The impressive new facilities at Punchestown Racecourse were unveiled to the public last night at a special preview night ahead of the eagerly anticipated festival at the Kildare course next week.
It's all set up for a fantastic end to the national hunt season in Ireland, with the main story of the festival set to focus on the battle to be crowned champion trainer, with Gordon Elliott holding the upper hand over the last year's king of Irish racing Willie Mullins.
The large crowd that gathered at the track in Punchestown were shown around the impressive new refurbished first floor of the Granstand, before Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott spoke of their chances ahead of next week's meeting. They were characteristically coy on what they will be bringing to proceedings, but Mullins confirmed that top horse Annie Power would be fit enough to return to action after missing the Cheltenham Festival last month.
Ruby Walsh also spoke of his love for the festival and his local racecourse, while recently crowned Cheltenham Gold Cup and Irish Grand National winning trainer Jessica Harrington also gave an update on her preparations ahead of next week. The Moone-based trainer will be putting forward Sizing John for the Coral Gold Cup on Wednesday, and jockey Robbie Power outlined how he was confident that the Cheltenham Gold Cup winner could follow up his recent success.
Shona Dreaper, PR and Communications Manager at Punchestown Racecourse, spoke of how an upgrade was needed and she hopes that punters will be happy with the new refurbishments.
"We were quite conscious that the place needed upgrading; you can get away with quaint for so long but it was getting too grubby in some places. We were very conscious - as an entertainment and leisure venue - that we needed to up our game big time," she said.
"It was very clear to us that we needed to have different identities, different names, that when you came to Punchestown you could say you were in the Archive Bar, the Loft Bar and the Sports Bar."
"We think we've upped our game. We think people will be impressed when they land here next week and this is the end of phase one, and phase two is going to be underway at the end of June."
Phase two will consist of the building of a new stand to replace the old yellow stand located to the right of the Grandstand as you look towards the track. It will also include and owner's and trainer's facility and a restaurant on the first floor. Management at the racecourse are hoping that the upgrades will be completed by early March next year ahead of the 2018 festival.
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