Ireland is swimming in interesting tales and folklore. From Druids and gods to noblemen, queens and knights. But what do they all have in common? Besides the rolling hills of Ireland, there is one beast that has stood by their side – the horse. Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding history dates back centuries and is an integral feature in Irish culture and history.
From working and riding, to racing, ploughing and battles, this versatile creature has truly earned its place in the Irish history books.
Way back when
From even before the 16th Century, Irish people have been renowned for connection with horses. With it’s deep, agricultural past, horses have been the work companion of choice for many generations.
In the days of dukes and earls, horses were imported from Wales and France for nobles and the upper-class population, and were regarded as prized possessions, coveted by many nobles across Europe. This brought about the trend of nobles breeding their own equestrian lines.
Once the Irish started breeding horses for racing, the foals and bloodstock quickly became coveted by horse owners across Europe. Today, they are the largest producer of thoroughbreds in Europe.
Ireland has the ideal environment to breed horses: rich soils, a perfect climate and generations of working with the creatures, ensures that, to this day, the thoroughbreds that stem from Irish mares and steeds are hard-working and can race alongside the best of the best.
In fact, many of the greatest racing stallions were sired from Irish stock, including the Byerley Turk from the Emerald Isle, who is considered one of the three foundational stallions in racing. Other leading breeders in Ireland today include:
- HH the Aga Khan’s Studs
- Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms
Be close to the action
Some historic manuscripts date evidence of horseracing in Ireland as far back as the 3rd Century, but the first hard evidence stems from 1603, in the form of a document permitting the governor of Derry to host fairs and markets where people could race horses.
Today, horse racing is still a lucrative business, as well as a hobby and sport enjoyed by an international audience. From breeding to racing, undoubtedly some of the greatest names in racing history have stemmed from Ireland, including:
- Giant’s Causeway
- New Approach
- Invincible Spirit
Ireland has 26 racecourses in total, each of which boast an itinerary that’s filled with exciting events that range from miles, middle distances, furlongs and marathons.
Navan Racecourse in County Meath also hosts the annual National Hunt, which boasts two disciplines, namely hurdles and steeplechases. Having originated in Ireland, it’s an impressive race that is considered a highlight of the racing calendar.
A Day at the races
If thoroughbred horseracing and breeding history is your hobby or passion, consider a trip to Navan Racecourse or one of the many other tracks in Ireland. Best of all, you can turn your interest into a holiday by booking yourself into the Newgrange Hotel. With the race course and the hotel situated just under two miles from each other, you can spend the day at the races and rest comfortably in the evenings in luxurious accommodation.
Whether you’re a trainer, horse owner, a jockey or simply a horseracing enthusiast, join in on the fun and have a day at the races.
Be sure to check your preferred upcoming race fixtures and book your stay at Newgrange today.