Leopardstown Racecourse is a horse racing venue in Leopardstown, Dun Laoghaire- Rathdown County, Ireland. Located a few miles south of Dublin city centre, the racecourse hosts numerous well-known flat and National hunt races. Since hurdle and chase racing is as popular as flat horse racing, almost all racing venues in Ireland feature both kinds of races.
Here is a quick guide to Leopardstown Racecourse with a peek into its history, physical attributes, and racing calendar.
Leopardstown Racecourse History
Leopardstown Racecourse opened its gates to the public for the first time in August 1888. The racecourse was the brainchild of Captain George Quinn, who purchased 200 acres of land in Foxrock, which later became the venue of Leopardstown Racecourse.
The Captain had observed the construction of racecourses in England in the 1870s and designed Leopardstown Racecourse based on Sandown Racecourse. Captain George Quinn served as the Match bookkeeper for the Irish Turf Club from 1885 to 1891, and in early 1888; he laid the foundation of the Leopardstown Racecourse Company.
After six months of the company’s establishment, the racecourse was inaugurated in August. The inaugural was a highly publicised event, as it received a lot of press coverage, and a crowd of more than 5000 people came to witness the opening.
In the early 1900s, the racecourse management was handed over to Fred and Harold Clarke, who converted it into a racing venue for both jump and flat races. However, the area surrounding the racecourse became more urbanised, and the population grew. As the number of houses in the vicinity increased, the owners were concerned that the racecourse would be lost to the investors.
To ensure land security, they traded the land to the Irish Racing Board in 1969 for a mere 300,000 pounds. Following the sale of the racecourse, a major renovation project was initiated. The racetrack was re-drained, revamped, and widened while a new stand was erected.
Over the years, Leopardstown Racecourse experienced dwindling spectatorship. If we compare attendance during the late 1900s and early 2000s, the numbers have dropped. However, to date, the racecourse maintains a bus racing calendar and draws large crowds to witness the races.
The racecourse has also received investment consistently for the upgrade and expansion of facilities, including expansion projects in 2013 and 2016, and 2017. Despite ongoing upgrades, Leopardstown Racecourse may not be one of the most modern racecourses in the country, and it retains remnants of the past that reflect its history and evolution over time.
Leopardstown Racecourse Facilities
Leopardstown Racecourse is the only racecourse in County Dublin and is located only six miles south of the Dublin City Centre. The racecourse has two racetracks, a flat course, and a jump course.
The flat track is a wide oval and is 1.75 miles long with tight turns, which require stamina from the horses to complete the races. The track has a long home stretch beginning at the last 7 furlongs.
Like the flat racetrack, the jumps track is left-handed and measures 1.75 miles, with a similar shape. Similar to the flat track, the turns in the jumps track are also sharp, and horses must have considerable stamina to overcome this challenging track.
The track has two fences away from the stands, while six are located down the back. The second half of the track is considered more challenging.
Besides the racetracks, Leopardstown Racecourse features a golf course and a clubhouse located in the middle of the course. The venue has a restaurant, pub, food hall, nightclub, cafes, bars, and snack areas. A farmer’s market is also organised at the venue every Friday, while the famous Leopardstown music festival, the Bulmers Live, is also held between June and August every year.
Leopardstown Racecourse Fixtures & Calendar
Leopardstown Racecourse features 22 race fixtures, including flat and national hunt racing events. The famous flat races include the following:
The Irish Champion Stakes
The Irish Champion Stakes is a Group 1 thoroughbred race reserved for horses aged three and above. The race has a distance of 2012 metres and takes place every September with a purse worth €1,000,000.
The Matron Stakes (Ireland)
The Matron Stakes is a Group 1 race reserved for mares and fillies aged three and above. It is held in September and has a distance of 1609 metres, while the purse worth is €376,000.
Both races are a part of the Champion Weekend held at Leopardstown every September. Besides these, the racecourse is also home to numerous Group 3 races, including the Ballycorus Stakes, Meld Stakes, and Golden Fleece Stakes.
The most notable National Hunt races held at Leopardstown Racecourse include The Hennessy Gold Cup and the Irish Champion Hurdle. The most renowned racing event for hurdle races is the Dublin Racing Festival. It is a two-day racing event that comprises 15 races, out of which eight races are from the Grade 1 category.