Horse Racing Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland

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In Horse Racing there are many tales of the rank beginner who trumps the expert and this should give you confidence as you start out to take part in this wonderful sport. Sport is too small a word for it actually. Racing is a sport, surely, and one at which Ireland excels but it is also a social occasion without equal and a very special ‘slice of Irish life’.

History of Irish Horse Racing

The human relationship with horses has been represented in art for 30,000 years and was first recorded in cave paintings, such as those in Lascaux in France. The nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia first tamed the horse in 4,500BC. Once horse racing was called the sport of Kings because Royal support and prizes was the spur to the growth of racing in Britain and Ireland.

In 1790 the Irish Turf Club was formed to first write the rules of racing and ensure that they are upheld. Horse Racing Ireland, the governing body of horse racing on the Emerald Isle, was founded in 2001 to administer and promote Ireland as a world centre of excellence for horse racing and breeding. There are nowadays 24 race courses all over Ireland.

Race Types

Flat Racing

These races are run over distances ranging from 5 furlongs (5/8 mile or 1000 metres) to 20 furlongs (2 1/2 miles or 4000 metres) and are started from stalls. As the name suggests, there are no obsticales in flat racing. The flat racing season runs from mid-March to mid-December. Flat horses mature quickly and start running as 2 or 3-year-olds. The Curragh in Co. Kildare has been the headquarters of flat racing in Ireland since the early 18th century and according to history the ancient Celtic Kings held racing there.

National Hunt or ‘Jump’ Racing

All jump races are contested over at least 2 miles and the horses have to jump a number of obstacles – varying in type and height. This makes for spectacular viewing. These races are started from a tape barrier. Jump horses mature more slowly and don’t run until they are 4 or 5-year-olds. Jump racing goes on all year round but its main season runs from November until the end of April.

There are also different types of races distinguished by the horses participating and their success or performance.

Watching a Race

Racing Dress Code

There is no real dress code in Irish racing so you can dress up or dress down, shirt and tie, slacks, old dress, new dress, hat or not, jeans and t-shirt, it doesn't matter, just go. But if you are looking for a chance to show off that new outfit there are prizes for the best-dressed lady (and sometimes man) at most major meetings and, at the festival meetings, a designated ladies day.


Having a bet is part of the enjoyment of the day and it adds to the excitement of watching the races. The beauty of betting is that you don't have to invest much money to have a great day out.
There are two different options to bet:

The Horses

The horses that compete in racing are members of the thoroughbred breed. Their origins can be traced back to 3 Arabian stallions that were imported into England in the early eighteenth century and were bred with native stock to produce a faster, stronger breed. So, all racehorses are in fact distantly related.

For more information on horse racing click here.

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