The Irish Racing Calendar and form book – a mixture of bible and business planner in racing households for so long – ceased to appear in printed form from the end of 2023.

Horse Racing Ireland cite the decision to convert to digital-only is based on HRI’s duty as a semi-state organisation to reduce its carbon footprint.

The first volume of the Irish Racing Calendar appeared in 1790. Published in Dublin by Patrick Sharkey, it contained a preface, bearing the names of John Taylor, Francis Savage and John Dennis, in which they endorsed the merit of this work.

They styled themselves ‘Stewards of the Turf Club’ and dated their seal of approval ‘Kildare, June Meeting, 1790’. The initial issue, which incorporated the first comprehensive Rules of Racing, credit given to John Pond who had led the way in England 40 years previously, attracted 179 subscribers.

The late Tony Sweeney, doyen of racing historians, described the event in his magnificent Sweeney Guide to the Irish Turf.

“The year 1790 is yet another landmark as this witnessed the publication by Patrick Sharkey of the first annual Irish Racing Calendar. In a single leather-bound volume this provided a collection of results from all over the country indexed under the names of their owners.

“Racing Calendars had been current in England long before this and, although we do not know of the survival of any 17th century printing, these did exist. We know that one of these was credited to “Homer”, a pleasant punning name for an author, who had to embark on a personal Odyssey riding all over the country to gather the racing results.”


As John Cheny had done in England, Sharkey included a section on cock-fighting entitled “Article for a Cock Match, the Rules for matching and fighting of Cocks in Ireland, which have been in practice since the reign of King Charles II”.

A total of 22 race meetings were recorded in the 1790 Irish Racing Calendar, comprising five on the Curragh between April and November, with one meeting – in calendar order – at Roscommon, Mullingar, Enniskillen, Cork, Kilkenny, Downpatrick, Athlone, Rathkeale, Kilcock, Loughrea, Tralee, Longwood, Miltown (Co Clare), Ennis, Birr, Balinafad (Co Roscommon), concluding with Sligo, where the racing was staged between October 25th and November 5th, coinciding with the Curragh finale.

It is on the date of the original Irish Racing Calendar that the Turf Club has been held to be of the same vintage.

In fact James Weatherby’s English Racing Calendar of June 1784 carried details of a race sponsored by the Turf Club to be run at the Curragh that month.

Racing on the Curragh had previously been administered by such as the Society of Sportsmen and the (Irish) Jockey Club, with its quarters in the Coffee House in Kildare town, in existence since 1757, as shown in John Rocque’s map of ‘Kildare Town’ published in that year.

Their desire to avoid dispute prompted the Turf Club to settle on 1990 as the club’s bicentenary. Professor Fergus D’Arcy was commissioned to chronicle those 200 of Irish racing administration. This he did in his Horses, Lords and Racing Men.

1798 rebellion

Early on in the play came the nationwide upheaval caused by the 1798 rebellion. Racing was not immune, as D’Arcy records.

“The impact of the rising of ’98 is visible even in the pages of the Irish Racing Calendar. For the first and only time in its 200 years of continuous publication as an annual volume, none was issued in 1798; instead, the Book Calendar for that year was issued as part of the volume for 1799.”

D’Arcy goes on to reveal that the June meeting at the Curragh was not held in 1798, neither were meetings planned for eight other venues staged. In 1799, while it was back to business as usual at the Curragh, where the usual five meetings were held, the only other returns for that year were furnished by Down Royal Corporation in July.

In 1805 racing official Robert Hunter bought out Patrick Sharkey with £200 per year for the rest of his life, becoming proprietor and publisher of the Irish Racing Calendar. By then the subscription list had swollen to 434. Soon afterwards Hunter became a bloodstock agent, in partnership with his son John Ryan Hunter, in addition to soliciting for clients for his racing stable on the Curragh.

Father and son retained ownership of the Irish Racing Calendar until 1884, when it passed into the hands of one George Quin. Generally unpopular, George Quin relinquished his interest in the Irish Racing Calendar in 1891. He was succeeded as Turf Club Registrar by the dynamic Thomas ‘Judge’ Brindley.

Turf Club control

In October 1835 it was announced that henceforth the publisher of the Irish Racing Calendar was ‘to be considered as under the control of the Stewards of the Turf Club.’ It would now appear each month as the ‘Sheet Calendar’, at an increased annual subscription, but with reduced charges for notices of country meetings.

This was an important point in the Turf Club’s ascent to overall control. The stewards expressly hoped that ‘fellow-stewards of country meetings would support the venture’. Simultaneously they insisted that for them, as stewards of the Turf Club, to be able to allocate the correct weights on horses for Country Races, it was vital to have proper returns of previous races at those meetings.

In 1866, during the reign of racing reformer the Marquess of Drogheda, the Irish Racing Calendar for the first time incorporated ‘The Irish National Hunt Steeple-Chase Rules’. Drafted singlehandedly by the Marquess of Drogheda Henry Moore, this code of conduct coincided with his creation of the Irish National Hunt Steeplechase Committee, with its own set of stewards.

The year 1974 saw the publication of the last ‘White Book’ the familiar name of the comprehensive annual Irish Racing Calendar. Some 50 years on the weekly printed version has followed suit, in tandem with the weekly instalment of the form book, yet another victim of the all-conquering digital age.