown.

Speaking to The Irish Mirror, he said: "We’ve got a great team. The horses came back from Cheltenham very well. They had a good break ahead of Punchestown."

When asked which horses punters should keep an eye on during the week, Mullins said Galopin Des Champs in the Ladbrokes Punchestown Gold Cup and State Man in the Paddy Power Champion Hurdle on Friday.

It comes as the bookies took a beating after a number of Mullins’ horses stormed to victory.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes told us: "Punters have kickstarted the Punchestown Festival in fine form, with the bankers of the day obliging.

"Willie Mullins has certainly set the tone for the week, and it’s definitely a worry for the bookies."

More than 110,000 punters are set to head to the famous Kildare racetrack over the racing bonanza which will end on Saturday.

Kilkenny man David White, who was suited and booted, said the race meet was all about the "craic."

He explained: "The craic here is second to none. I’ve been here a heap of different times. You have a bit more room at Punchestown to move around.

"I also think it attracts more of a racing crowd compared to other festivals such as Cheltenham. It’s a little more relaxed too which is nice but it caters to everybody.

"I’ll say I’ll do well on the betting front this year, I’m only up today so I have to make the most of it - but sure look we’ll see how it goes."

Sisters Jo and Rachael Ainsworth travelled over to Punchestown yesterday from Newcastle and were soaking up the atmosphere.

Jo said: "We’ve never been before but we wanted to make the trip over to Ireland after we heard about how good Punchestown is. We’re both huge fans of horse racing.

"I reckon we’ve been to hundreds of different horse races.

"We love everything about them - the betting and the atmosphere but also seeing the horses and jockeys and knowing how much hard work goes on behind the scenes."

Sister Rachael, 73, said: "We’ve been to Ireland as children but never for the races. I’m really looking forward to it."

Jo also praised superstar Rachael Blackmore declaring she is "the best jockey in the world".

Rachael Blackmore (PA)

Meanwhile, lifelong pals John Shaughnessy and Phelim Murphy said they've been coming to Punchestown for at least 25 years.

The pair who travelled up from Galway said the Kildare festival was "a good warm-up" before the racing festival in Balybrit which is held in the summer.

Speaking about their excitement, Phelim, 62, said: "It’s a special occasion, there is always top-class racing. Me and John have been coming here for years, it’s a tradition.

"We enjoy it immensely, it’s a great environment."

While John, 61, added: "This is a warm-up to the Galway Races, Punchestown is catching up on them. Galway is set up differently and there is a different atmosphere there.

"We see a lot of good horses here before they’re at Galway. We love all race meetings - Leopardstown, Punchestown, Fairyhouse, Galway, Cheltenham, Aintree - we love them all."

John said he wouldn’t be keeping an eye on any particular horse or jockey instead his focus was on legendary horse trainer Willie Mullins.

He explained: "You have to follow Willie, he always makes the wallet a bit heavier."

It comes as Kildare woman Jess Colivet, who is also one of the lead judges for the festival’s Bollinger Best Dressed competition, said she has been coming to Punchestown her entire life.

She told The Irish Mirror: "I’ve been coming here since I was a little girl. I am one of the lead judges for the Bollinger Best Dressed competition so I’m here early to check out the style. It’s always such a fun festival.

"I think it’s the fun and the excitement which brings me back every year even when I lived away I used to always travel home for the festival. There is great racing and style.

"It’s very much a community-based event. Years ago, the schools would close down. Everybody locally would come to Punchestown.

"My dad was even the local doctor so I used to go around in the ambulance when I was a kid and I’d get to talk to the jockeys and trainers. It’s a wonderful festival."

Speaking about this year’s Best Dress competition which is open to everybody, Jess said: "We’re picking finalists all throughout the week with the overall winner announced on Friday.

"This year, we are all-inclusive and it’s open to everybody. So come along and put on your best attire and we’ll be looking forward to spotting you.

"I am looking for somebody who is a little bit creative in their style like somebody who is wearing their style with sophistication, with elegance, and is wearing something true to themselves. They also wouldn’t be trying too hard, it’s just effortlessly chic."


Get the latest sports headlines straight to your inbox by signing up for free email alerts

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.