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 Kildare Observer 12th May 1894

Punchestown Reminiscences
Fifty years ago “princely Punchestown” was a very insignificant meeting as compared with the big gathering of later years. The Kildare hunt was always a most sporting body, and each year used to hold races somewhere in the neighbourhood of Naas, but these were purely local. For instance, just half-a-century ago, on the 22nd March, the K.H held its reunion. Four events were contested; the first - the Kildare Hunt Cup, only bringing out two runners, Mr de Burgh’s Taglioni (owner) coming in first, and Mr. Lawless Moonraker (owner) second. Forty sovs, given by the Hunt, went to Mr Dunne’s Fanny Elssler, and thirty-sovs, also contributed by the K.H to Mr Colgan’s Chanter. The Ponsonby Bowl was captured by Mr Woodhouse’s Milo. In 1849 a proper course was layed out over the fine grasslands of Punchestown. Several objectionable fences were avoided, and the winning field so selected that nearly the whole race was visible form it.. There were then thirteen fences in the three miles, two of them being walls. In this year (1849) it still remained a one day affair, but it was easy to see that it was fast becoming a popular feature, by the names of the gentlemen taking part in it. The Kildare Hunt cup brought out a good field. The winner turned up in Lord Drogheda’s Westmeath, with Mr H Moore up; Mr Kirkpatrick’s Canvaseer (owner) second; Sir E Kennedy’ Yellow Dwarf (Mr Proby) third, and Lord St Laurence’s Paragon (Mr W Kennedy) fourth. A plate of 80 sovs went to Mr M Dunne’s spider (owner), and the open stakes to Mr lord Gunning, with Mr Meredith’s Miss Despard second. A Hack Race finished up the day, which may be considered the first over the regular Punchestown course. In ’57 and ’58 we find Puncheston in full bloom. The meeting had then been extended to a two days’ one, and in the first mentioned year nine events were decided, with large entries for each race. The Kildare Hunt Cup, in ’57, was won by Lord Lawrence’s Lobster, with that fine rider Capt “Dickey” Bernard up. The Corinthian Cup of £100 was favourite race in those days, and we find Sir J Power, Lord Waterford, Mr Persse, Lord Howth, Mr Connolly, and other well-known sportsmen taking part in it. At the ’58 meeting the Military Plate was first run for, and was won by Mr Handley’s The Miller (Mr Browne). The Corinthian Cup of ’58 has twelve runners, and went to Col Caulfied’s Ace of Hearts, with Mr Thomas up. Mr J H Moore was to the front in this year, winning the Visitors’ Plate with Rake, who also ran second to Mr Wall’s Redskin in the Kildare Hunt Plate, Dan Meany being in the saddle in both rides. Thirty years ago, Punchestown has assumed such proportions that it was no misnomber to dub it “Princely”. In this year (on 12th and 13th of April, 1864), there was a bumber meeting, and through the stand, &c, accommodation was poor, compared with what it provided for us now, nothing better in the way of fields of sport could have wished for. The gallant 10th and 15th Hussars were in Ireland that year, and made a goodly show; the hospitality and horsemanship of the officers of these regiments being as lavish and plucky as that of their representatives of to-day. A memorable race was the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase, which was, par excellence, the event of the meeting. Thirty-two horses were on the card, and of these no less than twenty-six came to the post. It was the custom at this time to put the county from which the horse halled in brackets. Dublin and Tipperary tied with five representatives each; Kildare, three, Meath and Cavan, two each; while Galway. Kilkenny, Meath, Westmeath, Louth, King’s County and Cork had each a runner, and Scotland furnished a trio. Galway took the pride of place with Lord Clanricarde’s Caustic; Tipperary next, with Mr Vane’s Forager, and Dublin third, with Mr Banfield’s Yellow Leaf. Amongst the owners and riders in this race were several names well-known to turtfies. Most of them, alas! Have gone over to the “great majority”, but a few are still with us. Amongst those riders in the race may be mentioned Capt M Craith, J H Moore, Tom Jackson, Mr Long, D Canny, Mr Leannigan, Mr M Aylmer, N M Delamere, Mr McGrane (who ran Blood Royal in the race), Mr J D White, Mr “Bob” Exshaw, Capt Smith, Mr D Smithwiok, Capt Tempest, Mr C Allen and Mr Cashman. Mr Long’s victory on Lord Clanricarde’s Caustic was a very