Has it been a year already? The Punchestown Festival is just around the corner: 24-28 April to be precise. Punchestown is about so much more than just seeing horses run quickly: it's about glory, celebrity, competition, fashion and having the absolute best time possible. That's the shorthand version. Here's why you really need to get yourself down to Kildare next week.
Witness The Best Racing In The Land
Considered by many to be the highlight of the Irish racing calendar, the Punchestown Festival is truly the grande finale of the jump season. Top class horses, trainers and jockeys from Ireland and the UK will converge on the Kildare venue for a week of incredible action. The imperious Samcro will be running again. Laurina, so majestic at Cheltenham, will be looking for another impressive win and could be chasing it against Samcro. We'll have the dramatic resolution to the trainers championship, with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliot neck-and-neck as the season nears the end.
All in all, it's been an absolutely thrilling season of jump racing and there's certain to be an epic climax to it all next week at Punchestown. You don't see this kind of quality all in one place very often, so grab this opportunity by the reins.
Get Your Fill Of Celebs And Sports Stars
Racing festivals are prime locations for rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, who are usually happy to mingle with the masses at big events like this. And there promises to be plenty of them, with Made In Chelsea star Rosie Fortescue and TV personality and fashion journalist Triona McCarthy set to join a host of celebrities who will be judging the Bollinger Best Dressed Lady Competition throughout the week. Cork camogie star Anna Geary will also be getting in on the act.
Punchestown will naturally attract a load of sports stars too, as it has done over the years. Here's a few former Ireland internationals for a start:
Of course Kildare native Niall Quinn has been a regular at Punchestown for years, this is him at the festival 13 years ago!
There's Ian Rush, Liverpool legend, just chilling the beans at Punchestown.
And what gathering of famous Irish people would be complete without Marty, who was spotted at Punchestown last year?
The Craic Is Mighty
Whether you're in it for the fast horses, fashion, celeb-spotting or just love a flutter, there is something for everyone at Punchestown - and it's exhilarating. Going to the races is like going to one massive party: you're there to have fun and so is everyone else.
The festival is a social and communal gathering with everybody sharing in the enjoyment; hearts race in a short two minute period as competitors jockey for position before the winner bursts out of nowhere to secure victory, and then we all settle ourselves with a cocktail or a beer and socialise until the next race comes around. And it's all the better if you can win a few quid while doing it.
We're Witnessing A Golden Age Of Irish Racing
Ireland has always had a penchant for horse racing; success is not unfamiliar on these shores. And yet, we've rarely ever seen such a period of sustained achievement from Irish contenders.
Irish-trained horses swept the first four places in the Aintree Grand National for the first time ever. At this year's Cheltenham festival, there were 19 wins for Irish-trained horses, a new record. That was only after an Irish clean sweep of the Melbourne Cup in Australia.
In other words, get the miniature tricolours out of the closet and get behind your compatriots. COME ON IRELAND!
New Festival, New Facilities
On top of everything else, festival-goers' experience will be brought to a new level (literally) with the debut of the new €4 million Hunt Stand at Punchestown. Not only will it feature new bars, restaurants and private boxes, but the view over the straight close to the last fence should provide some spectacular views of the climax to the biggest races. As if you needed another excuse to be there.