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All-Inclusive Guide to the Curragh Racecourse in Ireland

There might be 26 official racecourses scattered across Ireland, but there’s only one that is recognized as the most significant. It is called Curragh, and it will be the focal point of this page.

So much has happened at the beloved racecourse on the Curragh plain. Whether it’s discussing how and when the land was transformed into a racing arena for Thoroughbreds or it’s talking about the most acclaimed races, we are going to cover it all.

Forget about not knowing all there is to know about the home of the Irish Guineas. Those days are over. We are going to break down the racecourse in County Kildare from head to toe.

Whether you are just trying to familiarize yourself with the track for betting purposes or you are actually planning a trip to the Curragh, this page is going to serve you well.

After explaining the ins and outs of the racecourse, we’ll make sure we leave you with some advice and some pointers in the event you decide to schedule a vacation. If you are somebody who appreciates Thoroughbred racing at its finest and are looking for a beautiful area to spend some time in, look no further.

The Curragh Racecourse is the ultimate destination, and we’re here to tell you why. You’ll want to start with some general facts about the facility before transitioning into the meat and potatoes of the guide!

Use the introductory section revolving around the opening of Curragh to set the stage for all the juicy information that promises to follow!

Overview of Curragh Racecourse

Year Opened
Newbridge, County Kildare, Ireland
Curragh Racecourse Ltd.
Course Type
Notable Races
Irish 1,000 Guineas, Irish 2,000 Guineas, Irish Derby, Irish Oaks, Irish St. Leger
Official Website
Belmont Park Gate

Back to When It All Started

The background of Curragh Racecourse is a bit fuzzy. Allow us to clarify a few things about the earliest days before we start telling you about what goes on today.

If you have any Irish background, you may recognize that the title of the racecourse comes from the Gaelic word “Cuirreach,” which translates directly to “place of the running horse.” It was very clear what the space was intended to be used for back in 1866 when the first Irish Derby was held on the grounds.

Despite the first “recorded race” not taking place until 1727, we know that the Parliament had instated the Curragh as an official horse racing facility in 1868, just two years after the initial derby was run. To fully understand the racecourse and its capacity, it helps knowing that the Curragh Plains extend for nearly 5,000 acres (4,870 to be exact).

We don’t want to confuse you into thinking the enormous parcel of land is designated for horse racing only. In fact, the endless pasture of grass is divided into three sections.

The Brownlands make up a total of 771 acres, and there is no Thoroughbred action over there. The Brownlands is strictly maintained by and for the Irish military. The Bluelands is an 815-acre chunk of meadowlands that has been assigned as “Ranger and Danger Areas.”

Finally, the Greenlands make up the remaining 3,284 acres. Exactly 817 of them are managed by Turf Club. This is where the racing takes place and where the action can be found.

Those of you who have yet to visit the Curragh in person may have actually seen this land before unbeknownst. The well-known movie Braveheart filmed multiple battle scenes on the Curragh Plains.

The setting was ideal for what director/producer/starring actor Mel Gibson was looking for, and the film turned out to be a hit.

After the Irish Derby, it wouldn’t take long for more races to be established. Before long, the Curragh was becoming a featured destination for horse racing.

We are going to talk about the Irish Classic races and much more, but it’s time we start illustrating the track and the facilities. Having a backstory on the property is useful, but a detailed description of what the racecourse is like is going to help you realize how magnificent this place is.

Curragh Racecourse Taking Shape

There is no doubt that when it comes to Thoroughbred racing in Ireland, the Curragh is home to the country’s biggest races. Of the 12 Irish Group 1 races, 10 of them are hosted at the Curragh.

It is due to its significance that Curragh Racecourses Ltd. decided to make some major changes. They wanted the Curragh to be recognized as not just the top venue in all of Ireland, but they wanted to be one of the premier horse racing facilities in all of Europe.

In 2015, a was announced, one that would ensure Curragh a spot on the list of grandest racecourses found anywhere in the world. Joe Keeling, the Chairman of Horse Racing Ireland, went on to say the following.

“This is the most important venture in the modern history of Irish racing. The Curragh will be benchmarked against the best racecourses in Europe.”

The expensive undertaking would come in phases, with the first “soft opening” coming on May 11th, 2023. One of the main issues and reasons for the necessity to expand the property was to increase the capacity and allow more spectators inside.

Unfortunately for the interim racing season in 2023, fans will be subjected to the temporary structures that have been put in place while the new grandstand is still being worked on.

If you want to see the finished product, you’ll have to wait until Christmastime of 2023. When finalized, they should have enough amenities to make even a member of the Irish royal family jealous. From a brand-new parade ring to 23 new high-end luxury suites, the Curragh is set to be a can’t-miss attraction.