popular one. The winner was by Rasper, and was bred by Lord Freyne, Three weeks before the race Lord Clanricarde had been hunting the horse regularly with the Quorn, at Melton, and he was only sent over to Howth Castle for a couple of weeks’ preparation, Mr Banfield, whose Yellow Leaf was third, was a nephew of Lord Clanricarde’s, so the race was pretty well “in the family”. In these days, when everyone is betting, it appears strange to read, “Owing to there being only two or three bookmakers present there was very little betting”. The Grand Military brought out a fine field of fifteen, the winner turning up in Colonel Forster’s (4th D.G) Tony Lumpkin; Captain Cunninhan’s (11th Hussars) Stilton, second, and Major Ainstie’s (1st Royal Dragoons) Miss Arthur, third.
1868 was a notable year at Punchestown, as being the occasion of the visit of their R.H.’s the Prince and Princess of Wales. There was a very large attendance then, but the weather was anything but “royal”. It was in this year that the “Prince of Wales’s Plate” was inaugurated - an event which has remained very popular ever since. The winner of the race in 1868 was Captain Pigott’s Excelsior, with Captain Harford in the saddle: A field of twenty-one started for the initial race, and for the next five years it was well contested, and was won by such good horses as Fertullagh, Rufus, Huntsman, Quickstep, and Shylock.
1874 was a fine meeting, and many well-known men and there horses were there. The Bishopscourt Plate was the first event on the card; eighteen faced Major Dixon, and the winner was Mr Osborne’s Warbler, steered by Mr “St James”; Moorhen, with Tommy Beasley up being second. J D Whyte, R Exshaw, Captain Trooke, Colonel Harford, Mr Oldham, Captain Smith and Mr Apleton all rode in this race. Poor Mr “St James” was in luck at this meeting as, besides winning Bishopscourt Plate, he also won The Drogheda Stakes, on Mr Moore’s Leinster Lilly, and the Kildare Hunt Cup on Captain Tuthill’s confederate. A splendid lot contested the “Prince of Wale’s Plate”, which was won by Mr Chester’s Albert (Mr Apleton); Mr Linde’s Game Bird (Mr Beasley), second and Mr Poe’s Gaslight (Cusack), third. Amongst the unplaced were-Scots Grey (Mr G Moore), Heraut de’Armes (Captain Smith), Revoke (Mr St James), and Quickstep (T Ryan). A fine race was that for the Downshire Plate, for which there were seven starters. Mr Apleton had another winning mount on Mr Chester’s Supple Jack, but “Garry” Moore, with another crusher of 14st 9lb, ran him close. Mr Moore’s horsemanship on this occasion was have said to have been splendid. Supple Jack was looked upon as a perfect certainty, but was nearly beaten by Shylock, though the latter was conceding him the enormous lump of 48lbs. There was no doubt but that Shylock in “Gary” Moore’s hands, had no compeer with 15st up. These good horses, Revengo and Juggler, were amongst the unsuccessful ones in the Conyngham Cup, which was won by Mr Hume’s Miltown (Col Harford), While Mr J D White, on Recipe was second, a position which he had the bad luck to fill in the same race on two former occasions, viz, on Polestar, in ’68, and The Kitten, in ’69. The veteran rider, Capt Trocke, whose victory at Punchestown, in the Prince of Wales Plate, a few days ago, was so popular rode Bombardier in the Veteran Race in ’74. He also rode Mistletoe in the Conyngham Cup, Sapling in the Kildare Hunt Cup, and Freney in the Bishopscourt Plate at that meeting. Capt Trocke, on Mr Harpurs Olympia, by Newton-le-Willows, won the Conyngham Cup in the “Prince’s Year” (1868), beating Polestar, Cheerful Boy, and ten others, so that he can justly lay claim to being the Veteran of Punchestown.  His contemporaries of a score of years back who are now alive have all retired. “The too, too solid flesh” has handicapped “Garry” Moore out of the saddle; Tommy Beasley has “married a wife;” while other reasons prevent J.D. White and “Bob” Exshaw from taking part in the sport they loved so well.  The many new meetings around Dublin may, in some degree, dim the lustre of Punchestown, but it will ever remain dear to the hearts of race-goers who knew it in the good old days of a quarter of a century back.  – Irish Sportsman.


The Kildare Observer of May 12 1894 reminds its readers that 'fifty years ago  "princely Punchestown" was a very insignificant meeting as compared with the big gathering of later years'.Our thanks to Carl Dodd.

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