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Leader tipster sets Kildare punters on track for Punchestown of fifty years ago …

Leinster Leader 17 April 2008

Leader tipster sets Kildare punters on track

for Punchestown of fifty years ago …



‘All is in readiness for the great National Hunt Festival at Punchestown on Tuesday and Wednesday’ proclaimed an article in the Leinster Leader in April 1958. Not content with proclaiming the annual pilgrimage to that equine amphitheatre in the east Kildare hills the opening paragraph went on to give some potentially profitable advice to racegoers by adding ‘ two local horses, Venetian Glass and Sandboy are prime fancies to win the Maiden Stakes and Conyngham.’

And indeed the racing columnist who wrote under the pseudonym ‘Shauneen’ took the opportunity to give every chance to local students of the turf by previewing a meeting at Naas on the Saturday prior to Punchestown week by suggesting that ‘ The Naas meeting on Saturday offers the chance of winning the Punchestown expenses, Toledo and Moo Perry are a likely pair at the popular local venue.

It has always been an intriguing aspect of the Leinster Leader that although published in the most prominent bloodstock county in the country its coverage of the racing game has been relatively modest in terms of column inches. One explanation for this may be that the deadline demands of racing were more suited to a daily paper than a weekly. Another may lie in the ‘Irish Ireland’ roots of the paper which was founded in 1880 with a strong mandate to cover politics, culture and sports – most notably the GAA – with a nationalist interest. Thus the ‘sport of kings’ which was governed by those of an Anglo-Irish class was perhaps not a priority in its editorial tradition.

Be that as it may the big annual fixture at Punchestown transcended all such political nuances and nothing was spared in terms of the social and sporting dimensions of the great steeplechasing festival. ‘Shauneen’ was confident in his tip for the opening day of what was then just a two-day meeting by noting ‘ In the feature Maiden Stakes on the first day I am standing by Venetian Glass which should credit the Osborne stable with another victory in this coveted event.’ The stable referred to was that of Paddy Osborne who trained at Craddockstown just half a mile from Punchestown. Indeed another entry from the Osborne stable ‘Alice Greenthorn’ was described as being ‘Punchestown bred’ to coin a phrase but ‘Shauneen’ advised that despite such  local credentials the horse needed a bit more maturity.

Another established local trainer Mr. Ned Cash of Clane had a ‘useful trio’ of in the Blessington Challenge Cup on the Tuesday with ‘Sweet Auburn’ being the pick according to the Leader pundit although he added ‘ Hazel Twig’ can run well and ‘ Sweet Auburn’ should be good enough to score.

The field for the Kildare Hunt cup was predicted to be small and included a newcomer, ‘Plucky Prince’, a six year old which had been bought by Major Beamount (of Brannockstown) with the Hunt cup in mind. Shauneen recalled that ‘Plucky Prince’ had shown disappointing form on the point-to-point circuit over the previous winter and that last year’s winner in the same race ‘Forougara’ would be a safer bet.

The big event on the second day of the meeting was to be the Conyngham cup over four miles. A horse called ‘Sandboy II’ owned by Major de Burgh of Oldtown Naas was reported to be well fancied. Narrowly beaten by Vanessa’s Pet at Fairyhouse, he went one better when odds-on at Mullacurry beating Shannon Flame and Shower of Silver. ‘Shauneen’ conceded that this form might not be enough to win the Conyngham Cup it at least indicated that ‘Sandbody II’ was fully fit.

The longest race at the meeting was the La Touche memorial over four and a quarter miles which was the objective of ‘Belsize II’ in preference to the Conyngham Cup. The gelding was second last year to Bruno’s cottage, beaten a head only in a photo finish and since he is even better this year he must go very close.

With punting advice such as this the Leinster Leader previewed the Punchestown fixture of 1958. Few at the time could have predicted that in a very short few years a greater commercialisation and modernisation would come to Punchestown with sponsorships, a shift from the banks course to bush-fence steeplechasing, marketing and by the mid 1960s, TV coverage. However Punchestown has seen many fashions come and go but its core attraction of quality bloodstock taking on the big fences in the hallowed track against the background of the Wicklow hills remains as it was in the less flamboyant years of the late 1950s.

Liam kenny in his regular feature in the Leinster Leader, 'Nothing New Under the Sun,'  of 17 April 2008, examines the newspapers tips for the forthcoming Punchestown festival of 1958.

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