Cork Racecourse Guide

There are 18 fixtures across the year at Cork Racecourse with a mix of both Flat and National Hunt racing. One of the big meetings is the three-day Easter Festival which was introduced in 2010 and has proved very popular.

The racecourse, somewhat misleadingly, is actually 35km north from Cork, instead based in the town of Mallow (perhaps they learnt that trick from Ryanair?!) You will find that this does often mean that people refer to the place as Cork Racecourse Mallow.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

Watch out for the draw for flat races at Cork as there are some significant biases. A high draw is preferred during sprints which take place on a straight track except for when the ground is soft. For races a mile and a half long however, a low draw is best as the race begins so close to a sweeping right handed bend. Overall it’s a track that favours faster types who like to race prominently as it can be difficult to make up ground on the round track.

The National Hunt course doesn’t favour a particular type of runner as much as the flat but prominent runners do still tend to have an edge. It’s a decent galloping course and one that offers a fair test. The eight fences, including two with ditches, require a little getting over but aren’t the stiffest around. Jumping is also made easier by the lack of very testing ground due to Cork’s sandy soil and good drainage.

Major Races

Cork hosts both high quality flat and jump races. The two flat highlights are the Munster Oaks and the Give Thanks Stakes, both run as Group 3 races. The Munster Oaks is a mile and a half long and was originally run at Naas before being transferred to Cork in 2005. The Give Thanks Stakes is contested over the same distance but features a month later, in August. Named after the 1983 Irish Oaks Champion, it’s a race for fillies and mares aged three and above.

For National Hunt racing, the most important race is arguably the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase. It’s been won by some well-known names since its 2001 inception, including Beef or Salmon and Douvan. When it comes to hurdles, there is no race of higher grade at Cork than the Cork Stayers Novice Hurdle. The three mile race, run in December each year, was upgraded to Grade 3 in 2010 and carries a prize purse of €35,000.

Visiting

Most racedays at Cork are scheduled for weekends or Friday evening which helps ensure that there is regularly a good and lively crowd.

  • Dress Code: Racegoers should dress in smart/casual attire at Cork and be aware that fancy dress is strictly not permitted.
  • Ticket Prices: Regular admission costs €15 for adults, €10 for pensioners and full-time students. Children 14 and under are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. There is also the option of a Premium Level ticket, giving access to a restricted floor of the grandstand including the Owners, Trainer and Members Bar. A four course meal along with Premium Level entry can be purchased, usually for €55 per adult and €17.50 per child. Admission prices are the same for all racedays and there is no discount for purchasing your tickets online in advance.
  • Membership: The price of an annual ticket at Cork is €150 for adults and €100 for both OAPs and students. You’ll have access to all of Cork’s racedays and be given a racecard at each one, plus there is the opportunity to attend around 14 reciprocal race meetings each year.
  • Getting There: Traffic in and around Mallow is rarely an issue given its size so driving there is straightforward. Public transport users should have an equally comfortable time making their way to the course. Mallow train station, situated 2.5km from the racecourse has frequent services to and from Cork itself and is also served by trains from Dublin, Tralee and Killarney. From the station or from the Hibernian Hotel, a free shuttle bus will take you to and from the racecourse.
  • Parking: Free car parking is available for all racegoers.

History

Our current understanding of the history of steeplechasing is that is began close to Cork when horses used to run from one church steeple to another. The first recorded race took place over four miles between St John’s Church Steeple in Buttevant to St Mary’s Church Steeple in Doneraile in 1752 and included several fences along the way.

Steeplechasing didn’t make its way in an official capacity to England until 1830. Nine years later, Captain Martin Becher from Ballygiblin House in Cork appeared in the inaugural Grand National at Aintree. He was the favourite to claim glory but his horse, Conrad, flung him off into the water on the sixth fence. Ever since, the obstacle has been referred to as Becher’s Brook, one of the most famous fences in the history of the sport.

Like Cork, Mallow also boasts a long history of racing which dates back to 1777. Races used to take place over a six day period under the patronage of the King’s Plate Articles. Mallow has not always been the go-to place for Cork’s racing enthusiasts however. The main venue for many years was Cork Park Racecourse until it shut down in 1917.

As Ireland’s geographically largest county without a proper racecourse, there grew a real demand to for a new course. This led to the birth of Mallow Racecourse in 1924 and is now what we know to be Cork Racecourse. Despite not being too close to the city, the course has continued to grow and now hosts a series of popular meetings throughout the year.

Cork Racecourse hasn’t always just made the news thanks to its horses though. In 1983, a quite remarkable event happened as a private jet was forced to make an emergency landing on the racecourse turf after suffering a technical issue. In order to get the plane of the premises, the jet owners had to pay for a runway which is now used as a parking area. We’re sure it was all good craic!

A special mention must go to the small market town of Buttevant, located around 10km away from Mallow. This is because it is here where a re-enactment of the original 1752 steeplechase took place to commemorate its 250th anniversary. A bronze monument was erected, remembering the two jockeys involved in the race, Cornelius O’Callaghan and Edmund Blake.