A source of pride for County Kerry is Listowel Racecourse, a popular Flat and National Hunt venue in Ireland.
The current track is very close to the town, making it easy for visitors, opened way back in 1858 and has a very rich horse racing history.
- Address – Listowel Racecourse, 13 William Street, Listowel, County Kerry, Ireland.
- Owner – Listowel Racecourse.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Listowel races throughout the year as a dual-purpose venue. It pays to know the quirks and intricacies of each course, as given the nature of racing in Britain and Ireland, every venue is different and suits certain types of horses.
Listowel is left-handed and sharp, only around a mile and one furlong round. The run-in is about two furlongs and so in that sense it is similar to Chester, meaning balance is key and speed really plays a part.
Races over a mile, seven furlongs and six furlongs begin on the back straight with the bend coming up very quickly over six, meaning a low draw is a great advantage. There is a chute just after the winning line for races starting over one mile, one furlong.
Keep an eye on whatever reliable speed figures you prefer to use, as these will be crucial on good ground or faster at Listowel.
Flat Track Analysis
Jockeys, naturally, report Listowel to be sharp and tight. There are undulations which aren’t spotted easily via TV, with trainers and jockeys often preferring the track when it’s soft as it naturally slows horses down and levels the playing field somewhat.
Again, similar to Chester, when the ground is soft stamina is needed despite the layout of the track, so last-minute bets when certain of the ground/weather are the way to go.
When the ground is fast, jockeys agree that this place is all about speed. The ability to jump out, get near the front, have a turn of pace and ideally be low drawn will all be helpful to a horse at Listowel.
As is the case with the Flat track, the jumps course is very sharp indeed and is seen as being basically level.
Left-handed, Listowel is only 1¼ miles around which is tricky for some jumpers, with speed once again coming to the fore unless ground conditions are particularly testing.
Each circuit of the chase track contains five fences, two being in the short home straight coming up in under two furlongs, leaving a run-in after the last of only 200 yards.
Given the need to jump quickly in the straight and with the emphasis being on speed, you’ll need a horse with good balance and a good mind.
Jumps Track Analysis
While we see Listowel as simply being a tight track, jockeys have reported that it can ride differently at times. There are different tracks that can be used, meaning different levels of tightness around the bends.
When the rain comes, that need for speed over jumps is negated. In fact, many horses don’t see things out at Listowel and so when it comes up genuinely soft, it’s actually stamina you should be on the lookout for according to jockeys.
The fences are reportedly rather stiff, so in deeper ground and with some quick thinking needed, a solid jumper is required as others can come a cropper around here.
Visiting Listowel Racecourse
County Kerry is a lovely part of the world, with Listowel Racecourse being only one site worth visiting.
How to Get to Listowel Racecourse
The racecourse sits 16 miles north of Tralee. It is also 50 miles to the west of Limerick, so is within reach of other major towns and cities.
The closest airport to fly into is Shannon. From there, drivers should take the road from Limerick to Tarbert. From Limerick, take the road from Tarbert to Listowel. The track is signposted well and is very close to the centre of Listowel.
The train service from Dublin’s Heuston Station in the direction of Tralee is regular, while there are also services connecting Listowel with Limerick and Kerry Airport.
Listowel Racecourse is within walking distance of the town centre, though three of its entrances have car parking too with gates off Grenville Road, off the N69 and off Bridge Road.
Where to Stay
Given the drive from other major towns and the fact that the racecourse is so close to the town, simply look for a hotel, B&B or rental property within Listowel or very close by.
Major Events at Listowel
While racing takes place all year over both codes, Listowel’s biggest meeting is their Harvest Festival. Initially known as the Kerry Hunt Steeplechase Meeting, the Harvest Festival is staged every September.
The festival is run over seven days, Sunday to Saturday, with races staged over both Flat and jumps. It is the last of Ireland’s major summer festivals to take place, with only the Galway Festival beating it for attendance numbers.
The Kerry National
During the Harvest Festival the biggest and most valuable race to be run is the famous Kerry National.
Staged on the Wednesday, the National is run over three miles and is worth a cool €200,000. It has been won in the past by some fine staying chasers, none better than Monty’s Pass who also took the Grand National at Aintree.
About Listowel Racecourse
We can go all the way back to the early part of the 19th century to find the origins of horse racing at Listowel. Back then, there was an annual gathering at Ballyeigh which is some nine miles away from the town.
In those days, horse racing was just one feature of the meeting with other games being included. It helped to introduce professional horse racing as a major pastime in the area, the racecourse at the current site being built in 1858 and going from strength to strength.
It took until 1957 for the first concrete stand to be built for racegoers, just a year before Listowel Racecourse celebrated its centenary.
In 1966 Listowel the track began hosting its Spring Meetings, with one racing day in March and another two in April.
In 1970, the Festival meeting was extended for the first time to four days, moving up to five days by 1977. Just three years later the Hannon stand was opened as the racecourse continued to upgrade facilities, and in 1987 the Listowel Races Supporters Club was formed.
The New Hugh Friel Stand was opened to the public in 1998, then in 2002 the Festival Meeting was extended further to its current length of seven days.
With the spring dates a thing of the past, the first June Bank Holiday Meeting was introduced in 2005, while in 2008 there were celebrations to mark the track’s 150th anniversary.