Many racing fans dream of the racecourses around the world that they long to visit one day, myself included. The spectacular Happy Valley in Hong Kong, Meydan in Dubai, and even Saratoga are on the list for myself due to the fact I reside in the Cotswolds in England.
However, at the very top is a more unusual choice that I find I share with many others: Laytown Races in County Meath, Ireland, which is around 30 miles north of Dublin. Ireland is home to many fantastic racecourses, and whilst many will think of rolling green hills and Guinness when it is mentioned, Laytown’s backdrop is actually a beach which makes it the only one of its kind in the Irish & British racing calendar under the official Rules Of Racing. Held only once a year, it is a firm favourite amongst those that have visited, and held in high regard by those that wish to visit one day.
1868 saw the first recorded race meeting and they were run alongside the Boyne Regatta, where it is assumed that rowing took place with the high tide, and the racing taking place when the tide diminished. The races were held on a ‘U’ shaped track, until unfortunately an accident in 1994 which resulted in the death of 3 horses and injury to a number of jockeys which subsequently involved stricter rules being imposed by The Turf Club.
Back in the 1950’s and ’60s, all weather training surfaces were non-existent, so the sand was considered to be a great preparation for the incredible Galway Festival, providing a chance for preparation with horses, trainers, and jockeys.
Today the races are held on the Laytown stand straight over six and seven furlong distances, and the ‘track’ is near level. Marquees house the jockey changing room, weighing room, and bars – a very different experience to the plush, ringside weighing room you would find at the world famous Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse in March. The history behind the races adds to the appeal and charm, being given the chance to attend an age old tradition as it is considered by those who live closely, or even attended as children and still remember fondly.
Imagining the stunning backdrop of a beach, along with the bustling crowds and brightly coloured jockey silks billowing atop galloping horses, gives way to even the most vivid and vibrant imaginations.
As I’ve been told on more than one occasion, you can be sure that there is no experience quite like watching these spectacular animals galloping along the beach in the Autumnal breeze, and I hold in hope that next year will be the year I finally get to visit and tick it off my long racecourse bucket list!