Punch Bunch are having a ball with Stewards’ Cup hope

Features | 25th July 2021

Champagne corks will be popping at The Punch Bowl restaurant near Chelmsford, Essex, if Punchbowl Flyer wins the Unibet Stewards’ Cup at the Qatar Goodwood Festival.


The progressive four-year-old sprinter Punchbowl Flyer is shared by four couples including restaurant owners David and Penny Kelsey, whose first foray into racehorse ownership is the stuff of dreams.

Trained in Lambourn by Eve Johnson Houghton, he has already won seven races – three of them in his last four starts – and heads to Goodwood among the leading fancies for the famous cavalry charge.

Peter Gleeson, who bred the horse and runs The Punch Bunch syndicate, says: “It’s been an amazing experience for David and Penny. We’ve always met as a group at their restaurant so it seemed appropriate to name the horse after it.

“It’s also been a first taste of ownership for Steve and Sam O’Brien and an exciting time for our other friends Nigel and Nicky Barnes. Nigel said it was a bucket list experience for them when Punchbowl Flyer ran at Royal Ascot in the Wokingham Handicap in June.

“Now we’re all looking forward to making more special memories at Goodwood. We’re attending the traditional ball on the Thursday of the Festival and will be enjoying the great racing on the Friday – and hopefully on the Saturday,” adds Peter, who bought the horse back at the yearling sales after he failed to make his reserve and syndicated him for just £18,000.

The Punch Bunch’s immediate plans will depend on a wetter weather forecast as the 105-rated Dream Ahead gelding thrives in soft conditions and won’t be risked on fast ground.

His three wins this season have all come in softer conditions and he was far from disgraced at the Royal Meeting, where he relished the heavy rain but ended up being drawn on the wrong side, finishing eighth but first home in his group.

“We think he’ll have a great chance if the rain arrives but we have plenty of other plans if Eve decides not to run him,” explains Peter, who has been a successful owner for many years and numbers Irish 2,000 Guineas winner Indian Haven among his best horses.

“Punchbowl Flyer carries the same colours as Indian Haven and seems to be improving with every run, thanks to Eve, who has done a tremendous job with him. He used to hang quite badly as a younger horse but since she ironed out that problem we haven’t looked back.

“He’s a typical Dream Ahead because like most of his progeny he’s getting better with age. Eve thinks he’s good enough to take his chance in Group company and has entered him in the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock in September, when the ground is invariably soft. We also have an eye on the Ayr Gold Cup at the end of September when he should again get his conditions.”

Johnson Houghton adds: “Punchbowl Flyer is a very tough horse and I’m delighted he’s giving Peter and his friends so much fun. It’s a slim line between top handicaps and Group races when it comes to sprinters and I’m looking forward to seeing how far he can take them this year.”