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PAT HEALY: This week Pat takes the opportunity to share his memories of Lorna Brooke, the English jockey who sadly passed away this week, before he then looks ahead to the Punchestown Festival.

Lorna Brooke

It was absolutely terrible to hear the news of Lorna Brooke’s death earlier this week. It’s absolutely devastating for her family and those close to her. She obviously plied her trade in England, but we were lucky enough to meet Lorna when she rode a winner at Fairyhouse back in 2015. She came across as a really lovely person and you could see the joy and delight that riding a winner gave her. She beat the likes of Katie Walsh, Nina Carberry and Rachael Blackmore that day which was no mean feat and it was a really memorable day. It has been well-documented the trouble she had getting to Fairyhouse that day, but she managed to get there and to ride a winner, of course, made it all worthwhile.

It really puts things into perspective how tough this game is and the danger that’s involved. It’s truly heart-breaking that she’s gone and I’d just like to pass on my condolences to her family and friends.

Punchestown Festival

Excitement is very much building for the Punchestown Festival and it promises to be another fantastic five days racing. It’s still the highlight of the Jumps season in Ireland and while there won’t be the battle between Willie [Mullins] and Gordon [Elliott] for the trainers’ title this year, there is still so much to look forward to with the majority of the big guns set to line up.

Several English horses, including Clan Des Obeaux, Nube Negra and Epatante, look set to head over which is great to see and only increases the depth in quality that will be on show. Nicky Henderson’s mare will take on Honeysuckle again, which should be a great watch, as should Envoi Allen v Monkfish on the Tuesday. 

Behind Cheltenham it’s still the biggest meeting of the season and you just have to look at the quality of the fields for evidence of that. The Dublin Racing Festival is getting bigger and bigger and sits at a great time in the calendar, but I always think that if you have a decent National Hunt horse, you always want it to run at Punchestown. It’s the final big event of the season and I’d be pretty confident it will deliver like it always does. Punchestown always do a fantastic job and it’s a great chance for Irish racing to show the world what it’s about once again.