Down Royal racecourse is built as a dual-purpose track and is located southwest of Lisburn. The racecourse has 12 meetings every year, which attracts a huge crowd. Since horse racing is split between All-Ireland and Great Britain, racing at this racecourse is under the authority of Horse Racing Ireland instead of the British Horseracing Authority.
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Down Royal racecourse history
The Down Royal Corporation of Horse breeders was formed in 1685 by James II to try and encourage thoroughbred breeding in Ireland. However, the early races were planned by the military and were held at Downpatrick.
To get the ball rolling, King William III in 1690 contributed £100 to the King’s plate running, a race that still takes place today but under the name ‘Her Majesty’s Plate.’ Privy Purse currently funds the meeting.
In 1950, King William III’s contribution was topped by King George, and 49 years later, the race was relocated to Maze, where the military relocated to. The site that is used today was donated by the Marquess of Downshire, Arthur Hill.
As for development, the course has been under construction for a long time. Since 1993, major redevelopments have been marked by the erection of a new grandstand with 14 corporate boxes, a public bar, a VIP hospitality suite, and a grand elevated viewing area for a prime spot overlooking the finishing line. The Governor’s Stand followed in 1998, and in 2009, the Hospitality Pavilion was set up.
Down Royal has a large undulating course that’s 2 miles long. The course is more of a square and is right-handed. For longer distances, there are lots of turning. Because of how the course is made, it is easy for horses to start fast, thinking the finishing line is closer than it really is.
Five-furlong races start from a chute that joins the course down the last straight. The track emphasizes speed, but a low draw seems to help since the track turns to the right.
The jump course has ten fair fences along the circuit. Three of these fences are closer to the home straight and leave a short-run to the finishing post. Due to this, races often have exciting finishes, and horses can win coming from any position and using any strategy.
Down Royal main racing events
This is a handicap horse race that is open to horses three years old and above. It is run over 2,551 meters and takes place annually in June.
The event was started in 1936 and was restricted to horses younger than three years. For a long time, the race was 1 mile, 4 furlongs, and 68 yards long. But in 1994, it started allowing older horses and increased the racing distance to 2,588 meters. In 2014, the race was again restricted to three-year-old horses and reduced to 2,213 meters before final alterations were made in 2015.
Down Royal Mares Novice Hurdle
This is a Grade 3 National Hunt hurdle that’s open to mares four years old and above. It is run over 3,310 meters and is held annually in October or November.
The race was first run in 2002 and is perfect for novice racers.
This is a Grade 2 National Hunt Hurdle that is open to 4 plus year-old horses. The race is run over 3,310 meters and takes place annually in October or November. The race was started in 2001 and was upgraded to Grade 3 in 2006 and later upgraded to Grade 2 in 2010.
This is a Grade 2 National Hunt steeplechase open to horses over five years old. The race is run over 3,931 meters and is scheduled for every November.
The race started in 1999 and was upgraded to Grade 3 in 2003 and again to Grade 2 in 2009. Before 2003, the race was run for 2 miles and 2 furlongs.
The race is named after Queen Mother Champion’s Chase Winner of 1976 and 1977, who trained close to the racecourse.
Ladbrokes Champion Chase
This is a Grade 1 National Hunt chase that is open to horses above five years old. It is run over 4,828 meters and has 15 fences on the course. The race is set to take place every year in October or November. It was first run in 1999 and was originally 3 miles and 1 furlong long. In 2000, it was reduced to the present distance and in 2002 upgraded to Grade 1.
Where to bet on Down Royal races
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How to get to Down Royal racecourse
There’s a return bus service that operates from Belfast City. It departs from College Square North 1.5 hours before the first race and leaves the course an hour after the final race.
There is free parking at the racecourse. All car parks are a 5-minutes walk from the racecourse.
Heuston Station has trains travelling to Belfast Central station, which is closest to Down Royal Racecourse. From there, you can catch a bus to the course.
Belfast International Airport is only half an hour away from the course.
Down Royal is committed to offering the best experience to its visitors. So far, they are doing a great job and live up to their name. The racecourse is easy to access and has loads of amenities to keep you entertained and comfortable.