Fairyhouse Racecourse

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From a place up high and distant is viewed a vast open field of grass, trodden bare and brown in places with little people dotted around like ants beside enormous tents, marquees, performance stages hosting deafening arrays of musical-event speakers. The horizon is low and far away and the sky is dotted with broken clouds.
Fairyhouse becomes a picture of a music festival during Witnness in the early 21st century

Fairyhouse Racecourse is one of Ireland's premier horse racing venues. Situated in the parish of Ratoath in County Meath, on the R155 regional road, 3 km off the N3. It is the home of the Irish Grand National. The first race meet was held in 1848. In 1870, the first Irish Grand National steeplechase was held there.[1]

The racetrack itself is a one mile and 6.5 furlong right-handed circuit, with a 2.5 furlong straight and a slight uphill finish. The main business of Fairyhouse racecourse is betting on the races known traditionally in parts of Ireland as turf accountancy. Admission to Fairyhouse race meetings is free to under-16s along with various other promotions such as concession rates for OAPs and seasonal festivals (i.e. Winter Festival, Easter Festival etc.)[2] It also hosted the first three Witnness festivals from 2000 to 2002 inclusive.

Significance[edit]

Fairyhouse is the premier horse race meeting hosting both the Irish Grand National and Irish Gold Cup but has always been a fine quality racecourse attracting international racing stars such as Desert Orchid, Prince Regent, and Persian War among others.[3] The course was the training ground for l'Escargot, a winner of the Irish Grand National against famous racer Red Rum to name but a few racing achievements.[4] The Powers Gold Label Stand and Jameson stand were reopened following refurbishment in 1999 and Fairyhouse is boasted by Meath Tourism to be "firmly established as one of the most modern facilities in the country, providing an outstanding level of comfort and service."[5] The Irish Grand National is run every Easter Monday and currently sponsored by Jameson Whiskey.[6]

Managerial[edit]

Fairyhouse is owned by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) and was managed by Doneraile man Dick Sheil, a graduate of Warrenstown Agricultural College and UCD from 1999 until October 2006, one year after ownership passed hands from Fairyhouse Club LTD owing to financial difficulties. HRI viewed Dick Sheil as a tremendous asset to the course having brokered considerable sponsorship and managing many major meetings.[7] The course was overseen by a caretaker manager for almost a year and on October 1, 2007 the position was filled by chartered accountant Caroline Gray who had worked for the HRI finance department for five years previously and was described as an "innovator" by HRI.[8] The Powers Whiskey sponsorship is backed up by the Irish branch of Pernod Ricard, a sponsorship existing since 1960 and the longest sponsorship in Irish racing. Fairyhouse General Manager Caroline Gray credits this sponsorship for making the Irish Grand National what it is today but the term is due to end in April 2010 and future sponsor is currently uncertain.[9] Wet weather often affects Fairyhouse and Ireland has been experiencing the worst flooding on record in 2009.

Notable races[edit]

Month DOW Race Name Type Grade Distance Age/Sex
January Sunday Solerina Mares Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 3 2m 2f 4yo + m
February Saturday Bobbyjo Chase Chase Grade 2 3m 1f 5yo +
February Saturday Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle Hurdle Grade 2 2m 4yo only
Easter Sunday Powers Gold Cup Chase Grade 1 2m 4f 5yo +
Easter Sunday Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo + m
Easter Sunday Festival Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 2 2m 4f 4yo +
Easter Monday Irish Strawberry Hurdle Hurdle Grade 2 2m 4f 5yo +
Easter Monday Dunboyne Castle Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 2 2m 4yo +
Easter Monday John and Chich Fowler Memorial Mares Chase Chase Grade 3 2m 4f 5yo + m
Easter Monday Tayto Hurdle Hurdle Grade 3 2m 4yo only
Easter Monday Irish Grand National Chase Handicap 3m 5f 5yo +
Easter Tuesday Normans Grove Chase Chase Grade 2 2m 1f 5yo +
July Wednesday Brownstown Stakes Flat Group 3 7f 3yo + f
December Sunday Royal Bond Novice Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4yo +
December Sunday Hatton's Grace Hurdle Hurdle Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo +
December Sunday Bar One Racing Juvenile Hurdle Hurdle Grade 3 2m 3yo only
December Sunday Drinmore Novice Chase Chase Grade 1 2m 4f 4yo +

Non-racing events[edit]

On a Sunday, when there is no race meetings, Fairyhouse opens as a market selling local produce ranging from saddlery and tools to fresh vegetables, arts and crafts products and even electrical goods. The market also accommodates car boot sales.[10] The course is also a premier venue for musical events.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fairyhouse Racecourse Meath Tourism website
  2. ^ Fairyhouse reduces admission costs RTE website
  3. ^ Fairyhouse Racecourse Meath Tourism website
  4. ^ New sponsor for Dan Moore Chase RTE website
  5. ^ Fairyhouse Racecourse Meath Tourism website
  6. ^ Fairyhouse Racecourse The Association of Irish Racecourses
  7. ^ Sheil to leave Fairyhouse position RTE website
  8. ^ Fairyhouse position goes to Caroline Gray RTE website
  9. ^ Fairyhouse seek new sponsor, Go Racing website
  10. ^ Fairyhouse Market Fairyhouse Racecourse website

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 53°28′48.59″N 6°27′40.83″W / 53.4801639°N 6.4613417°W / 53.4801639; -6.4613417