The grande finale of the jump season

Punchestown Festival,
Tuesday 28th April to Saturday 2nd May 2015.

The Punchestown Festival is the highlight of the Irish sporting and social calendar and is considered the grande finale of the jump season. With top class horses, trainers and jockeys from both sides of the Irish sea converging on the Kildare venue, the quality of racing is unrivalled. A total of 12 Grade 1 contests take place during the Festival, making Punchestown the home of Irish National Hunt Racing.

Punchestown’s history is a long one, the first race day meeting was held in 1824 with the first Festival meeting taking place 30 years later. Brush fences and hurdles were introduced in the 1960’s and after a massive £8.75m redevelopment in 1998 the Festival became a four day event the following year. Punchestown now also hosts two all weather arenas and a Hunter Trials Course.

Full race running order and any other course information can be found here: http://www.punchestown.com/race_running_order.asp

Punchestown-Festival-2015-logo

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Scottish Grand National 18th April 2015

Saturday sees one of the sporting highlights of the Scottish racing calendar, the Scottish Grand National, held at Ayr Racecourse.

Attracting some of the finest chasers from the UK & Ireland, this blue riband event will host many recognisable names from the English Grand National held at Aintree the previous weekend. There are 30 runners in total, with Balthazar King, Gas Line Boy and Soll (amongst many others) all part of this years line up, competing over four miles and jumping 27 fences.

The Elk was the first Scottish Grand National winner, back in 1867, which indicates that the Scottish Grand National history is a long and illustrious one. The race was originally hosted by Bogside racecourse where it was run over a distance of 3 miles and 7 furlongs, before being moved to Ayr in 1966. The 1974 was an unforgettable race when it was won by the peerless, Red Rum, carrying top weight and just a few weeks after winning Grand National at Aintree. This incredible feat still remains a record.

Red Rum Scottish Grand National

Brian Fletcher takes Red Rum (No 1) to victory in the Scottish Grand National. Ayr, April 1974. Picture: TSPL.

 

 

Valet of the Kings

We received an interesting article this week in the Duralock offices, from jockeytalk360.com, on how Valets smooth the way for jockeys in the USA:

“… The first thing he does is ice down the different drinks (Sprite, Coke, iced tea, Gatorade, water) that his jockeys like to drink. A special sliding container is replenished with candy bars, chips, cookies, and assorted snacks…  the next task, is checking helmets and laying out helmet covers that match saddle cloths. Saddle girths and whips are checked for condition. Goggles by the dozens have to be cleaned. Depending on the distance of a race, jockeys will wear three to four sets of goggles. A trip to the laundry room is followed by laying out all the pants, socks, and underwear that have been washed and dried from the night before. Gilbert has 40 towels in his stockpile, and by the end of the night they will all be soiled. Each of his riders has two to three pairs of boots. Elbows flying, he has to have the boots shined and laid out before the first jockeys arrive in the room.”

Which got us wondering if they exist outside of the USA, and if so, what the differences would be between a a US and a UK valet? Well, it turns out they do indeed exist over here, with their own Flat and Jump Associations and a pretty similar working day to their US counterparts.

Mainly made up of men that used to be jockey’s themselves, they have an understanding of the needs and the pecking order of the jockeys in the Weighing Room before a race. The pegs where jockeys change are determined by seniority, Frankie Dettori held the No.1 peg on the Flat for many years, but it might well surprise you to hear that AP McCoy wasn’t the No.1 over jumps, that honour went to Jimmy McCarthy.

The Weighing Room can be a tense place before big events, and by the nature of the sport, tragedy through injury to it’s participants is as much a part of the ritual as is triumph. UK Jockeys’ valet Chris Maude reminisces:

“… I tied Peter Toole’s cap for him at Aintree on Grand National day then watched as he took that horrific fall that left him in a coma for 25 days. That was the worst day, but the best was when he came into the Weighing Room at Plumpton to see everyone…”

With racing at Aintree starting today and The Grand National on Saturday, spare a thought for the unsung heroes behind the scenes who are making sure everyone has the right clothes on and weighs out at the correct weight!

Duralock Performance Fencing outside The Old Weighing Room at Aintree

Duralock Performance Fencing outside The Old Weighing Room at Aintree