Horse racing is one of the most popular spectator sports in the entirety of Ireland, with more than 1.3 million attendees every year, and not uncommonly amassing crowds that usually exceed the 100,000 mark.
Furthermore, horse racing is deeply engrained in Irish culture, so much so that some of the best thoroughbreds that grace the tracks are bred and trained in Ireland; in fact, Irish thoroughbreds regularly emerge victorious on English racecourses.
On top of that, there are more racecourses per person in Ireland that in any other country in the world, meaning that narrowing down the 5 best racecourses in Ireland was hardly an easy task.
Thankfully, whilst difficult, it was far from impossible. So, in order of most attendees in 2019, we present to you the top 5 Irish racecourses.
1) Leopardstown Racecourse
Located only 8km south of Dublin, the first entry on our list is the racecourse located in Leopardstown, which is well known for hosting the biggest race in Ireland: the Irish Champion Stakes, which takes place every September.
This racecourse held an astounding number of attendees in 2019: a breath taking total of over 175,000 spectators. With those kinds of numbers, you can be sure that this racecourse has plenty of stupendous spectacles to offer.
Apart from the aforementioned race, the Leopardstown racecourse holds plenty of races throughout the year, around 22 meetings per year, giving spectators ample opportunity to attend.
Finally, the Leopardstown racecourse provides its attendees with fairly elegant facilities thanks to the significant amount of money it invests to make sure all of its attendees have a truly luxurious experience.
2) Punchestown Racecourse
Punchestown held the second most attendees in Ireland in 2019, compared to Leopardstown Racecourse, with over 145,000 spectators attending the racecourse.
Known as the home of National Hunt racing in Ireland, the Punchestown racecourse is also known for hosting the biggest horse racing festival every year in April.
The Punchestown Irish National Hunt Festival takes place only one month after Cheltenham—with many fans even saying that it is nothing short of the Irish version of Cheltenham—giving horse racing fans a packed couple of months.
The most prominent race in the festival is the Punchestown Gold Cup, which is contested by the best horses and riders; in fact, many of them would have already competed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup!
3) Ballybrit Racecourse
Having held no less than 141,000 spectators in 2019, the third entry on our list goes to the Ballybrit Racecourse—which also happens to be known by the name “Galway Racecourse,” due to being in the county of Galway, and only roughly 6km away from Galway city.
The majority of the attendees would have definitely been registered during the week-long Galway Races that take place on every last Monday of July through to August.
During the Galway Races, the busiest days of its week-long run would definitely be Wednesday, when the Galway Plate is held, and Thursday, when the Galway Hurdle and Ladies’ Day.
4) Curragh Racecourse
A little fun fact about this racecourse is that its name, Curragh, comes from the Irish word Cuirreach, which means “place of the running horse;” so horse racing is quite literally in the name of this racecourse!
Whilst not as impressive as the previous three entries in terms of the sheer quantity of attendees—in fact, a little over 79,000 spectators were present at this racecourse in 2019—the Curragh Racecourse is one of Ireland’s most illustrious and revered racecourses.
The Curragh is a racecourse where solely three-year-old thoroughbreds participate, and is the location where the Irish Classic Races are held, which are: the Irish St. Leger, the Irish 1,000 Guineas, the Irish 2,000 Guineas, the Irish Oaks, and the Irish Derby.
An integral part of the Irish culture surrounding horse racing is the bets placed on horses; whilst turfs accountants will be present at the racecourses themselves, online bookmakers prove to be rather convenient.
There are several online bookmakers, like Paddy Power, bet365, and Betiton Ireland, that offer odds on these racecourses. Betting on your favourite thoroughbred in the Curragh can add another layer of enjoyment to the spectacle of horse racing.
5) Laytown Racecourse
Last but not least, there’s the Laytown Racecourse, which is last on our list as there were not many attendees that were registered in 2019, likely because this racecourse only hosts one day-long meeting every year in September.
However, whilst nowhere nearly as packed as any of the other racecourse—so much so, that only a little over 6,000 spectators visited this racecourse in 2019—this racetrack is arguably the most unique out of all them.
The uniqueness of this racetrack can be attributed to the fact that it is the only race in Ireland that takes place on a beach, which is quite the spectacle in itself.
Not only that but the Laytown races are always contested by the best jockeys and horses in Ireland, which makes for some truly splendid displays of equestrian prowess—on a beach, no less.