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

Although racing of a sort was held on the beach at Ballybunion in the early 19th century, the first turf based racing in the vicinity of Listowel was in 1858 when meetings were billed as the North Kerry Hunt, although racing only lasted for one further year under this name. The flat, rectangular, left-handed one mile course is located close to the town centre and has continued to host meetings since 1861. It was 1924 before the course became enclosed and a grandstand built, and it was 25 years later, just 4 years after the end of the Second World War, that the Listowel Race Company was formed putting the administration of the course on a very firm footing. It offers both Flat and National Hunt racing, with its September seven day Festival the highlight of its racing year. The principal race at the track is the Kerry National. Currently it offers 8 fixtures annually.

Although Listowel remains a thriving racecourse, nearby Rathkeale closed its gates for the final time in 1946.
The Irish racecourse at the town of Rathkeale first held a five day meeting spread over six days from Monday 15th to Saturday 20th July 1754 which opened with a £40 Purse won by Sir Edward O’Brien’s Duchess. Extended meetings continued to be held intermittently throughout the 18th century, often sponsored by the Gentlemen of Castleconnel Club. A particularly interesting race was structured on Saturday 15th July 1775 when a ‘weight for inches’ race was won by Lord Clanwilliams’s Irish Hero. By the middle of the 19th century half-yearly meetings were being held on The Meads close to the town centre. The meetings were still held during the First World War, with a meeting taking place on Monday 31st May 1915. During the Second World War the town hosted race meetings, including on Thursday 3rd September 1940. However, the final meeting was staged on Thursday 21st March 1946.
I am grateful to Google Maps (© Googlemap) for permission to use the map shown below.
By 1970 the Listowel Festival was launched, initially as a four day Festival, but this gradually increased to 5 and then increased still further. The course celebrates its most popular series of races each September at its Listowel Festival with a 6 day meeting, which includes a long weekend. Our World Racing Correspondent Joseph Geoghegan comments on how he enjoys the 90 minute drive through beautiful countryside from his home, and recommends lunch at the Horseshoe Bar and Restaurant, 14 Lower William Street. I am grateful to him for providing the photos of the course shown opposite, and recent racecards.

At the turn of the Century a meeting took place at Listowel on Saturday 13th October 1900, and the result of the feature race is shown below.

The County Handicap Plate over 1 ½ miles
1. Glena bay owned by Mr J O’Neill
2. Kate Conway owned by Mr J O’G.Delmege
3. Unnamed mare by The Robber owned by Mr B Kirby
The winner was the 2/1 favourite and prevailed by ½ a length

For further reading and research ‘Listowel Races 1858-1991 A History’ by John O’Flaherty is suggested.

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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