Curragh Racecourse

Published: 08/10/2013

Known to most racegoers simply as “The Curragh,” Curragh Racecourse is situated on the Curragh Plain near Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland. It hosts all five of the Irish Classics—the Irish Derby, the Irish Oaks, the Irish 1000 Guineas, the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish St Leger—as well as many other great races in the course of 18 meetings that comprise a season running from March through October. The right-handed, horseshoe-shaped track covers a distance of two miles, with an adjoining chute that feeds into the home straight and can stage races of up to one mile.

The Home of Irish Flat Racing

Racing on Curragh Plain predates the first written record of a contest in 1727. The course here is believed to have been used as a meeting place for the sporting activities of the Celtic Kings, including horseracing, and in 1741 the first official race was conducted. By 1760, a Jockeys’ Club was set up in a coffee house in Kildare town and within 30 years it evolved into the present-day governing body for horse racing throughout Ireland, “The Turf Club.”

In the Irish language, the word Cuirreach means “place of the running horse,” and it is from this term that “Curragh” is derived. In 1865, a commission was set up by the house of parliament to examine the Curragh, and the resultant 1868 Curragh of Kildare Act officially declared the right of common pasture on 4,870 acres, and preserved the use of the Curragh for the purpose of horse racing and training. In the meantime, the first Derby was held in 1866 and won by a horse named Selim. In 1895, the Irish Oaks was added to the annual schedule, followed by the Irish St. Ledger in 1915.

Upon the signing of the Treaty of 1921, the Curragh lands passed from the British Crown to the Minister for Finance and the inaugural Irish 2,000 Guineas was run in May. The first Irish 1,000 Guineas was launched in May the following year. Thereafter, the Minister of Defence and his department became responsible for the lands, and they have administered them under the Curragh of Kildare acts to this day. It was not until 1961, however, that a provision was made for enclosure of parts of the plain, which is recognised as one of the oldest natural grasslands in Europe and designated as a Special Environment under the National Monuments Act.

From 1875 to 1977, the Curragh Racecourse Railway Station served racegoers. Since its closure, complimentary shuttle buses have been arranged to bring patrons in from the mainline trains arriving at Kildare Town. The biggest attendance at the Curragh was 31,136 at the Irish Derby in 2003.

Racing at the Curragh Today

All season long, the Curragh holds centre stage in Irish racing, offering the biggest purses and the highest quality level of flat racing in the country. No fewer than ten of Ireland’s 12 Group One races have been held at the track since 2007. Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby Day in late June or early July is the biggest party of the year at an Irish racecourse and not to be missed. It features some of the finest racehorses in the world competing for a prize of €1.25 million. The other big dates are May’s Guineas Spring Festival, the Darley Irish Oaks Weekend in July and the Gain Irish St. Ledger Meeting in September.

Admission prices vary according to the raceday. Regular adult entry starts at €15, increasing to €20 on Classic racedays and €40 on Derby Day. Under 16s are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. There’s a Punters Package featuring admission, a racecard, a €5 dining/beverage voucher and a €2 betting voucher for €20~€35. And the Meal Deal Package ranges in cost from €20 to €45.

Hospitality and dining facilities at the Curragh are numerous. O’Briens Champagne & Wine Bar beside the parade ring serves an excellent selection of fine cuisine, while Classics Bistro Restaurant is informal, serving hot meals and snacks. The Horseshoe Restaurant on the first floor of the main grandstand has its own private Tote betting facility and plasma screen, along with a full wine list & cash bar facility. There are several lively bars located throughout the racecourse, too.

Published on: 08/10/2013

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