A race of Grade One importance
The Punchestown Festival is ever changing but for over a quarter of century a permanent fixture at the Irish National Hunt meeting has been the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund Charity Race and hopefully it'll be there for another 25-years at least!
This year when the race brings the curtain down on the Irish jumps seasons, it will be the 26th running of the race that has so far raised over €1.3m over developing kidney research and that is all down to the founder of the race, James Nolan.
The award-winning butcher based in Kilcullen himself was a kidney transplant recipient in 1987 and it was after that he decided to try and raise funds and awareness by starting the Charity Race which to this day remains oversubscribed every year.
"The race all started because I was lucky enough to have received the gift of life when I received a kidney transplant from by sister, Catherine, back in 1987.
"I decided to raise money to support kidney related projects and so my first charity race took place back in 1990 and to date, it has raised just over €1.3m."
Nolan, who went on to ride the winner of the race himself, explained how this is going to be a massive year for the race.
"This year we have a jockey, Eoghan O'Neill, having his second ride in the race, and Eoghan is a transplant recipient.
He finished sixth riding for Jessica Harrington last year and having been on dialysis and successfully receiving a kidney in 2004, he knows all the benefits of the Punchestown race," Nolan told The Herald.
Naturally, the race is very close to yours truly as I was lucky enough to ride in it three times but it says so much about the race and the organisers that it was founded in a time when charity races were much more prevalent but the Punchestown one keeps going strong and it's easy to see why.
Nolan added: "2015 is a going to be a huge year for the Punchestown Kidney Research Fund as we have committed to invest over €275,000 in various projects.
"€150,000 will support a new renal unit at Temple Street, €100,000 will support two kidney research projects under the guidance of the Irish Nephrology Society and we've also committed €20,000 to continue our Art Therapy programmes for Dialysis Patients in Tallaght and Waterford Dialysis units and €5,000 to our Sports Programme.
It's a race that has undoubtedly changed the lives of many transplant patients but as I can vow for, the jockeys in the race as well and if you can support it, please do so at www.pkrf.ie.