You just cannot beat a day at the races. I love going to all race meetings from, festivals to normal midweek cards. With no days out in site for people. In this week's blog, I am going to take you through some racecourses I think are worth a visit. These are all tracks I have visited myself. They are listed in no order of preference. I also am only picking my personal favourites. I couldn't list all the tracks I have been to.
Navan, the County Meath venue is a superb racecourse flat and jumps. A very good track the horses can be seen all the way around, with a stiff uphill finish. Navan also has televisions on the back of the poles in the stand. This is an excellent feature. Everything is close together facilities wise as well as easy to find. A very large Ladbrokes betting shop, as well as a vibrant betting ring, so a good place for punters who want to bet. The horses on show are always top class especially jumps. If you have a jumping horse who operates at Navan it is a good pointer for Cheltenham generally. The owner facilities are outstanding. As a syndicate, we had a great day when Mokhalad won at Navan in April 2018. There is always a decent as well as the knowledgable crowd in Navan.
Naas, the County Kildare venue is another that falls into the category of a superb racecourse flat and jumps. A very fair track with a stiff uphill finish. Naas is again an excellent viewing track. Although not the biggest its a vibrant betting ring. A good size Paddy Power shop which is well run. Naas although known as the punter's graveyard serves punters well. Everything is close together facilities wise as well as easy to find. The staff at Naas are excellent and could not be more helpful. Naas has been a lucky track for our syndicate Mokhalad has won twice at Naas and Trading Point was second in the Lincoln. The owner's facilities at Naas are outstanding with a tremendous viewing area. On the side of the jumps, Naas hosts several really good fixtures, the Lawlors Novice hurdle just after Christmas is worth a visit. Naas again produces plenty of Cheltenham winners. Naas Racecourse is also easy to find and get in and out of.
Downpatrick, a staple of spring and summer jumping. The County Down venue is very welcoming. The facilities are second to none. The track itself is one of the more unusual circuits with a stiff uphill finish. They get a good crowd at Downpatrick. A vibrant betting ring with plenty of cash punters and bookmakers. A very good atmosphere, good food and car parking facilities.
Down Royal, another County Down track, a host of top-class racing. The Grade One Ladbrokes Chase ( formally The James Nicholson) is a brilliant day out. I have gone several times. Down Royal gets a big crowd. A very vibrant betting ring with some high profile bookmakers having two pitches. The on-course betting shop could be better and it might be an idea to have a temporary tented one on big days. The track itself is good they do disappear from view for a while, the big screen helps. On the flat, it hosts the Ulster Derby day another big day with a big crowd. The facilities are good for patrons. The owner's facilities are also good. The excellent Emma Meehan McCoy is now in charge of Down Royal. I would expect Down Royal to go from strength to strength under Emma's stewardship. Down Royal is well worth a visit for the atmosphere and quality of racing.
Arlington Racecourse, Chicago. The home of the Arlington Million. I visited Arlington when on holiday in Chicago. It has over 30,000 seats in the racecourse. It is an incredible facility. A very reasonable entry price. The horses can be seen all the way around. It is all Tote betting but that's part of the fun doing the exotic American Pool bets. The food and drinks offering is top class with tables overlooking the parade ring easily got with a booking. A designated seat with drinks service including in admission price of less the 20 US Dollars. A must visit if you are ever in Chicago.
Turffontein Racecourse, Johannesburg, South Africa. It is a stiffer track then it looks on TV with a gradual climb. There are on course Bookmakers not many, there are also on course betting shops and the Tote. The facilities are good with most patrons opting to use the restaurants and go out to the stand to watch the racing. The food offerings are good, each card has a good few races on it more than 8. It would be a lovely day to spend a day for those planning on going to The Lions rugby trip in 2021.
Newbury Racecourse, Berkshire, UK. I enjoyed my visit to Newbury. It would remind you of Navan and Naas as regards a viewing track. It is not as stiff as Navan or Naas nowhere near. Newbury hosts top-class racing Flat and Jumps. I went on Hennessy day. There was a massive crowd with a brilliant atmosphere. The betting facilities were excellent as where the food and drink outlets. Newbury hosts top-class flat and jumps Grade One racing. Newbury is well worth a visit.
