Downpatrick racecourse is one of the two courses located in Northern Ireland in County Down. First, it claims to be a famous racecourse because it’s the oldest racecourse on Ireland island, having its origin date back to 1685 (more of its history later). And second, Byerley Turk, one of the three foundational stallions for thoroughbreds, is believed to have run a race at the course in 1690.
Currently, the course is located a couple of kilometers from its original location, and it’s a mile from the Downpatrick historic center, which has several abbeys, cathedrals, and castles which date back to the Celtic period and attract thousands of tourists every year. A huge percentage of these tourists also create time to attend the summer meetings at the racecourse.
With that said, let’s dig deep into the history and course structure to find out more about what it has to offer.
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Downpatrick racecourse history
According to historical records, the earliest meeting in County Down town of Downpatrick was in 1685. This meeting was planned by the Down Royal Corporation of Horse breeders that King James II formed. The records of the Corporation show that the Byerley Turk, a great stallion and one of the three founders of modern horse racing, participated in a meeting at Downpatrick in 1960. However, many people dispute that this horse was Colonel Robert Byerley’s charge at the Battle of the Boyne.
The Down Royal Corporation kept coming back to Downpatrick until 1789 when they used Maze. Later, Maze became Down Royal. Although racing ended in 1867, a new course was created in the beautiful countryside in 1870, a mile from the center when meetings were charged as County Down Hunt races.
Following the Second World War in 1945, the races were relaunched as Downpatrick races. In 1962, the Queen Mother paid a visit to the racecourse to see Laffy, her horse, win the Ulster Grand National. The Ulster National Handicap Chase is the principal race run over 3 miles and 4.5 furlongs long even though the inaugural running in 1939 was 3 miles and 3 furlongs long. Currently, there are nine fixtures held at the course every year.
Downpatrick jumps course
The course is right-handed and is 11 furlongs long. And unlike most racecourses in Ireland, the track is very narrow. There are a specific number of turns and undulations in the circuit that make the course a horse for courses tracks. When it started, it was a dual-purpose course, but in 2009, Downpatrick halted flat races.
The course has six fences, with the last two being close to each other and located before the home straight. The fences are among the easiest in Ireland. But like with other hurdles, you shouldn’t sit at an angle. Instead, remain straight while you jump.
Riding the course feels like going through several valleys and hills, with the hill after the winning post being the steepest on the track and in any track in the world. On this hill, proven form is everything.
A horse riding on this circuit must have stamina, and the jockey pretty handy when riding. With that said, though a horse can come from any position in a race to win, it’s a little tricky at the Downpatrick circuit because it’s narrow.
Downpatrick main racing events
Ulster Grand National
This is a handicap chase that’s open to horses aged five years and above. Horses compete over 3 miles and 4 furlongs and have to jump over 16 fences.
The horse that holds the record for the slowest time is News Item that completed with 7.58.70, while the fastest is Ballytrim, which completed in 7.14.50 in 2009.
Where to bet on Downpatrick races
Online betting sites
Ever since online betting was introduced about twenty years ago, there has been an ongoing debate over which is better, online betting sites or offline betting. While you can place horse bets on either platform on Downpatrick meetings, we recommend using online betting sites for various reasons.
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One major advantage of online betting sites is placing bets any time of the day or night. All you need to do is log into your account and place your bet. In addition, there’s always a live sporting event you can bet on at any time- even if it’s not a horse race.
Access to promotions
Most online bookmakers offer their customers bonuses when they make their initial deposit. Some opt to give them free bets. For many horse betting enthusiasts, this is a great way of increasing your bankroll. However, before you join a betting site solely for these promotions, always consider the wagering requirement. Often, when the wagering bonus is too good to be true, the wagering requirements are a little strict and harder to meet. Always read the fine print before taking the bait.
As a rule of thumb, if the betting odds sound too good to be true, they probably are. With that said, online betting sites generally have higher odds than offline bookmakers. This is mainly because they don’t have a lot of overhead costs to pay.
Live betting and streaming
If you thought watching a horse race was exciting, try watching it while making bets. Online betting sites allow in-play bets. These bets make watching the races even more fun, a concept that isn’t available with traditional betting shops.
How to get to Downpatrick racecourse
from Belfast, you can take the Line 215 bus that will get you to the racecourse in an hour and six minutes and will cost anywhere between $6 and $9.
From Belfast City Airport, you can get a taxi for $75 to $95. The taxi ride will be about 36 minutes.
If you’d prefer driving yourself, take the M1 and head south from Belfast and exit at Junction 6 and into Ballynahinch. Take the A24, then the A25, which will lead you to the Downpatrick racecourse. If you are coming from Lisburn, take Laganbank Road to Saintfield, turn off at Ballynahinch, and take the A24 and later the A25 to Downpatrick racecourse.
Downpatrick isn’t the largest course in Ireland, but it has a rich history. Moreover, its proximity to a historical tourist destination helps drum up business when meetings are held. Aside from this, it has corporate facilities with exemplary service.