Bellewstown Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Located on the Hill of Crockafotha in County Meath, Ireland, the Bellewstown Racecourse occupies a beautiful rural setting with views of the Irish Sea to the east and the Mountains of Mourne to the north. Its sharp left-handed oval track, used for both National Hunt and flat racing, measures one mile and one furlong with a run in of three furlongs and uphill finish. Five fixtures are grouped into two race meetings during the summer each year—the three-day July Festival and the two-day August Festival.

A Notable and Notorious History

The first recorded races at Bellewstown Racecourse date back to 1726, as reported in the August edition of the Dublin Gazette and the Weekly Courier, thus initiating a centuries-long tradition of summer competitions in the heart of the Boyne River valley—and not just for horses. The original track had a cricket ground in the middle, too. In 1780, the former mayor of Drogheda, George Tandy, who was the brother of James Napper Tandy, persuaded King George III to sponsor a race at Bellewstown. It was called His Majesty’s Plate and the prize was valued at £100.

In all the years since then, the most widely reported event to take place at Bellewstown Racecourse was a relatively recent occurrence known as the “Yellow Sam Betting Coup.” It was a scam that involved a Northern Irish professional gambler and entrepreneur named Barney Curley. On 26 June 1975, Curley took advantage of an under-handicapped horse, Yellow Sam, and the lack of smooth communications between the Bellewstown racing course and off-course bookmakers. His profit was more than IR£300,000—over €1.7 million adjusted for inflation— not only making it one of the largest betting coups in Irish history but also listing it among the greatest betting scams of all time.

Despite that particularly embarrassing incident, Bellewstown Racecourse has become synonymous with top-class racing and is said to be “a precious jewel in the Irish racing calendar.” The richest racing event of the season is the Bellewstown Hurdle sponsored by Fast Shipping Ireland. It takes place in July and features a prize fund of €25,000.

Racing at Bellewstown Today

Race-goers turn out in droves for the two scheduled summer festivals, which include family fun days, Ladies Day races, after race entertainment and sold-out barbeques. As much a part of the festivities as the racing is the smell of freshly mown hay along with the taste of strawberries and cream. Bellewstown Racecourse has also added corporate hospitality to its repertoire, accepting group reservations for 4 to 400 guests and offering full bar facilities, food, dancing, tote betting and the very best of racing.

Raceday tickets are priced at €15 per person for adults or €8 for senior citizens and students. Children under the age of 16 are admitted free with an accompanying adult. A Punters Package is also available for €20 on all five race days, which includes entrance to the race enclosure, a free colour racecard, a €5 free bet and a voucher for a free pint. For €80, there’s also a “Bellewstown Belter” Package that provides an entrance ticket, free racecard and a full sit-down three-course meal in the Corporate Marquee with celebrity tipster, private bar and Tote betting facilities, followed by after-race entertainment. The Corporate Marquee overlooks the racecourse, parade ring and finish line, while providing panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

To make access to Bellewstown Racecourse as easy as possible, a free Shuttle Bus Service runs directly to the track from the bus bays at the riverside of the Abbey Car Park in Drogheda town centre. Places are limited on a first come first served basis. Wristbands are issued for the return journey; under-18s must be accompanied by an adult; and the organisers accept no responsibility for non-availability of places should the bus be oversubscribed.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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