The sad but inevitable end to the 2019/20 jumps season has been confirmed with the cancellation of the Punchestown Festival.
The traditional curtain-call of the campaign typically takes place over five days at the end of April, but understandably the Festival has been cancelled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
It confirms a dismal end to the campaign, with practically no racing of any note taking place after the Cheltenham Festival in March.
Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) have done their best to soften the blow by announcing a ‘significantly enhanced’ schedule of jumps meetings in October-December, with the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse likely to be switched from its traditional Easter timeslot to the tailend of this year.
“Like many other sectors, the racing and breeding industry in Ireland will take a seismic economic blow from the fallout of Covid-19,” said Brian Kavanagh, the chief executive of the HRI. “We will be working closely with government to limit the long-term impact of this pandemic.
“Once an achievable target resumption date can be identified, a new fixture list covering the rest of the year will be quickly published based on our ongoing work, along with revised race programmes which will cater for the entire horse population.”
The decision to essentially end the season means that Willie Mullins will once again be crowned the champion trainer in Ireland – taking the honour by little over €100,000 to Gordon Elliot and less than a million to Henry de Bromhead in third. It is the fourteenth time that Mullins has earned the title.
Meanwhile, in the champion jockey race, a fine week at Cheltenham has helped Paul Townend to his second title. He was more than €600,000 clear of Davy Russell in second place.
In the UK standings, Nicky Henderson and Brian Hughes took the top trainer and jockey honours respectively.
|Country||Position||Trainers Championship (Prize Money)||Jockeys Championship (Wins)|
|Britain||1||Nicky Henderson (£2.5m)||Brian Hughes (141)|
|2||Paul Nicholls (£2.3m)||Richard Johnson (122)|
|3||Dan Skelton (1.5m)||Sam Twiston-Davies (99)|
|4||Willie Mullins (£1.4m)||Harry Skelton (97)|
|5||Nigel Twiston-Davies (£1.3m)||Harry Cobden (83)|
|Ireland||1||Willie Mullins (€3.9m)||Paul Townend (104)|
|2||Gordon Elliot (€3.8m)||Davy Russell (69)|
|3||Henry de Bromhead (€2.1m)||Rachael Blackmore (61)|
|4||Joseph Patrick O’Brien (€1.3m)||Darragh O’Keeffe (48)|
|5||Gavin Cromwell (€1.0m)||Mark Walsh (45)|
NHS Staff to Enjoy Much Deserved National Reward
There aren’t many good news stories around at the moment, so we should take the time to applaud Aintree’s decision to donate 10,000 tickets to next year’s Grand National to NHS staff and carers from the Merseyside area.
Of course, the 2020 Grand National has been cancelled due to COVID-19, and already attention is turning to next year’s contest – will Tiger Roll return to try and create his unique slice of history?
A huge number of NHS workers will be there to find out first hand, and this is exactly the kind of generosity they deserve given their tireless efforts on the coronavirus frontline.
The Jockey Club has also announced that Thursday April 8 in 2021 – the start of the Grand National festival – will be called NHS Day, and further tickets will be donated to medical staff and carers up and down the land.
Dickon White, director of The Jockey Club, commented:
“We understand just how hard NHS and professional carers are working right now, and this is our way of showing our gratitude.”