The 2019 Punchestown Festival gets underway on Tuesday 30 April and punters will be looking forward to what is now the highlight of the jumps racing season in Ireland. Now referred to as Ireland’s own version of the Cheltenham Festival, around 130,000 racing fans will head to Punchestown for the region’s biggest sporting event of the year.
With five days of exhilarating racing action, Irish horse racing fans can watch some of the best horses in the business compete in the most prestigious events on this side of the Irish Sea. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Punchestown Gold Cup, which is, without a doubt, the standout race of the meeting.
History Suggests Ruby Has a Chance
The inaugural version of the current race was held back in 1999, with Ruby Walsh riding Imperial Call to victory. Walsh, now one of the most famous jockeys on the planet, is tied with Barry Geraghty for the most Punchestown Gold Cup wins as a jockey (5), although his last win in the race came back in 2014. He missed out in 2018 but should be fit to go for Ireland’s major meeting this time around.
Walsh’s ride in 2019 is likely to feature prominently in the betting. Depending on how the Cheltenham Festival goes in March, Bellshill could be entered at Punchestown and he may be the one to beat after his impressive victory in 2018. However, Walsh may opt to take the ride on Al Boum Photo should he be aimed at the Gold Cup.
Write Monalee Off at Your Peril
If you’re looking for an outsider to step up and grab this race by the horns, it is Monalee. So often the bridesmaid on the big stage, Monalee ticks all the right boxes to win a major race and this could be the perfect opportunity following the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Watch this space, Monalee could be primed for a huge year.
Racing Post’s guide to racing discusses the importance of reading form and punters will see that Monalee has previously won at Punchestown – a huge tick ahead of the Gold Cup. Course form, ground conditions and jockey bookings could work in Monalee’s favour, and the stars may be aligned for the Henry De Bromhead runner to get his nose in front. With the wily Noel Fehily on board, Monalee will take some beating.
Balko Des Flos to Cope With Step Up in Trip?
Balko Des Flos’ best performances have tended to come over shorter distances but we could see De Bromhead aim him at the same race as Monalee. Balko Des Flos has the progressive profile to challenge for Punchestown Gold Cup glory and he finished a credible third behind the talented Min on his previous run at the racecourse.
Now eight years old and approaching his prime years, Balko Des Flos has got it all to do in order to pip his rivals in this race. However, De Bromhead has been coy about his work at home and we could see a significant improvement over the longer distance this year. Balko Des Flos has been one of those ‘there or thereabouts’ horses for the last 12 months but this may be his time to shine.