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Earliest meeting: Monday 7th April 1845
Final meeting: Wednesday 8th June 1927
The county Meath town of Kells is best known as the site of Kells Abbey from which the Book of Kells originated. The town, located 10 miles from Navan and 40 miles from Dublin, was certainly staging race meetings by the middle of the 19th century. A three day meeting was held from Monday 7th to Wednesday 9th April 1845 on the Loyd course about a mile and a half from the town centre. The Stewards Sweepstake over a mile and a half was won by Mr Preston’s Mountain Hare, while the Ladies Purse went to Mr Cranston’s Lucky Lad, defeating Deacon and Miss Foote. However, the feature race, the Kells Challenge Cup over 2 miles, was won by Mr Preston’s Norma. Although meetings were intermittent, there were busy spells of racing in the 1840s, steeplechase meetings in the 1860s and racing continued well into the 20th century. In the late 19th and early 20th century there was tension between the the Irish Turf Club and local stewards. Local stewards could not always attend training meetings, such as they were at this time, and in 1893 the local stewards at Kells accused a jocky Magill of not trying to secure the best place for his horse. The rider appealed the decision, referring the matter to the Irish Turf Club who exonerated the jockey when the Kells stewards failed to attend the hearing. At a meeting of the National Hunt Committee in 1904 concerns were raised about safety issues at flat race meetings. There had been a significant increase in flat races, and subsequent decrease in steeplechases, which led the Committee to suggest the imposition of minimum prize money for flat races and the inspection of flat race courses. Kells was inspected by newly appointed Irish Turf Club inspectors in March 1905 and the licence was withdrawn due to the poor condition of the course. The management reacted positively to the decision by appointing George Gradewell to remodel the course and improve its safety, and by 1912 were rewarded with a valuable extra holiday fixture in March 1912. Whilst attendances increased for a short while, the decline set in and for three consecutive years from 1924 to 1926 the meeting ran at a loss causing the management to make the meeting on Wednesday 8th June 1927 the last.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 4 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Marquess of Headfort, Mr Henry Meredyth, Mr Richard Barnewell (Stewards), Mr M J Saurin
Principal Races Kells Challenge Cup, Kells Stewards Cup, Kells Steeplechase, Loyd Handicap Plate

Monday 7th April 1845
Kells Challenge Cup over 2 miles
1. Norma, aged horse owned by Mr Preston
2. De Freyne, aged horse owned by Mr Barnewell
3. Roller, 5 year old owned by Mr P I Kearney

Thursday 30th July 1896

The Loyd Handicap Plate over 1 ¼ miles
1. Sour Saint owned by Mr M J Saurin
2. Perfection II owned by Mr W Mooney
3. Sprat owned by Mr S Kelly

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 8th June 1927.
Course today On the Loyd course a mile and a half from the town centre.
If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

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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Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
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