Aintree, Racecourse, Liverpool, UK. Home of the Grand National I have only ever been racing on Grand National day. The highlight of this trip is the Grand National course walk which can be done before racing. It brings the great race alive before your eyes when you have seen the obstacles up close. The final stop on the course walk is Red Rums grave. It is a special moment one of the heroes of our sport the horse who single handily saved the Grand National in the 1970s. When you read Red Rums achievements on his gravestone its impossible not to be filled with admiration. The rest of the Aintree experience is a mixed bag. Aintree has very good betting facilities as you would expect The racing is top class and the atmosphere raucous. It is not easy to get around with lots of ques. A nice place to go for a drink is the Marque near the West tip seats. I think the Grand National is on too late now. It should be at 350, I think the crowd have too many substances on board when the race comes around . A wonderful place with an amazing history. Do the course walk at Aintree you won't regret it.
Epsom, Surrey, UK. The Home of the Derby. They have been racing at Epsom since 1661. I went on Oaks day it was a brilliant experience. You can only really understand the Camber when you see it up close. The racing generally lends itself to horses who have course form around Epsom. The facilities are top class, no problem getting drinks or a bet on. The atmosphere is very good, while also not feeling too crowded. There is also the option of bringing your picnic in on the infield which is great fun. A great fun day out Epsom is well worth a visit.
Gowran Park, Kilkenny. A visit to Gowran should be combined with an overnight stay in the wonderful city of Kilkenny. Gowran is a very picturesque racecourse. Gowran hosts flat and jumps racing. The owner's facilities are not as good as other tracks. The experience for the punter is good with a vibrant betting ring as well as a well run Ladbrokes shop. There are plenty of decent bars and food outlets. The two-day meeting in early October is one I would recommend. The main day is the Theystes chase day in January which produces plenty of good horses. This meeting is very well attended. It is probably not the ideal way to see the racecourse. If you get the chance check Gowran Park and Kilkenny City out.
Laytown, County Meath. Although only on once a year Laytown is everything great about a day at the races. A carnival atmosphere with racing on the beach. Laytown attracts many families out for the day. Laytown gets a huge crowd. The betting ring is a throwback to the old days. With Bookmakers shouting "Let them in Let them out". The punters are usually 10 deep. Laytown considering the constraints they have to operate in treat owners very well. Laytown has been kind to us as a syndicate with Alfirak placing twice in two visits. Laytown is so unique and so much fun its a must-visit
Bellewstown, County Meath. A four day festival in July has put the track on the map. A strong betting ring with plenty of bookmakers. There is no on-course betting shop so that should be looked at. The atmosphere is excellent with great crowds. I have been going for years. I enjoy it. The Yellow Sam Bar is an excellent meeting point. On a nice summer evening its really good fun. There is plenty of food options available. Bellewstown has been an incredibly lucky track for our syndicate. We have run three horses our record is 211. Bellewstown treat the owners very well. Bellewstown has jumps and flat racing. There is also a funfair for children. As they say at Bellewstown " See you on the hill"
Listowel, County Kerry. It is a serious commitment to drive from Dublin to Listowel. It is however well worth it. Listowel has a seven-day festival known as the harvest festival. I have attended it a couple of times. The Kerry National day is a great day out. The crowd that day attracts would be the envy of any racecourse. Listowel has very good betting facilities. As an owner, Listowel treats you very well. Listowel attracts a knowledgeable racing crowd. Its a great viewing track with the horses in clear view. The best advice would be to stay somewhere nearby and make a few days of it. It is a must-visit in the Kingdom.
Dundalk, County Louth. This may surprise some, however, Dundalk is a really good night out. Its usually on a Friday night. It is a great way to start the weekend. Dundalk has great facilities for punters plenty of bookmakers (now inside) and an excellent Bar One betting shop. The food options are very good with the carvery restaurant always popular. The new owner's lounge is top class, owners are treated very well. The staff are excellent. The new surface is currently being laid. This will be a brilliant improvement. Dundalk does an incredible job for Irish Racing. As a syndicate, we have had four horses win at Dundalk, Mokhalad, Alfirak, Stanhope and Trading Point. Get a group of friends together and head for Fundalk on a Friday night.
