Thurles Racecourse

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Situated a kilometer and a half west of Thurles town centre in County Tipperary, Ireland, the Thurles Racecourse offers both National Hunt and flat racing. Its undulating, right-handed oval track covers a distance of one and a quarter miles, with a run in of 1¼ furlongs and an uphill finish. Jumping dominates the 11 annual fixtures conducted between October and March, with only a small number of flat races being held. The highlight of the racing season is the January Meeting featuring the Grade 2 Matty Ryan Memorial Kinloch Brae Chase worth €50,000 and the Grade 3 Coolmore N. H. Sires Mares Chase with a prize pool of €47,000.

A True Grassroots Venue

The earliest records of racing at Thurles date back to June 1732, when a 3-day meeting was organised, as mentioned in “pues occurances” in the Trinity College library. Interestingly enough, Thurles Racecourse was never purpose built. In its early years, the track had no continuous running rail. Double, single and drop banks were commonplace, and hurdles had no padding on the top bar. The course evolved and modernised only gradually.

Through most of the 19th century, a local committee saw to the running of races at Thurles with co-operation and support from the Molony family. Around the start of the 20th century, the committee turned all management responsibilities over to Pierce Molony, and he oversaw four meetings per year in February, April, June and November. Because the racecourse had only 20 or so stables, travelling on the day before racing was common place and extra stables were provided by neighbours.

Important races were added to the calendar one by one. Among National Hunt races that have continued to this day in addition to the Kinloch Brae Chase are February’s Grade 2 Michael Purcell Memorial Hurdle worth €50,000, the €27,500 John Meagher Memorial Chase over 22 furlongs in November and the €27,500 Horse & Jockey Hotel Hurdle over 16 furlongs in December.

An average of 1,500 runners are now hosted at Thurles each season, many of which are worthy of special note. They include Klairon Davis, winner of the Arkle and Champion Chases at Cheltenham, and Native Upmanship, the three-time winner of the Kinloch Brae Chase (2002-04) and two-time winner of the Grade 1 Melling Chase at Aintree. The Melbourne Cup winner, Vintage Crop, debuted here with a victory, and recently Thurles regular Rule Supreme went on to success in the 2004 Grade 1 Sun Alliance Chase at Cheltenham and the 2005 Grade 1 Hennessy Gold at Leopardstown.

Racing at Thurles Today

It has been said that Thurles is “an enthusiasts’ course, nothing flashy or snazzy about it.” Emphasis is placed primarily on the horses and racing, creating an atmosphere that is easy to get caught up in. At the same time, the racetrack and facilities have been upgraded through ongoing developments through the years, bringing Thurles Racecourse up to the Grade 2 standard required today by both patrons and professionals.

Two stands give an excellent view of the racetrack, as does the lawn in front. The stand nearest the stiles features a comfortable bar upstairs, with food as well as beverage on offer and there’s a tote outlet to add to the enjoyment. Next to the parade ring is a draught bar along with a hot beef roll counter. Also available is a self service restaurant, where P&R Catering provides first-class fare. The bookmakers ring and the main tote building can be found the parade ring and the main stand. Ample car parks surround the racecourse, too. Admission costs €15 for adults, €7 for OAPs and students, and is free for children under the age of 14 years.

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