Sligo Racecourse Guide

Sligo Racecourse is home to both National Hunt and Flat racing meetings which take place across eight fixtures per year. Action here is limited to the summer months, beginning in late April/early May and ending in late September/early October.

The town of Sligo is known for being an important commercial and industrial hub in the west of Ireland. It’s a popular tourist destination too, partly thanks to the wonderful scenery surrounding the area and this is something that makes the racecourse one of the most picturesque in Ireland.

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Swap Start/End

The Course

Sligo is one of Ireland’s trickiest courses and jockeys usually have a hard time of things around the right-handed track during most races. Along with the long sharp turns there are undulations throughout and a steep uphill finish. Although the time spent on the turn gives prominent runners a better chance in flat races, it’s common to see horses set off too soon and get overtaken up the rising, near-two furlong run-in.

Along with the difficult nature of the track, Sligo is no stranger to heavy going and on such occasions, conditions can become extremely testing. Many horses simply cannot cope with the mud and put in a performance which can be fairly excused. While many struggle here though, some, usually pacier types who stay the trip well, can become course specialists so previous form here should be valued highly.

Major Races

There are no high profile races that take place at Sligo but races taking place on Ladies Day in August do have an extra special feel to them. It’s a very popular evening meeting which always has a celebratory feel to it regardless of how many winners are backed.

Visiting

By visiting Sligo you’ll be going to the same place that Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall visited in 2015 during a trip to Ireland.

  • Dress Code: No dress code is in force at Sligo so racegoers are free to wear whatever they like. The only exception is that fancy dress and branded clothing is not permitted in hospitality areas. On Ladies Day it’s common to adopt more formal attire with many hats and fascinators on display but it is by no means compulsory. Especially not for the men!
  • Ticket Prices: Tickets can be bought at the turnstiles or online for the same price. Adults pay €15 for entry except on Ladies Day which is €20 and Students and OAPs are charged just €10 for all racedays. If purchasing a concessionary ticket in advance, ensure you bring ID with you on the day. Children under 14 are admitted free of charge. The hospitality package for small groups (minimum four people) costs €40 per person and includes a two course meal, a class of wine or prosecco and a racecard along with admission.
  • Membership: By becoming a member of Sligo Races Supporters Club you will be able to enjoy entry to all fixtures at Sligo with a free racecard and access to the members bar. You’ll also be able to attend 10 reciprocal fixtures across Ireland, go on a special members outing and bring a family member or friend along to one fixture. Membership is available to all for €100.
  • Getting There: Sligo railway station is not located far from the course, just 2km away. It has a regular service that runs to and from Dublin Connolly, making several stops at smaller stations along the way. From the station, it’s a fairly straightforward walk but the journey can also be made using taxis or local bus services.
  • Parking: Parking in the centre of the track is available every raceday and comes free of charge.

History

For centuries, racing has been present in County Sligo and the earliest recorded meet run under Turf Club rules dates back to 1781. It was at Bowmore, Rosses Point where the four day festival took place on a three mile horseshoe shaped arena. Stakes totalled 200 Guineas at the time and for decades it was a very popular meet that ran quite consistently with just a handful of cancellations.

Racing continued here until the 1840s and for many years nothing took its place. The situation was eventually resolved however by Mr John Wynne who set up a new course on his own land at Hazelwood. The first meeting went ahead here on April 16th 1873, with five races taking place on the opening day. Things continued here for 13 years until the land at Hazelwood became unavailable for racing.

The Sligo Race Committee decided to move back to Bowmore for their annual race meet but it was another fairly short move lasting just 12 years. Afterwards it was back to Hazelwood but racing remained here for longer than it had done previously, being the home to racing in Sligo all the way until 1942. By this point however it was no longer up to standard and a more modern and permanent venue was needed.

The committee weighed up several sites before choosing an area known as the ‘Pump Field’ in Cleveragh Demesne. Following several inspections, the Irish racing authorities gave their approval and a long term lease of the lands was arranged. The new home of Sligo Racing opened its doors for the first time on 24th August 1955 to a crowd of 7,000 keen spectators. It was a day that received widespread press coverage which tended to be of a highly complementary nature.

In recent years, the course has been undergone extensive redevelopment work which has turned Sligo Racecourse into one of Ireland’s best equipped racing venues. €2.5m went toward a new grandstand and new turnstiles, improving the jockey changing rooms, the pavilion bar and the tote facilities among several other improvements. In October 2015, additional plans were announced which included both small tweaks and major works such as the renovation of the bar and restaurant areas, upgrading of the Owners and Trains bar and a new entrance building.