Kilbeggan Racecourse History
NOTE:The badges displayed on this page are not authentic and are for artistic display only.

The earliest record of racing in the vicinity of the Westmeath town of Kilbeggan was on Monday 9th March 1840 (full details shown below) close to the present day Loughnagore course, located 13 miles from Mullingar and 57 miles from Dublin. However, this initial period of racing lasted until 1855 when the course closed, along with many other Irish courses, at the time of the Great Famine. Racing later took place at nearby Ballard from 1879 to 1885, but lapsed once again. When racing was relaunched on Monday 2nd September 1901 it proved to be popular despite hosting just a single meeting annually. No racing took place during the War years 1941 to 1945, but after the War had ended the number of meetings increased from 1947 onwards. In 1971 the course, a right-handed 9 furlong course with an uphill finish, made the brave decision to abandon Flat racing, but that decision appears to have been a good one as they now host quality National Hunt racing. Currently they host 7 fixtures annually, with the highlight of the season being the Midlands National which was first held in 1997 when won by Cristy’s Picnic trained by Mouse Morris, paying a massive 54/1 on the Tote. The next year the Midlands National was won by Hemisphere (12/1) trained by Dessie Hughes and ridden by Norman Williamson, beating Merry People and Cristy’s Picnic, followed a year later by Antarctic Wind owned by Mr John Leary, trained by Jessica Harrington and ridden by Kieran Kelly.

Although Kilbeggan remains a thriving racecourse, nearby Athlone closed its gates for the final time in 1922.
Athlone stands on the River Shannon on the border between Westmeath and County Roscommon. In the middle of the 18th century the town’s races were deemed sufficiently important to be included in the ‘Historical List of Horse Races & Matches of 1761’. In 1777 the local townspeople offered a prize of £100, a large sum at that time, for a 2 mile race run in 3 heats, but by 1790 the course was in a dire and worrying condition. It was dangerous for spectators, treacherous for jockeys and deadly for horses. It was described as an ‘Ill-laid out course’, although funding for this and most other Irish courses was poor, and the Irish Turf Club had to take action. They did so by appointing a ‘Keeper of the Match Book’ the first of which was Patrick Kelly from Kilcullen. Races continued to be held annually for over 130 years until the final meeting on Monday 15th May 1922.
I am grateful to Google Maps (© Googlemap) for permission to use the map shown below.

Monday 9th March 1840
Kilbeggan Challenge Cup (40 guineas) over 2 miles of sporting countryside

1. Razor, bay horse owned and ridden by Mr Crofton
2. Rough Robin, 4 year old owned by Mr Fetherstone and ridden by his groom
3. Welcome, chestnut horse owned by Mr Hagerty and ridden by his groom
4. Elson, chestnut horse owned by Mr Codd and ridden by his groom
5. Kate Karney, chestnut mare owned by Mr Clark and ridden by his groom
6. Chanter, chestnut horse owned by Mr Odlan and ridden by his groom
Kilbeggan Silver-mounted Whip
1. Star owned by Mr Green
2. Oarty owned by Mr Crofton
3. Cogar owned by Mr Jessop

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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