Listowel Racecourse Guide

Only the River Feale separates Listowel Racecourse from the heart of the heritage town in County Derry. It’s a course that stages both National Hunt and Flat racing in both July and September.

The course is well known in Ireland for its seven day Harvest Festival, which takes place during September. It’s rare for a racing festival to be this long but it being a special occasion helps to draw in the crowds. It often finds itself as the second most attended festival in Ireland, second only to the more famous extravaganza at Galway.

Map

Swap Start/End

The Course

There are a couple of different tracks available at Listowel so the tightness of the course does vary depending on which one is in use. Flat races of a mile or less begin from the straight that intersects the one mile circuit, creating the tightest route. Despite this and the undulations of the course though, flat races are often run quickly when the going is good, so speedy types should be favoured in such conditions.

Good ground also rids the need for stamina during jump races but in heavy conditions things couldn’t be much more different. When the black soil gets testing, many horses really struggle and it’s common to see the field being stretched out quite early on. While it’s wise to pick a horse suited to the ground at Listowel, you’ll also need a good jumper too as the fences are quite stiff.

Major Races

With large fields battling it out over a tough three mile contest, often in muddy conditions, it is little wonder why the Kerry National is one of Listowel’s most cherished events. The handicap is usually run on the Wednesday of the Harvest Festival and it stands out by a big margin as the most valuable race to take place at the course.

Visiting

All the action at Listowel takes place in the afternoon and usually the gates open at midday for spectators. Listowel may not feature on too many bucket lists but it’s still a nice little traffic with much to offer.

  • Dress Code: No policy regarding clothing applies at Listowel so you are free to dress as casually or as smartly as you like. If you are looking to dress up, keep your eyes peeled for any days in which prizes are given to the best dressed ladies and gentlemen in attendance.
  • Ticket Prices: General admission tickets are the only ones offered by Listowel. They come at a flat fee of €20 per day, available both online and on the day and that applies to all racegoers except children under 16 years old. It is possible to purchase a week long ticket for the Harvest Festival in advance for €100, essentially giving you seven days of racing for the price of five. A €1 handling fee applies to all tickets booked online.
  • Membership: Annual membership is not yet offered at Listowel.
  • Getting There: Driving is the easiest way of getting to the racecourse as there is no train station at Listowel and the nearest two major ones are Tralee (16 miles) and Limerick (50 miles). Public bus services run from both places to Listowel but they aren’t designed especially for raceday action and it is quite a long journey. Once you have arrived in Listowel however, it’s just a short walk to the course.
  • Parking: Free parking is available close to the racecourse.

History

Nine miles outside of Listowel, in Ballyeigh, is where the racing was first thought to have taken place in the local area. It goes back as far as the early 19th century when horse racing was part of the entertainment alongside games and faction fights (essentially organised gang fights – those were the days!). The fighting eventually caused too much disruption though and meetings at Ballyeigh were subsequently suspended, allowing the switch to Listowel to occur soon after.

Listowel Racecourse enjoyed its first meeting in 1858. It was a relatively low key two day affair that took place in October. It would become a three day meeting four years later but little else of note happened at the racecourse during the early years. It took the venue 66 years before it was able to open its first permanent stand and enclosure and 99 years for it to build its first concrete stand.

In 1966, three spring fixtures were added to Listowel’s schedule, doubling the amount of racing that took place each year. Things would increase again in both 1970 and 1977 as the Festival meeting was extended by one day each time. It was only in 2002 however when it was extended to its current length of seven days.

A growing fixture list combined with decent attendances triggered several changes at the course. Some involved the building of new facilities and this led to the construction of the Hannon Stand in 1980 and of the Hugh Friel Stand in 1998. Another new addition was the Listowel Races Supporters Club which formed in 1987 and who still continue to sponsor races to this day.