The new national home season kicks off at Gowran Park this weekend with the feature being the PWC Champion Chase, which will be raced on Saturday.
This is the actual start of the 2023-2024 national hunt season, so some of the superstars of racing will start returning to the track.
On Friday, you have a seven-race card, which is a very exciting card, but it opens with a maiden hurdle, which will have big interest locally, with “Born in the Purple” trained by WP Mullins looking for his first win for Willie and,”Hypotenuse” trained by Gavin Cromwell. Two horses will no doubt be at the head of the market, but it’s sure that a very exciting race is in store.
The feature race on the card is the Pat Walsh Memorial Mares Hurdle, run in honor and memory of Pat Walsh, a loved foreman at the Gowran Park racecourse for many years. The race this year looks as exciting as ever, with Henry De Bromhead running his mare “Magical Zoey”. “Anna Bunina” will be representing the John McConnell yard and “Say Goodbye” takes his place for Garden Elliot, so three really exciting mares in the field, but it’s a good, good size field, with seven runners in it. It’ll be a very exciting race, but I expect those three to fight out to the finish.
The other listed race on the card is the bumper race being run last on the day. This race itself looks to be an extremely exciting contest with local trainer WP Mullins running three mares. “Aurora Vega” will, be hugely popular as the daughter of “Quevega”, the famous mare of Willie Mullins. We expect Aurora Vega to go off at a sharp race favorite, trying to make it three bumper wins in a row and putting her Cheltenham credentials on the line this early in the season. Willie is also covered with “Abi’s Champ” in the race and “Caman Eileen”, owned by the Caman racing syndicate, made up of some really famous hurlers. So it’d be very exciting to see all of them there.
Then the attention switches to Saturday, the key race on the card Saturday is of course the grade two PWC Champion Chase. This race was the starting point for Henry de Bromhead’s super horse “Sizing Europe” for many years. Henry won the race on four separate occasions with “Sizing Europe”. This year he brings his stable star “Envoi Allen”. Coming here on the back of three separate wins at Cheltenham. Of course, famously winning the Cheltenham champion bumper, winning the Ballymore hurdle at Cheltenham, and last year winning the Ryanair chase. So this is where “Envoi Allen” will start his campaign ahead of a big season in 2024 over the jumps. He won’t find it all his own way as he’ll be taking on “Easy Game” for WP Mullins, winner of the race last year. Another horse to keep an eye on in that race is “Gentleman’s Game” for Mouse Morris
It’s an extremely exciting two days of racing to look forward to at Gowran Park. The first race on Friday will go to post at 2.05 pm and the first race on Saturday will go to post at 2.15 pm. There will be courtesy buses from the Kilkenny Castle gates one hour before racing on both days, and those buses will return back to the city half an hour after the racing on each day.
The going on the track at the moment is soft, heavy in places on the hurdle track, and soft on the chase course.
Reporting by Eddie Scally, Gowran Park Racecourse Manager