Ireland has a long history of horse racing. It is one of the oldest sports in Ireland and is part of the cultural heritage. One of the oldest race meetings in Ireland was first held at Tullaghans Hill in Co. Carlow, some time before 1792, when William Wildman and his descendants were granted lands there for their personal use. The Irish Horse Racing Board is the governing body for Irish horse racing.
Ireland has been hosting equestrian events from as early as 1874 with steeplechase races being hosted at Fairyhouse and Punchestown racecourses.
This article will take you through some of the famous horseracing events that happen every year in Ireland.
Introduction to Irish Horse Racing
In 1874, Fairyhouse became one of the first racecourses to host steeplechase races and it was immediately popular with Irish and English racegoers alike with its scenic views and challenging terrain. Punchestown also opened its doors to steeplechase racing in 1884 after Fairyhouse became too small for increased demand from horse-owners and spectators alike.
Irish horses are known worldwide for their toughness, stamina and agility which make them great contenders on both flat terrain and over jumps. This article will take you through some notable Irish horseraces that happen every year such as Punchestown Racecourse’s Melling Chase, Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival meeting, Irish Grand National day at Fairyhouse Racecourse on Easter Monday, Galway Races Festival Day on July 15th to celebrate Ireland’s national day or St Patrick’s Day which is celebrated globally each March 17th as a day for people to commemorate Saint Patrick who died on that date in AD 461.
Fairyhouse Racecourse is located in County Meath and hosts the Fairyhouse Irish Grand National. This event is one of Ireland’s most prestigious horseracing events. The first Fairyhouse Irish Grand National race was held in 1866 and it has been running ever since. It is a three-mile steeplechase with a prize fund of €550,000.
Punchestown Racecourse is also located in County Meath and hosts Irish Champion Hurdles and Punchestown Irish Champion Chase. It has been hosting horse racing events since 1867 when the first races were held there as part of an agricultural show.
It hosts the Punchestown Festival which includes many different types of race meetings throughout the year, including Cheltenham Festival Trials Day, a meeting during Easter Week, an evening meeting during Halloween Festivities, and more.
Punchestown is the only racecourse in Ireland which operates all year round. It also features a range of other events such as concerts, festivals and conferences.
Punchestown is home to horse racing from March to November each year. Punchestown has hosted many famous horseraces over the years such as the Irish Grand National, Irish Cesarewitch, Railway Stakes and the Royal Whip Stakes.
The Irish Grand National is one of the main highlights at Punchestown with its £370k prize fund. The course was also host to the first ever Irish Grand National back in 1847.
The Galway Races is Ireland's most famous horse racing event. It was first held in 1869 and has been running ever since. The Galway Races are held at the Ballybrit Racecourse, and the race day attracts over 140,000 people each year.
The Galway Races are sponsored by a number of different companies with the official sponsor being Centra for the last three years. The races take place on Ladies Day, which takes place on Saturday of the Galway Festival week every September. There are six races at this meeting with a total prize money of €150,000 on offer to the winners.
The Curragh Racecourse is one of the most iconic racecourses in Ireland. It is located in County Kildare and is the home of Irish Flat racing. The course is a right-handed triangular layout with a distance of 2m 4f, making it the shortest racecourse in Ireland.
The Curragh has been around as long as horse racing itself and was originally used by the Duke of Devonshire to graze his cattle. The first formal meeting was held on September 17th 1852 and featured nine races.
In 1935, the inaugural running of what would become Ireland’s most valuable flat race, the Irish Derby took place at The Curragh. The following year, Lester Piggott rode his first winner here for leading Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien. This set him on a path that would see him win every major flat race in Europe except for the Epsom Derby.
It hosts two Group 1 races annually:
Irish Oaks – July 8th
Irish Derby – Aug 6th
The Curragh as a military camp and training ground
The Curragh military camp has been in use since the 1800s. It was built as a strategic location near Dublin, but it's also had a long history of hosting equestrian events.
It hosted British cavalry troops and served as training ground for troops to prepare for the unfortunate battles in Egypt. It was also used as a military hospital for British troops during the Crimean War.
In more recent times, it has hosted horse racing events, including the Irish Derby and Irish Oaks.