Situated in County Kilkenny, the famous Gowran Park Racecourse is one of the most popular Irish horse racing venues around.
The track sits within the Annely Estate near the village of Gowran, along with other facilities.
Meetings have been held at Gowran Park since 1914, while now the track hosts 15+ race days during the year over both National Hunt and Flat codes.
- Address – Gowran Park Golf and Leisure, Gowran, County Kilkenny, Ireland.
- Owner – Gowran Park Race Co. Limited.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Gowran hosts races over the jumps and on the level, with each course having its own quirks to keep in mind.
Gowran’s Flat track is right-handed, with the oval being approximately a mile and a half round in total. That makes the course wide enough to remain fair most of the time.
The track undulates, though it is mostly described is being galloping with a climb to the line at then end of a near three-furlong straight keeping horses honest.
Flat Track Analysis
The jockey feedback from Gowran Park tends to surround speed, which contradicts what most pundits report from afar.
Some riders have said that the course behaves like a tricky track, despite visually being wide enough and galloping, though they back up the fact that in general you’d want your horse to be nearer the front end than the back.
Over seven furlongs and a mile, a low draw for an accomplished front-runner can prove to be very advantageous, so as long as you have the form in the bag you can go very well from that position.
The National Hunt tracks at Gowran are right-handed and like the Flat course, are ovals of around 1½ miles in length.
The tracks undulate slightly but remain galloping in nature, with a stiff finish which allied with soft ground can make things very testing indeed so keep an eye on stamina when assessing races.
Each circuit of the chase course features seven fences in total, running around the outer of the hurdles track. After the final fence, there is a run-in of about one furlong only though it is pretty stiff.
Jumps Track Analysis
National Hunt riders confirm that Gowran can be a difficult track to ride on, given the hills and undulations and its general character.
There is a peak across the back straight which is very testing for horse and rider and should be kept in mind, with those doing too much there often not seeing the race out.
Fences aren’t particularly difficult, though still a sound jumper is needed given that horses can be tired in the latter part of races here, especially when the rain comes.
Visiting Gowran Park
There is more than horse racing to discover at Gowran Park. Within the Annely Estate there is also golf including a practice area, along with venue hire and a bar and restaurant.
For us it’s all about the racing however, so make sure you have directions sorted before you head off.
How to Get to Gowran Park
If you’re in the area, a complimentary bus can be accessed to get you to Gowran Park which runs from the gates of Kilkenny Castle. This is put on for every meeting, departing an hour before the off time for the first race and returning half an hour after the last scheduled race.
The track sits 13km east of Kilkenny, 48km north of Waterford and some 130km south of Dublin.
From the Dublin area, drivers should take the M9 heading south, exiting at junction 7 towards Paulstown before following signs for the racecourse.
When reaching Gowran on the R448, head straight through the village and the main entrance and car park for the track is on the left. From Waterford take the M9 heading north, exit once again at junction 7 and follow the same directions.
The track is situated only eight miles or so from Kilkenny City. From there, drive along the N19 and head right onto the R702 towards Gowran. When getting to the village, turn right for Thomastown/Waterford Road and look for the racecourse on your left.
There is a rail service available on the Dublin to Waterford line. Services to Kilkenny Station and Thomastown Station from both ends of the line are regular, with taxies made available from both stations to Gowran Park.
Where to Stay
Gowran, where the track is located, is essentially a village so rooms there are at a real premium. Over at Kilkenny however there are plenty of rooms for racegoers and easy links are available back to the track.
Major Events at Gowran Park
There are some very competitive events run year-round at Gowran Park, these being the best of them:
|Galmoy Hurdle||5yo+, Hurdle, Grade 2||3m||January|
|Thyestes Hurdle||5yo+, Handicap Chase||3m1f||January|
|Red Mills Trial Hurdle||4yo+, Hurdle, Grade 3||2m||February|
|Red Mills Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 2||2m4f||February|
|Vintage Tipple Stakes||4yo+ Fillies & Mares, Listed Race (Flat)||1m6f||May|
|Denny Cordell Lavarack Stakes||3yo+ Fillies & Mares, Group 3 (Flat)||1m1½f||September|
|Gowran Park Champion Chase||5yo+, Chase, Grade 2||2m4f||October|
About Gowran Park Racecourse
The racecourse at Gowran Park has been welcoming visitors since June 16, 1914 when the first meeting was held. Back then, all races were steeplechases and flat events run under National Hunt rules.
The race company now owning the course was first formed in 1948. Since then, Gowran has gone on to promote several firsts in Irish horse racing.
The first on course commentary was heard here in 1952 and the first Tote Jackpot bet was staged here in 1966. Extraordinarily, the first televised race was also held at Gowran Park which is some feat.
Gowran has also managed to move very well with the times. A new grandstand was completed in 2003, featuring excellent facilities. It was opened on April 9th that year.
The new stand cost the ownership group some €3.5 million and was the end result of a wide-ranging development programme which was supported by the HRI, Horse Racing Ireland. The programme had begun with the upgrading of the parade ring and stable yard at Gowran Park which was received very well.
Later in 2006, Gowran Park staged its first ever Group race on the Flat. The Denny Cordell Lavarack Fillies Stakes was run at Group 3 level, a race that showcases Gowran’s apparent commitment to putting on high class Flat racing despite its history in the National Hunt game.
Jumps racing though remains extremely popular at Gowran. January’s Goffs Thyestes Chase Day is hugely valuable, while Red Mills Day in February features two top-class races, with the October Festival continuing to bring in strong crowds.
As if to make official Gowran Park’s continued improvement over the years, the track was re-classified in Ireland as a Grade 1 course for National Hunt meetings. Another fantastic feat for those responsible for the running of the track.
That classification affects prize money, or is the result of it, reflecting the fact that Gowran Park puts on excellent jumps racing meetings during the autumn and winter.
Those in charge won’t stop there either. In the coming months and years there are more development plans for Gowran Park Racecourse, with an upgrade to the Weighing Room and surrounding areas as well as further developments to the bookmakers’ ring planned in.
There is no stopping Gowran at this point, and it would seem appropriate to see further Pattern races added to the Flat schedule here in the summer months.