For those who come to the racecourse hungry and thirsty and looking to have some fun, perhaps the 6 new restaurants and 4 new bars will be up your alley. By the time it’s all said and done, the Curragh will be able to accommodate 30,000 people, and every single one of them will go home with memories to cherish.

Now that you have a good idea of some of the , it’s a good time to start talking about the race track.

By the time the holiday season approaches in December and the “New Curragh” is formally opened, we’ll make sure to update this section and fill you in on everything that has taken shape!

Racecourse Specifics

While there has been a lot going on regarding the facilities and enclosures that surround the racecourse, the turf track that the Thoroughbreds race on is another topic. It would be more appropriate to refer to them as “tracks,” considering there are numerous courses at the Curragh.

The right-handed racecourse comes with lots of twists and turns, as well as a handful of starting positions. This horseshoe-like course features a home straight that is about 3 furlongs and climbs a bit uphill.

Thanks to a five-furlong chute that connects with the home straight, one-mile races can be held on the straight course. The long races are held at one of the other three tracks that make up the racing grounds at the Curragh.

In order to succeed on either the inner, the derby, or the plate course, Thoroughbreds will need to be savvy when it comes to making the turns. The Derby Track especially is full of sharp turns and elevation changes. Jockeys who can guide their horses and conquer this terrain can compete on any flat course around.

The track can support races up to 1 ¾ miles, which is the length of one of their marquee events, the
Irish St. Leger (2,816 meters to be exact).

One thing that the participants, trainers, and everyone involved can appreciate is that during the Festivals, the running rails are transportable. This provides new, plush grass that affords itself to much better and cleaner racing.

One thing that is noticeable about horse racing at the Curragh is that the starting position seems to have a fairly significant effect on the outcome of the races. The results have proven that the horses with the inside position tend to fare better in the sprint races.

On the flip side, those horses with the outside leverage have an advantage in the lengthier races thanks to not having to turn quite as sharply.

If you are going to be betting on horse races at the Curragh, this is surely something you’ll want to account for.

Speaking of races at the Curragh, there are five specific events run annually at the Curragh that stand out amongst the rest.

The Irish Classics

There are a bunch of amazing races taking place at the Curragh from March through September. With flat racing ranging from the highest level of Group 1-status racing all the way to Group 3 and Listed, the competitions at the Curragh provide plenty of entertainment and drama.

In all, there happen to be 10 Group 1 flat races at the course in Country Kildare.

However, nothing delivers more non-stop action and interest than the five that make up the “Irish Classic Races.” There is so much to get to that we actually created a separate page on all five of these esteemed events!

Juicy information and details about the Irish Triple Crown Races, as well as the other two events intended for fillies, can be found on our devoted page.

We would still like to highlight each race, but please indulge yourself by checking out the link above.

Irish 2,000 Guineas

  • Inaugurated: 1921
  • Distance: 1 mile (1,609 meters)
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds only, excluding geldings
  • 2017 Purse: €300,000
  • 2017 Winner’s Share: €171,000

The Irish 2,000 Guineas takes place on a Saturday in May, as part of the Irish Guineas Festival. The flagship race of the opening day is clearly the Irish Guineas 2,000. It is comparable to England’s version of the 2000 Guineas Stakes which takes place a few weeks prior at Newmarket Racecourse in Suffolk.

The record for the fastest time in this event since it got started in 1921 came in 1998, thanks to Desert Prince. Frenchman Olivier Peslier guided his horse in 1:35.8 that year, a mark that has yet to be touched.

Famed Irish horse racing trainer Aidan O’Brien has been responsible for training a remarkable 11 winning horses in this race. Don’t be surprised if he adds to this number, as he is still a fixture in Irish horse racing.

Irish 1,000 Guineas

  • Inaugurated: 1922
  • Distance: 1 mile (1,609 meters)
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-old fillies only
  • 2017 Purse: €300,000
  • 2017 Winner’s Share: €171,000

The “sister-race,” if you will, to the Irish 2,000 Guineas is the race that falls on the following day. The Irish 1,000 Guineas has the same format as the aforementioned race, with one glaring difference. The male horses have to sit this one out, as the Irish 1,000 Guineas is intended for three-year-old fillies only.

In 2011, Misty for Me finished the race in 1:35.9, a tenth of a second behind the record time set by Desert Prince 13 years earlier in the Irish 2,000 Guineas.

However, Misty for Me’s time is still more than a full second faster than any other filly has completed this race in. Aidan O’Brien hasn’t trained 11 victorious lady horses here, but his 7 wins as a trainer are tied with Hubert Hartigan for the most of all time.

Irish Derby

  • Inaugurated: 1866
  • Distance: 1 mile 4 furlongs (2,414 meters)
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds only, excluding geldings
  • 2017 Purse: €1,500,000
  • 2017 Winner’s Share: €855,000

You can tell by looking at the whopping prize pool that this is the most prestigious horse race that takes place at the Curragh. Held towards the end of June or early July, the Irish Derby Festival is three days of electrifying races and loads of entertainment.

