Fancy a day at the races? If so, here are five great horse tracks in Ireland you can experience.
There are not many sports so intricately linked with the culture and society of Ireland quite like horseracing. Its roots in the country run so deep that historians have records of the sport dating back to 60 AD.
Ancient Celtic texts like ‘Togail Bruidne Dá Derga’ detail chariot races at the Curragh along with records from the seventh century.
As time went on, wild horses from the Irish highlands were domesticated and trained for competition, becoming some of the fastest in Europe.
Later on, in the 17th-century, the sport had officially become one of the most popular sports in the country.
As it became more illustrious, the level of competition became even stronger, and the Curragh became particularly prominent as a centre for horse breeding.
Its popularity grew exponentially, and this was when we started seeing the inception of some of the biggest days on the Irish racing calendar, such as the Punchestown Races.
Horseracing in Ireland up to the modern-day – a fascinating history
Right the way up through the 20th-century, it continued to grow, and Ireland has now become an integral part of the horseracing scene on a global scale.
Irish trained horses are commonplace amongst the winners of some of the biggest competitions in the sport, and since 2005 there have been 11 Irish champion flat jockeys.
Of course, betting is synonymous with horse racing, and as the technology in the sport developed, so did the way we bet. You can now bet from the comfort of your own home using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop with several sportsbooks.
This guide collates some of the best horseracing betting offers for those of you who love to punt on some of the biggest races in the calendar.
Whilst the ease of betting at home makes sitting in front of your television set even more enjoyable, there really is nothing like a day at the Irish races. Here is a guided tour of the best horse tracks in Ireland.
5. Curragh Racecourse, Co. Kildare – home to one of the biggest races in Ireland
Located in scenic County Kildare, the Curragh is home to the biggest races in Ireland. The most esteemed flat racecourse in the country, it hosts all four classics; the Irish Derby, Irish Oaks, Irish 2000 Guineas, and Irish 1000 Guineas.
Trainers and breeders from all over Europe make the trip over to enter their three-year-old thoroughbreds in a bid to crown them the best in the continent.
It is a horseshoe-shaped course with straight starts at five furlongs, six furlongs, six furlongs 63 yards, 7 ft, and one mile.
The Curragh welcomes tens of thousands of attendees every year and is undoubtedly one of the best horse tracks in Ireland.
Address: Newbridge, Co. Kildare, R56 RR67, Ireland
4. Punchestown Racecourse, Co. Kildare – renowned for National Hunt Racing
Punchestown is the home of Irish jumps and is renowned for National Hunt Racing in Ireland. The biggest hunt festival takes place at the course every April, with the meeting often the final big jumps turnout of the season.
With no less than 12 Grade One races each year, the chase track is an excellent setting for jockeys as the fences are not quite as stiff as British fences.
The hurdle track is a tougher task, however. It has tight bends and an incline after the winning section making pace and stamina management vital. The cross-country course is a long and twisting one with both left and right-handed turns.
Address: Punchestown, Naas, Co. Kildare, Ireland
3. Leopardstown Racecourse, Co. Dublin – one of the best horse tracks in Ireland
Sitting just 8 km (5 miles) south of Dublin, Leopardstown is the host to both national hunt and flat racing. Most notably, they hold the Irish Champion Stakes every year, a Grade One flat race open to thoroughbreds aged three and over.
It is one of the most popular courses, thanks to the money invested into renovating it for attendees. With several restaurants, cafés, and bars around the course, it is a great day out for both horse racing fans and those who are new to the sport.
It is a wide, oval course with starts from six furlongs to two miles for flat racing. It remains fairly level throughout, making for some exciting galloping battles.
Address: Leopardstown Racecourse, Foxrock, Dublin 18, D18 C9V6, Ireland
2. Ballybrit Racecourse, Co. Galway – hosted a famous moment in Irish history
Another of Ireland’s excellent National Hunt courses, Ballybrit is most known for its seven-day festival every August. Located in Galway, the festival attracts some of the biggest attendances on the calendar.
One of the most famous pieces of Irish racing history took place at this course in 1979, when Pope John Paul II celebrated mass in front of 280,000 people.
It can be a very tricky track, as it is tight and full of turns and has a very stiff finish. The chase course has seven fences, with the last two very close together before a two-furlong finish.
Address: Ballybrit, Galway, H91 V654, Ireland
1. Laytown Racecourse, Co. Meath – a one-of-a-kind track
Laytown is one of the most unique courses in the world, with only one meeting a year taking place on the beach in County Meath. The seven-furlong straight course welcomes some of the best horses and jockeys every year.
Speaking of the one-of-a-kind track, former Jockey Mick Kinane said, “Laytown was always an interesting track to ride…
“The wet sand rides quite firm, so horses that go on fast ground tend to be suited by it. It often offered a good opportunity for flat horses that had an aversion to starting stalls.”
It is all of these things together that make Laytown one of the best horse tracks in Ireland.
Address: Strand Rd, Ninch, Laytown, Co. Meath, Ireland