Gowran Park Racecourse

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Situated within a wooded parkland in picturesque County Kilkenny, about one kilometre outside the town of Gowran and 13 kilometres east of the city of Kilkenny, the Gowran Park Racecourse offers both National Hunt and flat racing. Its right-handed, undulating track measures one mile and four furlongs in length with run in of three furlongs and an uphill finish. The course hosts 16 fixtures a year between January and November, with the highlight of the race calendar being the Thyestes Handicap Chase in January

An Exciting One Hundred Years

Gowran Park Racecourse held its very first meeting in 1914 and will be celebrating its Centennial Anniversary in 2014. During a full century of jumps and flat racing, it has served admirably as a proving ground for the many famous training establishments and stud farms of the Kilkenny/Carlow region, witnessing outstanding efforts by famous horses and horse people. Not surprisingly, it was here that the very first ever racecourse commentary in Ireland took place in 1952 and the first Tote Jackpot was announced in 1966. The first televised race in Ireland was also from Gowran Park.

In 1954, Mr. John McEnery of Rossenarra Stud presented a trophy won by his jockey son to Gowran Park to be used as the prize for the inaugural running of a steeplechase called the Thyestes Handicap Chase. The event’s name is a reference to a promising horse that had in turn been named after a Greek god, Thyestes, bred by Major Victor McCalmont of Mount Juliet and trained by Atty Persse at Stockbridge, Wiltshire. In 1930, Thyestes had been rated the third best two-year old in Ireland, but injury caused the highly rated prospect to be retired to stud in Yorkshire the following year.

The Thyestes Handicap Chase soon attracted fields of top-rated jumpers, not the least of which was the 1964 winner—three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner Arkle. Two years later, the highly acclaimed Flyingbolt took the honours before winning the 1966 Irish Grand National, and Gowran Park clearly had its centrepiece race. Other quality contests were then added to the annual schedule, including the Grade 2 John Mulhern Memorial Hurdle in January, the Grade 2 Red Mills Trial Hurdle and Red Mills Chase in February, the Listed Victor McCalmont Memorial Stakes in April, and the Grade 2 PwC Champion Chase in October.

Since the turn of the new millennium, the quality of racing at Gowran Park Racecourse has been well maintained. For example, the 2004 and 2005 Thyestes winners, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde, both went on to win the Aintree Grand National the following year. Legendary trainer Paddy Mullins and his sons Tom, Willie and Tony train locally, too, with Willie schooling four Thyestes victors since 2000.

Racing at Gowran Park Today

In 2003, Gowran Park completed a €3.5 million development programme supported by Horse Racing Ireland. It resulted in the creation of a complex featuring a new Grandstand as well as upgraded stable yard and parade ring areas. Among the many fine facilities now available here for racegoers are the Rooftop Restaurant overlooking the racecourse, a self-service area for soup, sandwiches and full roast dinners, full bar facilities on all floors of the stands, the private Helen Sheane Suite for up to 200 people, Tote betting facilities and the ladbrokes Bookmakers On-Course Betting Office.

On most racedays, general admission cost €15 for adults or €10 for OAPs and students. Children under 14 years of age are admitted free of charge. There are Enclosure Packages available from €35 and Corporate Packages priced at €45~€100, inclusive of admission, a racecard, a reserved table in the rooftop restaurant, a four-course buffet menu, private bar, tote betting facilities and a free shuttle bus from Kilkenny City Centre.

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