Bellewstown Racecourse Guide

Bellewstown Racecourse is wonderfully located on the hill of Crockafotha in Co Meath. To the east there is the Irish Sea while to the north there are great views of the Mountains of Mourne.

With just five racedays during the year, Bellewstown Racecourse doesn’t see too much in the way of racing action. It does mean though that meetings here do have a sense of being a special occasion and usually well attended.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

With its undulations, cambers, sharp turns and uphill finish, Bellewstown poses a real test for horses and good balance is needed to see out the trip and have any chance of winning. Speed is also a key attribute here as it often helps when trying to tackle the challenges of the track. Most flat races, including sprints, begin on a chute at the stand side of the course. From here the course is largely turning all the way to the finishing post so a low draw can be a big advantage.

The jumping course features only hurdles race and there are five obstacles to face on a circuit. Much like the flat track, the left-handed bends are quite tight but with it being the outside track, they don’t ride quite as sharp. The straights are long enough to let jockey’s fight for position and it does allow for horses off the pace to make a well-timed push forwards. Although races here feature in the summer, the ground is very well watered so never becomes too firm.

Major Races

Unsurprisingly, Bellewstown doesn’t have too much in the way of major races but the Mullacurry Cup Handicap Hurdle is one of the highlight contests. With a prize fund of €20,000, it’s a lucrative race by Bellewstown’s standards and it’s one that often sees a competitive field compete over two and a half miles.

Visiting

Bellewstown’s five racedays are to split into a three day festival in July and a two day festival in August.

  • Dress Code: Bellewstown doesn’t have a dress code so racegoers should be fine in most outfits. For anyone looking to dress up, valuable prizes are awarded on certain dates for the best dressed man, woman and couple.
  • Ticket Prices: The price of general admission at Bellewstown is €15 for adults, €8 for students and senior citizens and there is no charge for accompanied children under 16. Interested racegoers should consider the Belter ticket which includes admission, a racecard, €5 bet voucher and a €5 drinks voucher all for just €20, a real bargain. These tickets must be purchased online, prior to the event. A buffet ticket is also offered for anyone looking for a big meal along with the racing. Prices vary between €50 to €80 depending on the day and include entrance, a buffet meal, full bar & tote facilities plus live music in the marquee.
  • Membership: If you are planning on attending at least four of Bellewstown’s five annual racedays then purchasing membership will save you a few euros. Adult membership costs €50 while students and seniors can get theirs for €30.
  • Getting There: If not driving straight to the racecourse then getting yourself to Drogheda is the best way to go. Trains serve Drogheda from the likes of Dublin and Dundalk and from the station (and from Abbey Car Park) a complimentary shuttle bus will take you the 11km to the course. The bus departs one hour sharp before the start of the first race, returning 30 minutes after the last. Places are issued on a first come first serve basis.
  • Parking: Ample free parking is available at the racecourse.

History

It is not known precisely when racing first took place at Bellewstown but the first recorded race featured in the August 1726 edition of the Dublin Gazette and the Weekly Courier. In 1780, George Tandy, former mayor of Drogheda was able to persuade King George III to sponsor an event at the racecourse. The race was appropriately titled His Majesty’s Plate and the King kindly donated a prize of £100, a lot of money at the time. The royal sponsoring of the race continued until 1980 when the race was discontinued. This came about as the British monarchy decided to sponsor just the one Irish race, the Royal Whip at Curragh.

In 1975 Bellewstown was the location of one of the biggest sports betting coups of all time, masterminded by Barney Curley. The finely orchestrated scheme was perfectly legal and involved many of Curley’s friends and acquaintances, who placed a huge series of small bets on the under-handicapped Yellow Sam who was trading at 20/1. Yellow Sam went on to win the hurdles race by two and half lengths, forcing the bookies to pay out €300,000 or around €1.7m in today’s money.

Yellow Sam had been very specifically targeted at the race in question, with previous runs coming in unfavourable conditions at unsuitable tracks. The other key element was Bellewstown’s limited telecommunications. There were just two phone lines, one of which it is thought was cut. The other, a public phone box, was tied up by a conspirator calling a non-existent dying aunt.

With no way of communicating with the course, the off-course bookies all over Ireland who had taken hundreds of small wagers on Yellow Sam were unable to get the price cut or lay off their liabilities. Curley would go on to hit the bookies many more times, all with fully legal and cunningly conceived plans. None would top his Bellewstwon coup though!

Despite not being a very active racecourse, there has always been a desire to improve facilities. In 2009 work began realigning the home bend to ensure safer and faster racing could take place. Five years later and a new entrance building was complete, the betting ring was upgraded and the grandstands were fitted with crowd barriers.

A book commissioned by the Bellewstown Heritage Groups and written by John Kirwan entitled 300 Years of Racing at Bellewstown provides a wonderfully in-depth look at the racecourse’s long history. It includes stats and results from 1900 right up to the book’s publication in 2013. It may be a fine read but personally we’d rather listen to some of the stories Barney Curley could tell us!