After live music on Friday evening, Saturday is dedicated to the Irish Derby. The longest withstanding event on site, the winning horse and his or her team is walking away with nearly a million Euros!

This mile-and-a-half marathon has been bringing pure joy and excitement to Curragh since 1866 and is just getting better and better every year.

In terms of records, the quickest time ever recorded in this race came in 1992 at the hands of three-time Irish Derby-winning jockey Christy Roche.

The trainer who was responsible for working out St Jovite that year was Jim Bolger, and he must have done something special. The American-bred stallion finished the race in 2:25.6, exactly 1.5 seconds sharper than Galileo’s mark in 2001, which was the next-fastest.

Irish Oaks

  • Inaugurated: 1895
  • Distance: 1 mile 4 furlongs (2,414 meters
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-old fillies only
  • 2017 Purse: €400,000
  • 2017 Winner’s Share: €228,000

If you miss the Guineas Festival or the Irish Derby events, there is some good news on the horizon. Between the middle and the end of July, the Irish Oaks Weekend takes place, and it’s another two days of thrilling action on the turf track.

The biggest race of the weekend will be the Irish Oaks, which, like the Irish 1,000 Guineas, is meant for three-year-old fillies only. Shawanda won the 2005 edition in a record time of 2:27.1, eclipsing the mark of 2:28.2 set by Ouija Board the year before.

Born in 1895, the Irish Oaks is the Irish version of a well-known race in England, The Oaks, run at Epsom Downs. In fact, many of the fillies who compete in the Epsom Oaks in early June make the trip across the pond to County Kildare to test their luck at the Irish Oaks.

Irish St. Leger

  • Inaugurated: 1915
  • Distance: 1 mile 6 furlongs (2,816 meters)
  • Age Requirement: Three-year-olds and up
  • 2017 Purse: €500,000
  • 2017 Winner’s Share: €285,000

There’s one final major racing weekend at the Curragh, and it falls on consecutive days (Saturday/Sunday) in mid-September. What is unique about this race compared to the other 4 that make up the 5 Irish Classic races is that the Irish St. Leger is the only one that allows horses above the age of three to participate.

Rather than close off competition to a certain gender or age, the Irish St. Leger is a 1 ¾-mile race that is just looking for the fastest horse, period. The second day of the Irish Champions Weekend is devoted to the Irish St. Leger, which has been an open-age event ever since 1983.

In the years since, multiple horses have gone on to win more than one Irish St. Legers, although only one horse can claim 4 victories, and his name is Vinnie Roe. The 2002 European Champion Stayer of the Year award-winning stallion won 4 straight Irish St. Legers from 2001-2004.

Visiting the Curragh

Now that you know all the dates of the important racing carnivals, you have a leg up on booking a trip to the Curragh. Anytime you are looking to stay informed of what’s going on, all you have to do is , and you’ll be kept entirely in the loop!

The location is fairly convenient, being only about a 40- or 45-minute commute from the Dublin Airport. Multiple railways stations in Dublin will give you access straight to the Kildare station, where you will find complimentary shuttles that drop you off right in front of Curragh’s entrance.

The fact that it is so easy to get back and forth between Dublin and the Curragh makes this an incredible vacation destination. Just schedule the trip during one of the Festivals from May-September, and you’ll be in for a trip of a lifetime.

Between the action on the race track and everything there is to do and see nearby, we can’t imagine a good reason not to want to make this outing a reality.

Whether you want to tour the and have a pint, or you prefer to peruse around Phoenix Park or the Dublin Castle, you won’t run out of activities when hanging out in Dublin.

By the time you make it over to the racecourse, just make sure to have your picks in order. Watching the Thoroughbreds is exhilarating as is, but it’s even more captivating when you are rooting on a horse with a chance to win a Trifecta!

The Synopsis

It’s pretty clear, folks. Thoroughbred racing is a big deal in Ireland, and the most prominent venue in the country is Curragh Racecourse.

The turf track plopped in the middle of the vast Curragh Plain between Kildare and Newbridge is undergoing massive renovations in 2023 and promises to be a world-class facility when it is completed by the end of the calendar year.

This short clip details the transformation that the course has been undertaking for the better part of three years.

The new plans are going to make the property tailor-made for hosting a variety of affairs from throwing parties to large-scale events.

This is going to be more than a place known for horse racing. Sure, it will be a really cool place to watch Thoroughbreds gallop around a track with hundreds of thousands of Euros on the line; that isn’t going to change.

It’s the overall experience and capabilities that will turn the Curragh into one of the most lavish and desirable destinations for Thoroughbred fans around the world. This guide was designed to help you understand all of the aspects that make the Curragh so great.

With all these new improvements and illustrious races on tap, we suggest you do everything in your power to see it first-hand!