Sligo Racecourse is a dual-purpose racing venue in the north west of Ireland, staging Flat and National Hunt racing from May through to October. It is one of the most scenic tracks in the country.
Racing at the current location has been ongoing since 1955, with its mountain views and ever-improving facilities making Sligo an increasingly popular venue for racegoers.
- Address – County Sligo Races, Cleveragh, County Sligo, Ireland.
- Owner – County Sligo Race Committee.
- TV Station – Racing TV.
- Type – Flat and National Hunt.
- Surface – Turf.
Sligo’s tracks are a nice, simple affair with the tight area being planted some residential areas and the Garvoge River.
The Flat track at Sligo is a tight, one-mile right-handed oval that undulates throughout. There is an uphill run to the straight of around two furlongs, but unsurprisingly for a course of this length Sligo tends to suit speedier types.
Flat Track Analysis
While it seems simple enough from a punter’s point of view, look for those with speed, riders at Sligo have fed back that this is a difficult one to navigate. The track is sharp for jockeys and the uphill finish is rather stiffer than we all give it credit for.
Riders are basically on the turn the entire time around, with some suggesting that while speed wins the day most times, so go off too quickly here while looking for an early position. It may pay then to look for horses with good speed figures, who can do it from the 3 to the 2 etc, rather than going for outright frontrunners.
Given its position close to the river and being set within a natural bowl, Sligo can get very heavy when the rain comes and so along with some tactical speed you will need a horse who can get through wet ground.
As with the Flat course, we’d describe the jumps circuit at Sligo as a sharp right-handed, one-mile undulating course.
There are just four hurdles on each circuit; one round the tight bend after the post, one round the back before another tight turn, one before the final turn for home and one on the short straight.
Chasers have five fences to negotiate, the extra one compared to the hurdles course being positioned before the obstacle placed before the turn from the back.
Given the nature of the track, the short straight and the position of the final hurdle/fence, getting into position before the final two furlongs is vital.
Jumps Track Analysis
The words that keep coming up with Sligo jockeys are “difficult” and “tricky”, with the National Hunt riders being no exception.
When the ground goes very soft here it is a hard one to get home on, despite its tight nature, though it can still be hard to make ground up on with the rain comes. Course specialist horses and/or jockeys are a bonus from a punting point of view.
With the views of horsemen taken into account, it could be said that a horse with good speed figures (tactical speed) is a good shout when the ground is good or quicker, while a frontrunner or handy type who is proven on soft ground is best on a rain-softened surface.
Visiting Sligo Racecourse
If you’re heading to Sligo Races you can buy tickets online in advance, or at the turnstiles when you arrive. One brilliant thing for modern day racing is that there is no dress code at Sligo.
How to Get to Sligo
Once you’re in the Sligo area, the racecourse is well signposted.
From Donegal, head south down the N15. The journey is around 66km. From Omagh, use the N3 going over the border and then the N15 south as before. The track is 67km away.
From Roscommon head north using the N61, N5 and N4 (82km) and from Galway you can drive north up the N17 with the track being 140km away.
If you’re staying in Dublin or are using Dublin Airport, head along the N4 pretty much all the way. Sligo Racecourse is 215km away.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of hotel rooms, B&B’s and rental properties around Sligo so there is no need to stay outside of the area. Taxies are abundant so wherever you stay you’ll be able to make it to the track no problem.
Sligo’s Best Races
Here are the best of the races from each of Sligo’s popular yearly race meetings, some of which are themed:
|Race||Type/Grade||Distance||Flat or Jumps||Month||Meeting|
|EBF Fillies’ Handicap||3yo+, Fillies Only, Handicap||1m2½f||Flat||May||Peaky Blinders Day|
|Median Auction Maiden||3yo Only, Maiden Stakes||1m2½f||Flat||May||Young at Heart Day|
|Median Auction Race||3yo+, Auction Race||6f||Flat||June||June Race Day|
|Fillies and Mares Handicap||3yo+, Fillies & Mares, Handicap||6f||Flat||June||June Race Day|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||2m1f||Jumps||July||Family Day|
|Connacht Oaks||3yo+, Fillies, Handicap||1m2f||Flat||August||Diageo Day|
|EBF Auction Series Maiden||2yo Only, Maiden||5½f||Flat||August||Diageo Day|
|Rated Novice Hurdle||4yo+, Novice Hurdle||2m2f||Jumps||August||Ladies Day|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||2m4f||Jumps||August||Ladies Day|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||3m1½f||Jumps||August||The Hats Are On Day|
|Frank O’Beirne Memorial Handicap Chase||4yo+, Handicap Chase||2m1f||Jumps||September||Steeplechase Day|
|Handicap Hurdle||4yo+, Handicap Hurdle||3m1½f||Jumps||October||Sligo Live|
Sligo Racecourse’s History
Racing has been staged at a number of venues around County Sligo for as long as anyone can remember, or even comprehend.
The earliest meeting under official Turf Club rules was at Bowmore in September 1781. The meet in fact was a four-day racing festival and after that, racing continued each year at Bowmore until into the 1840’s.
After some time without official racing, a new course became available at Hazelwood close to Sligo Town. The first meeting there was on April 16, 1873 with five races taking place. When the land was unavailable in 1886, the Committee chose to return to Bowmore where they remained for another twelve years.
Racing did go back to Hazelwood in 1898 and remained there until 1942, only stopping during World War I. The loss of this venue meant Sligo races was struggling to keep going.
Modern Day Sligo
A new permanent venue had to be found after Hazelwood, the Committee looking at several possibilities.
A return to the old Bowmore course was briefly considered alongside other venues, before eventually they plumped for some land at Cleveragh Demesne which has been bought from the Wood-Martin family by Sligo Corporation.
The area identified as being potentially suitable for racing had been known as the Pump Field, the race committee then approaching the Corporation with a view to taking over the land.
An approval of the site was also needed by the Irish racing authorities who did just that in 1949 after a number of inspections. Following this, the Corporation made the land available on a long-term lease with the Sligo Race Committee taking over its running.
After that point, the venue at Cleveragh was a hit and racing has continued every year since 1955. Many changes have been made since then of course, both the track itself and to the facilities.
In October of 2015, there was more good news. Horse Racing Ireland’s board decided that, under the Racecourse Capital Development scheme, Sligo Racecourse would be granted close to €800,000 for a series of upgrades. That figures helps to boost the near €1.9 million the committee intends to spend on modernising the venue.