Listowel Racecourse

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The Irish market town of Listowel in County Kerry is the home of Listowel Racecourse, a dual-purpose racing venue that hosts both National Hunt and flat racing. The left-handed oval track covers a distance of just about one mile, with a run in of two furlongs and a total of eleven barriers—five hurdles and six fences—on its jumps circuit. The course organises nine fixtures each year, including a two-day meeting in June and a weeklong festival comprised of seven consecutive racedays in the Autumn. Its most prestigious event is the €160,000 Guinness Kerry National, run over a distance of three miles in September.

A History of Continuous Growth

The very first recorded racing in County Kerry occurred at Ballyeagh, near Ballybunion, in the early 19th century. However, disturbances arouse surrounding faction fights and caused the meeting venue to be relocated to Listowel in 1858. In those days, a two-day event was arranged, originally known as the North Kerry Hunt Steeplechase Meeting. In the years that followed, the meeting grew in popularity, so a third raceday was added in 1862 and the event became associated with the region’s annual Harvest Festival.

In the effort to accommodate demand for increased race action, facilities at Listowel Racecourse were gradually expanded and improved. In 1910, work began on the first permanent bridge crossing the Faele River and in 1924 the first permanent stand and enclosure we opened. It was not until 1949, however, that the Listowel Race Company was incorporated to oversee management of the course. Eight years later, a concrete stand was erected in preparations for the centenary celebration of Listowel Racecourse in 1958.

Spring Meetings were introduced at Listowel in 1966—a one-day fixture in March and a two-day event in April. The following year, a second bridge was completed over the Faele, providing even greater access to the venue. Next, a decision was taken to extend the fall festival to four days in 1970 and then five days in 1977. The Hannon Stand was added in 1980 and the Listowel Races Supporters Club was formed n 1987. The final highlight of the 20th century was the opening of the New Hugh Friel Stand in 1998.

Since the turn of the new millennium, the pace of change has quickened at Listowel Racecourse. The Autumn Racing Festival blossomed to a full seven days of competition in 2002, while the two Spring Meetings were consolidated in 2005 to form a single two-day June Bank Holiday Meeting Run each June. In 2008, Listowel Racecourse celebrated its sesquicentennial, having added to the fall racecard the Grade C Latrigue Handicap Hurdle for four-year-olds worth €45,000 and the Grade C Guinness Handicap Hurdle with its prize pool of €50,000.

Racing at Listowel Today

Each Autumn, Listowel Racecourse explodes with excitement as huge crowds gather for the weeklong racing programme run in conjunction with the Harvest Festival. Apart from the aforementioned big races, featured events range from the Kerry Group Handicap Steeplechase of €34,000 on Day One and the Irish Stallion Farms European Breeders Fund Premier Nursery Handicap paying €30,000 on Day Two to the ladbrokes Handicap Hurdle of €40,000 on Day Five and the M.J. Carroll ARRO Handicap Hurdle worth €25,000 on Day Seven.

In addition to the horse races, there are fashion events, live music concerts, a fun fair and a Ladies Day featuring Best Dressed contests for both men and women. Facilities at Listowel include public bars, a restaurant, food outlets, a reserved upper level in the New Stand with a dining room and Corporate Hospitality Suites, an on-course betting shop, retail outlets, and closed-circuit TV coverage with a big screen

No course in Ireland save Galway stages a festival of this duration or draws such a massive number of spectators. Daily adult admission, which costs €15 in June, is set at €20 in September. Children under the age of 16 years are accorded entry free of charge.

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