The Irish Grand National – Your Guide To Racing At Fairyhouse

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Mark Walsh Fairyhouse

With less than a month to go, until this year’s Irish Grand National, here is a quick guide to racing at Fairyhouse – the racecourse that stages this famous encounter.

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Fairyhouse Racecourse

Fairyhouse ranks among the most important racecourses in the whole of the Irish Republic. It is tucked away in a place called Ratoath, which is in County Meath.

Racing has been taking place at Fairyhouse, since the middle of the 19th-century. The Irish Grand National has been held here for the vast majority of that time – it was first run in 1870.

As for the racetrack, the circuit is just over 1m 6f. It runs right-handed. There is an uphill straight and the run in is approximately 2.5 furlongs.

Famous Fairyhouse Horses

Many of the very best horses have graced the turf at Fairyhouse. These include Persian War, Prince Regent and Desert Orchid. L’Escargot was also trained here.

While steeped in tradition, Fairyhouse is very much a state-of-the-art racing venue and the main stands were only constructed relatively recently.

The Irish Grand National is run over 3m 5f – a slightly shorter distance than its English equivalent. The purse is worth a quarter-of-a-million euros and horses must be at least 5 years of age. 24 fences have to be negotiated. As with the Aintree Grand National, this is a handicap. The race takes place every year, on Easter Monday.

Sir Robert Peel was the first horse to win it and the vast majority of early victors were trained at the Curragh. Many Dubliners would make a day of it at Fairyhouse, on Easter Monday.

The Irish/English Double

There have been several horses that have won both the English and the Irish Grand National. Strangely, none have ever managed to win both in the same year. Brown Lad is the most successful runner in the history of the Irish Grand National. He won it three times in the mid-1970s.

Pat Taaffe is the most successful jockey. His six wins came in the 1950s and 1960s and included Royal Approach, Umm, Zonda, Fortria, Flyingbolt and the legendary Arkle. Most of those wins were on horses trained by Tom Dreaper. He is the most successful trainer in the race’s history, having won the race on no less than ten occasions.

Notable recent winners of the Irish Grand National include Bobbyjo, Commanche Court, Numbersixvalverde, Hear The Echo, Organisedconfusion, Lion Na Bearnai, Liberty Counsel, Shutthefrontdoor and Thunder And Roses. Rogue Angel landed the spoils, in 2016.

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Desert Orchid

The great Desert Orchid won in 1990, although that horse never took part in the English Grand National. It was feared that he would be at risk of injury at the Canal Turn, which involves a sharp left-handed swing immediately after a testing fence.

If you have the chance to go to Fairyhouse, on April 17th, make sure that you take it! It’s a superb course and the National makes for an amazing spectacle.

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