Gowran Park Racecourse Guide

In County Kilkenny, near the village of Gowran, has stood Gowran Park Racecourse since 1914. Surrounded by green fields and featuring an 18 hole golf course inside the racing track, it’s a place which is easy on the eye. 

The 16 fixtures held annually are spread evenly across the year, providing a steady stream of racing. There’s a mix of both Flat and National Hunt racing, which largely takes place during the summer and winter respectively but there are a couple of exceptions.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

The oval course at Gowran Park is around a mile a half in length and is rather undulating in nature. The ups and downs conclude with a climb towards the line down the three furlong straight. For flat racing, it’s rather more of a speed track and one that favours horses ridden prominently. A low draw is beneficial for most distances but particularly seven furlongs as being stuck on the outside for the fast approaching bend is rather disastrous.

The jump course can be more of a test of stamina rather than speed when the going is soft, which is far from uncommon. The chase track, which is on the outside of the hurdles track, features three fences on the uphill home straight, with the first of the trio being the most tricky. Overall though the fences aren’t too testing and they don’t usually cause horses too many problems.

Major Races

Perhaps the biggest flat race at Gowran Park is the Denny Cordell Lavarack Fillies Stakes. It was given Group 3 status in 2006 and sees horses compete over one mile and one furlong. When it comes to jump racing, the season begins with a big race in the form of the €100,000 Thyestes Chase. The race, which was won by Arkle in 1963, can act as a useful trial for the Grand National. There have been two fairly recent horses who have won both races in the same season, Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde, in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

A month later there is the Red Mills Chase and the Red Mills Trial Hurdle, the latter which has quite often produced some talented winners such as Un de Sceaux in 2014. Another big name, Sizing Europe, won October’s Grade 2 Gowran Park Champion Chase on four consecutive occasions between 2011 and 2014, which helps give the two and a half mile race some added prestige.

Visiting

Most of Gowran Park’s meetings run in the afternoon but typically there are four evening fixtures that feature over the course of the year.

  • Dress Code: Most items of clothing are fine at Gowran Park but it’s wise to dress up a little more smartly for the restaurant and hospitality areas.
  • Ticket Prices: The pricing structure at Gowran Park is very straightforward. Adults pay €15 for admission while OAPs and students pay just €10. Tickets are to be purchased on the day of the race at the course. The only exception is the Thyestes meeting in January where ticket prices are bumped up by €5. Children under 18 are admitted free to all meetings. Hospitality packages which can be booked over the phone are great value. The cheapest option is €29 (excludes Thyestes day) and includes admission, a €10 food voucher, €5 bar voucher and racecard. The Platinum Package which includes a four course meal in the rooftop restaurant is usually available for €55.
  • Membership: Full membership is set at €125 for adults but a discounted rate is available for OAPs and students. The over 65s pay €100 and the student rate is just €50.With it you can enjoy 22 reciprocal fixtures, a members’ lunch day, reserved car parking, 33% off additional tickets and 25% off green fees at Gowran Park Golf Course.
  • Getting There: The nearest big station to the racecourse is situated in Kilkenny, around 14km from the course. From Kilkenny Castle Gate, which is a short walk from the station, there will be a free shuttle bus in operation which collects one hour before the first race and returns one hour after the last.
  • Parking: There are plenty of parking space available which are free of charge.

History

It was on the 16th June 1914 when Gowran Park Racecourse opened its doors for the first time, welcoming in a keen herd of spectators. Both Flat and National Hunt races took place on the opening day with the total prize money adding up to £130. Dermot McCalmont was one of the stewards on the inaugural meet and today his grandson, Harry, is a director on the Board at Gowran Park at the time of writing.

The race company in charge of proceedings today was set-up in 1948, led by managing director Jack Duggan who was part of the famous Kilkenny clothing store, Monster House. During his reign he oversaw several milestones at Gowran Park including the first instance of on course commentary in 1952 and the first Tote jackpot in 1966.

A few decades down the line and a new grandstand at a cost of €3.5m was opened in April of 2003. The project, which was supported by Horse Racing Ireland, also included the upgrading of the parade ring areas and stable yard. Three years later and the course was re-classified as a Grade 1 National Hunt course due to the amount of prize money that was on offer during the year.