Curragh Racecourse History

The earliest record of racing at the Curragh was in April 1634 when a match over 4 miles was staged between Lord Digby, supported by the Earl of Cork, against the Earl of Ormond.  The Earl of Ormond won and, as a consequence, the Earl of Cork lost a new beaver hat to one of Lord Digby’s gentlemen. This marked the start of racing in Ireland and the Curragh has been central to racing ever since. The Curragh was certainly the principal racecourse in Ireland in the late 17th century, staging His Majesty’s Plate on 21st September 1699, and a King’s Plate on 19th September 1700 when His Excellency the Earl of Galway, the Lord Chancellor and several members of the nobility were in attendance. Twice in 1701 the Earl of Galway attended the Curragh, firstly in mid-March and again in early April, but by the next year Royal Plates had ceased. Throughout the reign of Queen Anne, (8th March 1702 to 1st August 1714) no Plates were advertised to be run at the Curragh, but there were a number of Troop reviews held there by heads of Government. The land served as a large staging area for the Army, which also garrisoned some regiments there on a full-time basis. About this time the Army was heavily involved with the War of the Spanish Succession, and It is likely that their leisure activity was spent on the racecourse, especially among the Officer corps of the Horse Regiments. However, racing had certainly returned by Saturday 27th September 1718 when the King’s Plate was won by Mr Edward Stratford from Belan near Castledermot.The Curragh was also the first Irish course to have its results included in the Racing Registers by John Cheney. Although he had started his Registers in 1727, by 1741 he included Irish races, the first of which was won by Almazer owned by Lord Bessborough at the Curragh. The oldest race still in existence in Ireland is the Royal Whip which was first run at the Curragh in October 1821 when Langar defeated Roller. The Curragh remains the headquarters of Irish Racing and is also the home to a number of prominent racing stables from which Epsom Derby winners have been trained. The Irish Derby was first run in 1866 when won by Selim. Currently the course hosts 19 fixtures annually between March and October.

Although The Curragh remains a thriving racecourse, nearby Phoenix Park closed its gates for the final time in 1990.
Located in the townlands of Ashtown and Castlerock, Phoenix Park seemed to be the ideal place to site a racecourse on the northern edge of Dublin. It was the brainchild of J H H Peard and held its inaugural meeting on an enclosed course in 1902. The track remained under the control of the Peard family when, first son Harry took over in 1939, and then from 1950 to 1969 his wife Fanny ran the track. Racing continued for 12 years after she retired, but closed at the end of the 1981 season. It bore all the hallmarks for a successful, going concern and a consortium, led by Vernon’s Pools multi-millionaire Robert Sangster and ace racehorse trainer Sir Vincent O’Brien, re-opened the track in 1983. Could such a dynamic partnership fail? The course witnessed much success in this period in hosting prestigious races, including the Phoenix Stakes and the Irish Champion Stakes. However, they did fail after just 7 years and the track closed for the final time towards the end of 1990.
I am grateful to Google Maps (© Googlemap) for permission to use the map shown below.

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

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