The Curragh, Co Kildare. The HQ for flat racing in Ireland. It's a special place to visit, steeped in history. A top-class parade ring with plenty of nice areas to sit. The Curragh is a decent viewing track. The refurbishment work finished last season is starting to bear fruit. The betting facilities are only ok in my view plenty of bookmakers but the ring is an odd shape, the on-course betting shop is not in the same league as some top tracks. The owner experience is much improved since the excellent Pat Keogh has taken over. It will go from strength to strength under Pat's stewardship. As a syndicate, we came very close with Trading Point last year. We will keep trying for the win. The Curragh has an amazing history. If Pat Keogh and his team can increase the crowds it will become one of Irelands top sports venues. For those who love racing The Curragh is well worth a visit.
Galway, County Galway. It would never claim to be the greatest track in Ireland. A tight track with a very steep uphill finish. Galway specializes in a high octane, high drama racing experience during the Galway races. This is an incredible event run over seven magical days. The quality of horse at Galway has gone up and up year on year. The atmosphere at race week is brilliant. There are plenty of Food and Drink outlets. The city comes alive with great nightlife coupled with the racing. The old saying "Galway for Gamblers " is certainly true with Punters very well catered for with excellent betting facilities. The owner experience is fantastic with Galway providing very good facilities. Our syndicate had a great day when Mokhalad placed at Galway in 2018. Go West to Galway.
Punchestown, County Kildare. The home of Irish jump racing. Punchestown nearly always has top-class racing. The annual five-day festival being the highlight in late April - early May. The Festival is very well attended with Saturday a massive family day now. Tuesday of the festival would be my preference, although I have done four days a few times.The facilities at Punchestown are excellent lots of food and drink outlets. Betting wise the punter is served very well. An excellent betting ring backed up by a big Ladbrokes shop. Punchestown is a decent viewing track. You can also get up close to the horses jumping the fences in the home straight.
Fairyhouse, County Meath.The home of The Irish Grand National. Fairyhouse is very easy to get in and out of. It boasts top-class facilities with two very good stands. The action can be seen most of the way around. Fairyhouse has very good facilities for owners. Fairyhouse from a punters point of view has a very good betting ring which is easily accessible from all enclosures. It also has a good size Boyle Sports shop. The card I would recommend going to is the Hattons Grace hurdle card in early December. It is the first real clues of the jump season in Ireland. There are 3 Grade ones on the card. Fairyhouse gets a very decent crowd, it is still very comfortable to move around.
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK. The spiritual home of Jumps fans. It is known as " The Racecourse" by its patrons. Cheltenham is a magical place, the ultimate test of Punter, horse, owner, trainer and jockey. By no means a cheap day out. To be fair every year the jockey club makes improvements. The track itself is tight enough with a very steep uphill finish. The racing is always high class. The festival dominates peoples view of Cheltenham. There are plenty of other good meetings through the calendar. The October meeting is a good one to visit. The Open meeting in November and the New Years day card also are good times to visit. The facilities for punters are top class plenty of betting shops and bookmakers. It can be very busy at the festival almost manic. The viewing is not great with the two big screens a major help. That said the atmosphere is like no other in racing. The Hall of fame is well worth a visit it tells Cheltenham story brilliantly. The Parade ring is also very well laid out, plenty of vantage points and statues of great horses. Everyone who has a passing interest in racing should go to Cheltenham once at least, just for the experience. In my experience, people go to " The Racecourse " for the first time and it pulls them back time after time.
Leopardstown, County Dublin. The jewel in the crown of Irish racing in my view. Leopardstown is a superb viewing track with the horses in full sight of the Grandstands without binoculars or big screens. Leopardstown is a very good track a little tight in parts, however, a long home straight with an uphill climb sorts the men from the boys. On the flat, a wide draw over seven furlongs is very tricky. The facilities are very good, they are currently being upgraded which will make them superb. Leopardstown needs a second betting shop, especially on big days. Leopardstown hosts the four day Christmas Festival. Its a great racing and social occasion. The fourth day of the festival is not as busy and worth a visit. My personal preference is Day 3 a brilliant days racing. The Dublin Racing festival has been a tremendous success. This should be on everyone's list for one of the two days. Leopardstown also hosts champions day on the flat, this is a great day out. The owner experience at Leopardstown is the best in Ireland. Pat Keogh former CEO made it a great experience, laying on lots of things for the owners. Pat also went around the owners personally welcoming them. As a syndicate, we have yet to have any luck at Leopardstown. We will keep trying however regardless its a pleasure to go to Leopardstown. The other event Leopardstown have is the Thursday night Bulmer's festival during the summer, top-class racing combined with good bands. Leopardstown is a must-visit for all who love racing and even those who just love a good day out.