Punchestown Racecourse Guide

The home of Irish jump racing, Punchestown Racecourse, has been a huge part of racing history in the country ever since its emergence in the latter half of the 19th century. Today, it remains as the top Irish National Hunt venue and hosts a wide range of top races spread across 17 days.

As well as being an internationally recognised racing venue, Punchestown is also known for hosting a wide range of musical acts. It is the home of the Oxygen festival and has previously welcomed such guests as U2, Eminem, AC/DC and Bon Jovi. Of course, the Punchestown Festival, the Irish Cheltenham to some degree, will be of far more interest to racing fans.

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The Course

The chase track at Punchestown is one of the best around, which is no surprise given what a prestigious place it is. There are only the 11 fences spaced around the two mile track and while they are fairly stiff, they don’t usually cause any issues for sound jumpers. Runners do need to be wary of the undulations and the steady climb that begins five furlongs from the line however.

The hurdles track is even more undulating than its chase counterpart that runs along the outside. It also includes trickier corners and a downhill section after the finishing post which can be a tough to manage. With the hurdles track the more challenging of the two, handier types should be preferred in these races and a course win is certainly something to look out for.

Major Races

Punchestown’s biggest occasion is undoubtedly its five day festival that usually takes place in April. The Punchestown Festival includes a long list of big races for novices to compete on a big stage such as The Growise Champion Novice Chase, Herald Champion Novice Hurdle, Irish Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle, Ryanair Novice Chase and Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle.

There are several other big races during the Festival, two of them being hurdle affairs. The hugely anticipated Punchestown Champion Hurdle, won four times by the brilliant Hurricane Fly and the three mile World Series Hurdle. When it comes to steeplechases then the Punchestown Champion Chase is one of the highlights but the Punchestown Gold Cup is often the pick of the bunch.

Outside of the Festival, Punchestown still boasts a high class list of fixtures in the months leading up to it. November’s Grade 1 Morgiana Hurdle is one which many top names have been present at before, much like the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase which runs the following month. The former has been won by Moscow Flyer and Hurricane Fly in recent years. The latter, also a Grade 1, was won by 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Don Cossack in 2014.


Punchestown Racecourse
Punchestown Racecourse (Gordon Flood / Wikipedia.org)

There isn’t a better place to watch jumping action in Ireland and it’s a racecourse well worthy of its top class reputation.

Useful Info

Dress Code

In keeping with Ireland’s informal ways, no dress code applies at Punchestown, although smarter wear is the norm in the hospitality pavilions, with many opting to wear suits.

Ticket Prices

Fixtures outside of the Punchestown Festival meeting usually cost €8/€12 with the exception of graded Sunday meetings which cost a slightly more expensive €10/ €15. The non-festival fixtures include the option of a panoramic restaurant package for €69 per person for those looking for a more VIP outing.

During the five day Festival, general admission on all days apart from Champion Hurdle Friday cost €25 for adults and €17 for students, with Friday priced at €35 and €25 respectively. For wider access, reserved enclosure tickets can be purchased at €35 each day except for Friday which will set you back €47 instead.


Membership at Punchestown entitles you to access for all 17 fixtures as well as 58 reciprocal meets spread across Ireland and the UK. The cost is €199 as standard but under 25s and senior citizens are entitled to cheaper membership costing of €125 – a real bargain.

Members will be invited to an exclusive raceday in October to start the season, be given some complimentary tickets to two selected meetings and have a space in the conveniently situated members’ car park.

Getting There

While many choose to drive to Punchestown, it is possible to get there by other means. You will first need to make your way by bus to nearby Naas or by train to Sallins Station.

From there, you will need to catch a taxi on non-Festival days but on Festival days a shuttle bus runs from Naas free of charge. Dublin Airport is 30 miles away for anyone looking to fly in and Dublin City Port and Dun Laoghaire are around 45 minutes away for those looking to travel by boat.


Punchestown can accommodate up to 17,000 cars and parking there is always free of charge.


Views of Punchestown from Tipperkevin
Views of Punchestown from Tipperkevin (Hamish Bain / geograph.org.uk)

The first meeting at Punchestown came courtesy of the Kildare Hunt Club in 1850 according to the Leinster Express. It was far from a successful beginning though, the lack of a stand meant the views were poor and the badly maintained course fared no better thanks to the heavy downpours that persisted during the afternoon.

Things began to improve soon afterwards though, partly due to the wooden stand which was built in time for the two-day meeting introduced in 1854. Reputable faces began to rock up and 10 years later, in 1864, guests included an Earl, a Lord, a Baron and an MP. It wasn’t long before the Prince of Wales was in attendance too, despite the disapproval of his mother.

The Struggling Racecourse

Into the 20th century and the political situation in Ireland hurt the racecourse terribly. Sinn Fein disrupted its meetings, forcing it to be temporarily suspended in 1919. A lack of racing at Punchestown hurt the economy in nearby Naas as well but the situation improved once racing returned two years later and carried on as normal until World War II.

Many racecourses across the UK and Ireland cancelled all fixtures for the duration of the war but Punchestown was only forced to cancel meetings between 1941 and 1943. Racing resumed in 1944 in the face of petrol shortages but substantial crowds, especially given the circumstances, still showed up, with many cycling great distances to be there.

The 1960s proved to be a very good year for Punchestown, brush fences made their debut appearance in 1960/61 as well as a new track specifically for hurdles races. It was also in this decade when permanent enclosures and stands were added as it shifted away from cross country races.


In line with all top racecourses, Punchestown has continued to modernise over the years. Various redevelopments and refurbishments have taken place to keep the track up to date and suitable for the sort of top class race days it hosts. The most recent of these was approved in 2015, with a €6.2m plan scheduled to be completed in 2018.

Punchestown is undoubtedly Ireland’s premier jumps venue and a brilliant weekend away for those who can’t get enough National Hunt excitement in the UK.