The A-Z guide of Irish racecourses (Part 3)
Learn all about the 26 flat, jumps and all-weather courses in Ireland
In this post I wrap up our trip around the racecourses of Ireland. Not just serving up some of the best, and most picturesque, venues that racing can offer… but into the bargain a host of opportunities to make money from Irish racing – something shown by the Irish Cash Consortium.
Do make a point of checking that service out – click here for more details.
This time to wrap up our whistle-stop tour of the Emerald Isle we’re focussing just on tracks in the Republic, taking in flat, hurdle and steeplechase courses. So let’s get cracking…
The racecourse at Naas is located on the outskirts of the town, which is found in County Kildare – about 30 km south-west of Dublin.
Affectionately known as the “Punters Graveyard” – on account of a nearby cemetery – the venue hosts both Flat and national Hun racing.
On the Flat course, sprint races over 5f-6f are run on a straight course which, in the past few years, has been flattened in the first 3f to create a more even surface. Races over 7f+ start on a chute, at the top of the home straight, and are run around a left-hand bend.
The National Hunt course at Naas is a left-handed oval, approximately a 1m 4f in circumference, with 8 stiff fences to a circuit and a run-in of just over 1f. It’s a wide, galloping track, with a stiff, uphill finish, which tends to suit staying types. The home straight, which features 2 plain fences, is over 4f long but, despite the stiff finish, horses held up off the pace may still find it difficult to make up the required ground on the leaders.
Navan Racecourse (or Proudstown Park) is located in the area known as Proudstown around 5k north Navan town centre. This is in County Meath, around 55km north-west of Dublin.
On the Flat course, sprint races are run on a straight course, which joins the round course at the top of the home straight. There is no major draw bias here and horses can win from any position on the track.
The National Hunt course at Navan is a left-handed, undulating, rectangle, approximately 1m 4f long. The chase circuit has 9 fairly stiff fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately 1f.
The hurdle course is laid out inside the steeplechase track and features 7 hurdles to a circuit. The course is essentially galloping in character, but the uphill climb from the final bend, which is just over 3f from the winning post. It’s a very stiff finish making Navan no place for horses with doubtful stamina.
Punchestown Racecourse is situated on the outskirts of Naas, the county town of County Kildare. About 30km from Dublin, Punchestown Racecourse is actually less than 5k from Naas.
It’s a purely National Hunt course, staging 17 fixtures during the year. The highlight being the “Punchestown Festival”, which is staged over 5 days in late April and early May. One of the highlights of the Irish sporting calendar, it features a dozen Grade One contests, including the Champion Chase, Champion Stayers Hurdle, Punchestown Gold Cup, and Punchestown Champion Hurdle.
The main National Hunt course at Punchestown is a right-handed, undulating oval, approximately 2m in circumference. It consists of 11 fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately 1f. The course is galloping in character, with a steady climb throughout the last 5f.
The hurdle course, laid out inside the main chase course, is only 1m 6f in length and is much sharper in aspect. The bend at the end of the back straight is particularly tight and, generally speaking, the course favours horses that race handily.
Roscommon is the county town of County Roscommon, situated in the centre of Eire. It’s located around 2/3 of the way between Dublin and Galway.
The venue stages both Flat and National Hunt meetings between May and September, but all but the final meeting of the year are held in the evening.
The Flat course is a right-handed, sharp track with 3f run-in. Here the Lenebane Stakes, run over an extended 1m 3f in July, is the biggest race of the year.
The National Hunt course at Roscommon is a right-handed rectangle, approximately 1m 2f in length. There are 5 fences to a circuit, and a run-in of around 1f. The turns, especially the turn out of the back straight, are sharp and, on the whole, the course favours horses with sufficient pace to race prominently.
The racecourse in Sligo is located not far from the town centre. The town itself is the county town of County Sligo in the border region of the Republic, next to the adjoining Northern Ireland.
Sligo plays host to 8 Flat and National Hunt fixtures each year, between May and October, with its biggest fixture the 2-day meeting staged in August which includes the Guinness Sligo Handicap Hurdle..
The National Hunt course is a right-handed, narrow, undulating oval, a little over 1m in circumference. It has 5 fences to a circuit and a 2f uphill run-in. The course lies in a natural amphitheatre which, combined with the soil composition, can produce extraordinarily testing, holding ground, in which it is difficult to come from off the pace.
Thurles is situated in County Tipperary, in the Shannon Region of Ireland. It’s actually one of three racecourses in the county (along with Clonmel and Tipperary) but unlike the others, Thurles is solely a National Hunt venue.
Thurles stages 8t National Hunt fixtures between October and March, with the main races being the Grade Two Analog’s Daughter Mares Novice Chase, and Kinloch Brae Chase.
The National Hunt course at Thurles is a right-handed, undulating oval, approximately 1m 2f in circumference. It has 7 fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately 1f.
The course rises steeply throughout the back straight but falls, equally steeply, towards the final bend and the 2f home straight where the last 2 fences are situated. On the whole, the course is sharp in character, favouring horses that race on, or close to the pace, although those who do too much in the back straight may pay for their exertions later on.
The racecourse at Tipperary is actually situated in the village of Limerick Junction, approximately 5km north-west of Tipperary – in County Tipperary, down in the south of the Republic. In point of fact, the racecourse was known as “Limerick Junction” until a name change in 1986.
The venue hosts 11 Flat and National Hunt fixtures during the year, more than half of which are evening meetings. But the feature meeting is “Super Sunday” held in October each year – a mixed card of flat and jumps – that has the Grade Two Istabraq Hurdle as its centrepiece.
The National Hunt course is a right-handed undulating track which climbs to back straight, and descends to final bend before an uphill finish. Overall, it’s a 1m 2f circuit, with a 2f home straight, which favours horses who race prominently.
Tramore is located on the southern coast of Ireland in County Waterford.
The racecourse hosts 11 days racing through the year, both Flat and National Hunt, with the feature meeting being the 4-day August Festival. This includes 3-days of National Hunt racing, followed by a single day Flat fixture.
The National Hunt course is a right-handed oval, approximately 7f furlongs in circumference. There are 5 fences to a circuit, and a run-in of less than 1f. Heading away from the stands, the course climbs, but falls again for a downhill run to the second-last fence, followed by a short, uphill finish. The turns are sharp, favouring horses that race prominently.
Located in the south-east corner of the Republic, the course is situated in Bettyville, on the outskirts of Wexford town, in County Wexford.
The course was originally right-handed, but in 2015 it was switched to left-handed. This created an uphill finish, and a more exciting spectacle, for what is now a National Hunt only venue.
The is a right-handed, undulating rectangle, approximately 1m 2f around. It has 6 fences, with just the one flight on the home straight, and a run-in of less than 1f. Wexford is sharp in character, with tight turns, not very suitable for long-striding, or galloping, horses.
Your three part A-Z guide (well, B to W to be exact) that covers all 26 racecourses of Ireland.
Without doubt, the scene of some tremendous racing, both Flat and National Hunt… and a place where trainers like Aidan O’Brien and Willie Mullins have bred, trained and developed many a Classic, Listed and Grade 1 winner.
For a lot of punters, an unfamiliar landscape. But for those in the know, a real treasure trove of quality racing and money-making potential.
Don’t forget to check out the Irish Cash Consortium for all your winning Irish betting advice.