The races at Laytown are completely unique.
Laytown Racecourse is laid out on the beach at Laytown in County Meath, Ireland, only when fixtures are scheduled and in fact is the only beach event run under the official Rules of Racing.
Racing has been taking place there since 1868, with the September fixture attracting great crowds and many TV viewers.
- Address – Laytown Strand Races, Strand Road, Layton, County Meath, Ireland.
- Owner – Laytown Race Committee Limited.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat.
- Surface – Beach (natural sand).
The races here take place on what otherwise is a typical public beach by the Irish Sea. There are no permanent facilities for racing and the track, the public enclosures and facilities for staff are erected for just one day every year and are dismantled as soon as racing is over.
There was a facility in the past for racing at Laytown over up to two miles, including a bend, but after an accident in 1994 major changes were needed. The track now is straight, accommodating races over only six and seven furlongs.
Field sizes are limited, while only the more experienced riders are allowed and headgear being forbidden. The track is seven furlongs in length, laid out on the beach when the tide is out.
Laytown was always described by jockeys as a nervy one to ride. Safety is now paramount, as it should be, though beach riding can ultimately be dangerous which affects how horses are ridden.
The beach can ride very firm, so while there is no direct correlation to turf going, those liking fast ground are more able to handle conditions. At the very least, punters can concentrate a little more on speed ratings and the clock rather than basic ratings or other form pointers.
The village of Laytown in County Meath gets understandably very busy for the racing fixture. Laytown looks out over the Irish Sea, making it quite idyllic, and is now synonymous with the races.
How to Get to Laytown
Getting to Laytown is simple enough by road. The beach is 46km away from Dublin to the north. From the Dublin area; take junction 7 off the M1 Dublin-Belfast, then follow the R132 towards Julianstown. Take the R150 to Laytown and follow the signs during race time.
The train station in Laytown is only a ten-minute walk to the races, providing another excellent link. The station welcomes arrivals from Drogheda and from Connolly Station in Dublin.
When the races are on, a free courtesy bus runs from Laytown Station at the roundabout near the end of the Tara Road, across to the races an hour before the first race is scheduled. It returns half an hour after the final race.
An ordinary bus service also operates. The coach from Dublin city centre up to Laytown leaves every half an hour, going directly to the enclosure. Alternatively, the D1 and D2 services depart Drogheda bus station every 15 minutes, going directly to the Race Field.
If you’re flying in to watch the races, then Dublin Airport is your best option. This is only 20 miles away and accessible via taxi, car rental or pre-arranged transfer.
Where to Stay
There are limited rooms in Laytown, though there are more in nearby Drogheda. Given the close proximity and easy links to and from Dublin however, the capital is no doubt the better place to stay over.
Laytown Races is one of the most intriguing, and certainly unique, sporting events in the world.
The famous September Laytown race meeting takes place on the beach, fully under proper racing rules. Though races can change over time, as of the September 2022 meeting these were the races on the schedule:
|Handicap (Rated 50-75)||4yo+||6f|
|Handicap (Rated 47-65)||4yo+||6f|
|Handicap (Rated 50-80)||4yo+||7f|
It goes without saying that Layout is the only event run on a public beach, yet under the Rules of Racing. This truly is a unique ‘racecourse’ and a unique event.
The racing is, naturally, Flat racing and takes place right on the County Meath strand. All races are over six and seven furlongs with facilities constructed for the event and dismantled once it is over.
Around 5,000 pack into the designated racecourse area to see this spectacle every year, with the September meeting drawing in big TV audiences too via Racing TV in Ireland and the UK.
The races at Laytown first started way back in 1868. Racing at that time was staged on the beach alongside the Boyne Regatta. The rowing competition was staged during high tide, while the racing took place when the tide receded.
At first, the horse racing was simply an add-on, a sideshow if you like to the boat regatta with races run only when the combination of high tide and low tide allowed for both events.
Laytown Races carried on during the latter part of the 19th century, on and off at least, though it is said that the local priest and the Bishop of Meath were opposed to it taking place.
When a new priest arrived in 1901, one who was in support of the races bringing the community together, the meeting thrived and went from strength to strength over the following decades.
Racing was suspended during the First World War, though resumed in 1919. Another break was needed, naturally, during WWII from 1942 to 1945 but was soon back as hostilities ended.
When we reached the 1950’s and 60’s, Laytown Races was used as an important stopping point for trainers looking to get their horses fit for the Galway Festival.
From then and until 1995, races at Laytown every year were run from five furlongs right up to two miles. A U-shaped turn was mapped out at Bettystown with a sweeping turn required before hitting the familiar finish, though after an accident that was scrapped with only six and seven-furlong races now allowed.
Though once considered a rather wild ride, many of the top jockeys in Ireland have shown up at Laytown and ridden winners.
Colin Keane, Declan McDonogh, Joseph O’Brien, Pat Smullen and Ruby Walsh have all scored at Laytown, along with leading amateurs Nina Carberry, Jamie Codd, Patrick Mullins, Derek O’Connor and Katie Walsh.