Fairyhouse is one of Ireland’s premier racecourses and home to the Irish Grand National. It is located at Ratoath in County Meath, only fifteen miles from Dublin City Centre. It can be easily reached by car on the R155 regional road, 3km off the N3. For rail travellers, the M3 Parkway train station connects the racecourse with Connolly Station and Docklands Station, Dublin, with a journey time of about half an hour.
Fairyhouse racecourse is a right handed track of around a mile and three-quarters with a home straight of about three furlongs. Although the finish is slightly uphill, Fairyhouse is not considered a particularly demanding course.
It also stages flat racing including the Group 3 Brownstown Stakes in July. One of the best horse racing tips for Fairyhouse today is to note the impact of the draw. There is a distinctive draw bias in favour of low numbers in six and seven furlong races on the flat.
Fairyhouse Horse Racing History
The first official meeting to take place at Fairyhouse was a point-to-point for the Ward Union Hunt in 1848. The Irish Grand National took place for the first time in 1870 and soon became established as the most prestigious steeplechase in Ireland. It remains one of the richest National Hunt races in the calendar.
The course underwent considerable improvements in 1999 when the Jameson Stand was refurbished and the new Powers Gold Label Stand was opened. Fairyhouse is currently owned by Horse Racing Ireland which covers 24 courses in the Republic of Ireland and two in Northern Ireland.
Fairyhouse Irish Grand National
The Irish Grand National is the feature event on the Bank Holiday Monday of the Fairyhouse Easter Festival. The Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup takes place on the Sunday along with the Grade 1 Mares Novice Hurdle Final. There are also four Grade 2 races and two Grade 3 races over the course of the meeting which will be extended to three days in 2019.
There is also an important National Hunt meeting in December. There are three Grade 1 races with the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle, the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle and the Drinmore Novice Chase. The February meeting features the Grade 2 Bobbyjo Chase and the Winning Fair Juvenile Hurdle. Fairyhouse now hosts 20 meetings per year with a mixture of flat and jumps racing.
The Irish Grand National is over three miles and five furlongs and is Ireland’s equivalent of the Aintree Grand National. The proximity in the fixture list to the Liverpool race means that no horse has won both Nationals in the same season. There have been several winners of both races including Rhyme ‘n’ Reason, Bobbyjo and Numbersixvalverde. Horses that win or run well in the Irish National often head to Aintree the following season.
The Ryanair Gold Cup was formerly known as the Powers Gold Cup and is a Grade 1 chase over two and a half miles. The top flat race of the season at Fairyhouse is the Group 3 Brownstown Stakes over seven furlongs. It was originally over a mile at Leopardstown and was relocated to Naas in 2012 when Fairyhouse was lost to waterlogging.
Famous Races and Racehorses at Fairyhouse
The first Irish Grand National in 1870 was won by Sir Robert Peel. In 1880 William Brophy became the only owner to win both the Irish Derby and the Irish National. King of the Bees won at the Curragh before Controller completed the unique double at Fairyhouse. Both horses were out of the mare Winged Bee. In 1929, jockey Frank Wise rode the Irish Grand National winner Alike despite having a wooden leg and missing three fingers!
Brown Lad may not be a household name like Red Rum but his achievement of winning three Irish Nationals was truly remarkable. He won in 1975 and 1976 but was side-lined through injury the following season. He recovered to win a record third National in 1978, carrying top weight of 12st 2lbs and conceding 37lbs to runner-up Sand Pit.
Trainer Tom Dreaper won the Irish National on ten occasions. His most famous winners were Arkle in 1964 and Flyingbolt in 1966. Pat Taaffe rode both horses and is the leading rider in the history of the race with six victories.
Desert Orchid famously defied top weight to win for David Elsworth and Richard Dunwoody in 1990. The popular grey was top of everyone’s Fairyhouse racing tips and started even money favourite. He almost blundered his chance away at the last fence but recovered to win by 12 lengths.
Ann Ferris became the first lady rider to win the National in 1984 aboard Bentom Boy. Nina Carberry rode Organisedconfusion to victory in 2011 and Katie Walsh joined them on the roll of honour with Thunder And Roses in 2015.
Arkle also features among the winners of the Powers Gold Cup. He was the first of three successive winners in the race for Tom Dreaper and Pat Taaffe when scoring in 1963. Other notable winners include Captain Christy (1974), Carvill’s Hill (1989) and Dorans Pride (1997).
Willie Mullins has dominated the Royal Bond Novice Hurdle in recent years with seven victories. They include Hurricane Fly in 2008 who would go on to win two Champion Hurdles. Three-time Champion Hurdler Istabraq also won this race in 1996 while Hardy Eustace was successful in 2002. Istabraq also won the Hatton’s Grace Hurdle on two occasions, a record surpassed by Limestone Lad (1999, 2001, 2002) and Solerina (2003, 2004, 2005).
Fairyhouse Betting Tips
Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott predictably top the training statistics for National Hunt races at Fairyhouse. Over the three seasons, Elliott has saddled almost twice as many runners here as his great rival. Mullins has recorded the better strike rate at around 20%. Jessica Harrington also does well here while Dermot McLoughlin shows a level stakes profit with his runners over hurdles.
Jockey Ruby Walsh is the pick of our Fairyhouse horse racing tips, achieving a 39% strike rate. He is also consistently successful over hurdles at 25%, the same figure being returned by Davy Russell. Both are behind Barry Geraghty over the smaller obstacles who returns an impressive 35% and a small level stakes profit.
Ger Lyons and Jim Bolger are the trainers to note on the flat. Following jockeys Kevin Manning and Shane Foley also features in our Fairyhouse tips. Both have shown a level stakes profit over the last three years.