Dermot Weld and Noel Meade give thumbs-up to Punchestown Flat development
Dermot Weld and Noel Meade have given their backing to the new €5 million development of Punchestown racecourse, which is likely to see Flat action return to the home of Irish jump racing on a regular basis after its completion in 2025.
Planning permission has recently been granted for the major development, hailed by Punchestown chief executive Conor O’Neill as "the beginning of an exciting new era" for the venue.
The existing home straight will be widened by 35 metres, while the construction of a track extension to provide an additional racing surface will mean races over a mile have only one bend into the home straight. A number of reservoirs will be relocated around the racecourse to ensure sufficient water reserves and a new irrigation system will be installed.
Weld, who landed his latest big-race success with Falcon Eight in the Chester Cup on Friday, has given the thumbs-up to the initiative and said he has encouraged Punchestown to stage Flat racing for many years.
Weld told the Racing Post: "I’m delighted Punchestown have decided to do what they’re doing. It’s a very positive development. I’ve been encouraging them to have Flat racing there for some time and I think it’s an excellent idea.
"I’ve trained Grade 1 winners over jumps at Punchestown and I’ve trained Flat winners there too and I’m totally supportive of the idea. I give it my full backing.’’
Meade believes the development at Punchestown is a positive for the industry.
The eight-time champion jumps trainer said: "I’m behind the development for sure. I think it can only be a good thing. It’s a fine track and the fact that they're widening the home straight is a great thing too.’’
Punchestown staged a Flat fixture last year for the first time since 2002, and the track where Derby hero High Chaparral made his debut in 2001 is set to become a dual-purpose venue once again, with the project set to begin after the 2022 Punchestown festival concludes next May.
The project, which will be undertaken in two phases, is due to be completed in its entirety by 2025 and O'Neill believes it will be a game-changer for the track.
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