PUNCHESTOWN took a significant step towards being able to stage more flat and jumps racing this week with the news that the board of Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has approved capital development grant aid for two significant projects at the track.

The HRI Track Works & Industry Facilities Scheme (2022–2023) will provide almost €1.2 million - 40% of the cost of works - that will see the existing home straight at the track widened by 35 metres.

There will also be an extension to the current track layout to create a new one-mile start for flat races which will mean races on the flat of up to that distance being run with one bend into the home straight.

This newly constructed area would also be used to start National Hunt races, and topsoil will be harvested from elsewhere on the Punchestown complex to create the seedbed for the new extension to ensure consistency of ground quality.

A new irrigation system at the racecourse is also to be installed and three new reservoirs with the capacity to store up to 90,000 litres of water are to be constructed.

The works will be completed in two phases, with phase one, beginning in June, focusing on widening the track in the home straight with phase two being the track extension. A deadline for the delivery of the upgrading of the irrigation system has been set for October 31st, 2024.

Suzanne Eade, chief executive of HRI, said: “The proposed projects at Punchestown will significantly aid both National Hunt racing and flat racing at the venue. It will expand track capacity, ensure a high quality watering system with sufficient local water reserves and upgrade the ambulance roadways.”

Conor O’Neill, CEO of Punchestown Racecourse, said: “We look forward to starting this important next phase in the development of Punchestown after this year’s much anticipated Festival meeting.

“The demand for additional races saw flat racing return to Punchestown for the first time in 18 years in 2020. A new racing line will create further possibilities for Punchestown to host additional flat fixtures should the need arise, whilst also expanding our capacity to stage National Hunt racing.

“The addition of significantly enhanced reservoirs and a state of the art watering system were also key Punchestown priorities from a sustainability perspective.”