Fairyhouse Racecourse is a horse racing facility in the parish of Ratoath, Co. Meath, Ireland. Home to the Irish Grand National Steeplechase, it is easily one of the best horse racing venues in the country. Over the years, many notable horses and champions of their times have graced the racecourse.
This article offers an insight into the history of Fairyhouse Racecourse and provides a brief account of its physical attributes and race features.
Fairyhouse Racecourse History
Fairyhouse Racecourse conducted its first race meeting in 1848. The ward union hunt organised their point-to-point event at the racecourse, marking it the first official race meeting of the track. The racecourse had humble beginnings but developed rapidly, and in a few years, it became one of the most premium racecourses in the country.
The Irish Grand National was held at Fairyhouse for the first time in 1870. The winner of the first edition was Sir Robert Peel. The Grand National soon became the most notable and prestigious steeplechase race in the country.
One of the most historic moments in the racecourse’s history was when Alike, a six-year-old mare, won the Irish Grand National. The mare was led by Frank Wise, a jockey with a wooden leg and three missing fingers.
Over the years, more physical attributes were added to the racecourse to keep it up-to-date. In 1999, a new grandstand, the Powers Gold Label Stand, was added while the existing grandstand, the Jameson Stand, was refurbished.
Fairyhouse Racecourse is presently owned by the HRI (Horse Racing Ireland). Previously the racecourse was owned by Fairyhouse Club, which transferred the ownership due to financial constraints. From 1999 to October 2006, the racecourse was managed by Dick Shell, a resident of Doneraile and graduate of the UCD and Warrenstown Agricultural College.
Dick Shell contributed significantly to the growth of the racecourse as he brokered important sponsorship and managed numerous significant race meetings. In 2007, the management was handed over to Caroline Grey, a member of the finance department of Horse Racing Ireland.
Fairyhouse Racecourse facilities
Fairyhouse Racecourse is located around 15 miles from the Dublin City Centre. The course comprises two tracks, one for flat racing and the other for National Hunt racing.
The flat track is wide and square-shaped. It is right-handed and has a length of 1 mile and 6 furlongs. The home straight is slightly uphill and is 3 furlongs long.
Besides the home straight, the racetrack at Fairyhouse is relatively level and suits horses with racing stamina. Overall the racetrack is not very challenging, and no particular type of horse has an advantage over the other.
The jump track is 1 mile and three quarters. The circuit comprises eleven fences, while the run-in is one furlong long. There is a steady uphill on the side of the course away from the fences, while the back straight is slightly downhill.
Besides the racetracks, Fairyhouse Racecourse also features two grandstands, a restaurant from 1888 that overlooks the parade ring home straight, a glass pavilion for the exclusive audience, and many other features, establishing its status as one of the country’s premier horse racing facilities.
On Sundays, when no races are scheduled, the racecourse serves as a market for local produce, including arts and crafts, fresh vegetables, tools, electrical goods, and saddlery. It is also used as a venue for various festivals and music events.
Fairyhouse Racecourse Fixtures & Calendar
Fairyhouse Racecourse is home to around 20 race meetings annually, including the Flat and National Hunt races.
The most notable event of Fairyhouse Racecourse is the Irish Grand National, which has been taking place at the racecourse since 1870. The Grand National is a part of the three-day event held around Easter. The race has a distance of 3 miles and 5 furlongs and a purse worth €500,000.
Another notable race is the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, a grade 1 hurdle race held in December. It has a distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs and a purse worth €40,000. It is held on the same day as Drinmore Novice Chase and Royal Bond Novice Handle, both Grade 1 races.
The only flat race held at Fairyhouse Racecourse is the Brownstown Stakes, a Group 3 race held in July each year. The race has a distance of 1400 metres and prize money of €61,000.
How to get to Fairyhouse Racecourse
Fairyhouse Racecourse is located only 23kms from Dublin City Centre and is easily accessible via road. You can catch the special bus service by Fireann that departs from the Central Bus station around 90 minutes before the first meeting of the race schedule and returns to the stations after the last race.