Al Boum Photo and Chacun Pour Soi are two of the horses Paul Townend had been looking forward to at the Punchestown Festival.
The Willie Mullins-trained Al Boum Photo became a dual Cheltenham Gold Cup hero in March, but stablemate Chacun Pour Soi was ruled out of what had been shaping up to be mouthwatering Queen Mother Champion Chase with a minor setback on the morning of the race.
Townend said: “Had the festival gone ahead, Al Boum Photo would have gone there and I really would have loved to ride Chaun Pour Soi. I was so disappointed I didn’t get to ride him at Cheltenham.
“Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle would have had a rematch as well which would have made for a great clash.
“Out of the festivals that have been cancelled, Punchestown is probably the hardest one to see go. The Grand National is one race and we don’t bring a huge team over there. Punchestown is our Cheltenham so I am missing it the most.”
Looking back on previous festivals, Townend said in his Ladbrokes blog: “My fondest memory from Punchestown dates back to 2010 when I rode Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle. That was a big winner and I remember it very fondly.
“He hadn’t run since the Morgiana Hurdle earlier that season and he just got up to beat Solwhit. Ruby Walsh was missing that week, so it was a good week for me and that win was the icing on the cake.”
Townend was crowned champion jockey again in Ireland, achieving a personal target despite the season being cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak.
He said: “I wanted to ride 100 winners again this year and I completed that just before Cheltenham so I reached my personal target. I was on target for my best season yet so it is disappointing the way it’s ended.
“It means a lot to be crowned champion jockey this year. With Ruby retiring and as No.1 to Willie Mullins, it was probably expected of me as well. It was something I really wanted to do this year and thankfully it worked out. When lockdown is lifted we can celebrate it and Cheltenham.”
When racing does resume, it will be behind closed doors – but Townend is confident riders will adapt and the approach will be successful.
He said: “I have no problem with racing behind closed doors whatsoever. It will obviously have a different feel to it with no owners or even trainers in the parade ring, but once you get out on the track it is the very same.
“Once everyone abides by the rules I think it’s as safe as anywhere. I’d say it’s more dangerous going down to the shops.”