March 22, 2020

Fairyhouse Racecourse: Home of the Irish Grand National

Last month, on this tour of Irish Racecourses I was up in the north of Ireland at Downpatrick. This month I’m heading south to Fairyhouse, the home of the Irish Grand National

As before, I will begin by looking briefly at the track’s location, history, configuration before highlighting some significant track stats.

History and Location

Fairyhouse one of Ireland's best racecourses, located close to Ratoath in County Meath and just over 23 km from Dublin.

The first race meeting at the present course took place in 1848.  That meeting was a point to point run by the Ward Union Hunt. However, within a decade it had become a fully-fledged National Hunt racecourse. With the first running of the Irish Grand National took place in 1870 and was won by horse named Sir Robert Peel.

The race has provided some exciting finishes over the years and tremendous stories. In 1929 Frank Wise won the race on his own horse Alike, despite have a wooden leg and missing three fingers.

Legendary trainer Tom Dreaper saddled the Irish Grand National winner on ten occasions during his training career, including seven races on the trot between 1960 & 1966. With 1964 race being won by the mighty Arkle. That’s a record that I doubt will ever be beaten.

In 1990 the English trained Desert Orchid defied top weight of 12-0 to win the race. Despite being an English trained winner ‘Dessie’s’ win one of the most popular of recent years.

The 1998 winner Bobbyjo, trained by Tommy Carberry, went on to win the 1999 Aintree Grand National. And the 2005 winner Numbersixvalverde, trained by Martin Brassil, also went on to win the following years Aintree Grand National.

Since the start of the new century there have been four English trained winners of the Irish Grand National. The last of which was the Jonjo O’Neill trained Shutthefrontdoor in 2014.

The Irish Grand National is run every Easter Monday and is part of the three-day Fairyhouse Easter festival.  In 2020 for the first time in recent year’s festival will run from Saturday 11th April through to Monday 13th April (subject to Coronavirus restrictions)

Many of the track’s biggest races, including the Grade 1 Ryanair Gold Cup, take place at the Easter Festival. Outside that meeting there is the Fairyhouse Winter Festival which takes place in late November/early December and plays host to three Grade 1 races, including Drinmore Novice Chase & Royal Bond Novice Hurdle.

The course holds around 20 fixtures each calendar year, with most of them being over jumps but there are also a very small number of flat fixtures each summer.

For those coming by car Fairyhouse racecourse is easily accessible from Dublin. 

For those coming by public transport for the Easter Festival. There are special buses going from the centre of Dublin, for all three days of the Easter Festival.

There’s also a shuttle bus that will pick up passengers coming from Dublin Connolly Railway Station by train at M3 Parkway Station and a special bus from Belfast to Fairyhouse on Easter Monday for the Irish Grand National.

On other race days the best way to get the track from Dublin is by Bus Eireann which provides a special bus service from the Central Bus Station on race days. It departs Dublin 90 minutes before the first race and returns after the last race.

The quickest way to get from Dublin to Fairyhouse Racecourse is to taxi which costs 40€ – 55€ and takes around 35 mins.

Track Configuration

The racetrack is a 1m 6 f right-handed galloping circuit, with a 3f furlong straight and a slight uphill finish.

Turf Flat Course

The flat track suits prominently ridden horses. Over the 6f & 7f distances a low draw can be a real problem for hold-up horses

Hurdles Course

Chase Course

The jumps track is wide galloping but fair track. Horses can win from the front or after being held up. Despite the slight uphill finish in the straight the run in from the last isn’t too long so you don’t want your horse to be too far behind at the last.

The wideness of the chase track means there are few hard luck stories. The fences are some of the stiffest in Ireland and will inevitably find out dodgy jumpers.

Fairyhouse Key Stats

Let’s begin by looking at some general stats at the racecourse including clear favourites, winning odds and wins at the track. The stats below are from Jan 1st, 2015 to the time of writing (07/03/20) and cover all jump meetings at the course.

Once again, I am using the ever reliable www.horseracebase.com for all the stats.

The results below contain 600 winners from 7015 runners 1722 placed

National Hunt

Favourites

Clear favourites have produced the following set of results:

  • 212 winners from 556 runners = 38% -£37.11 A/E = 0.95 382 placed 68 %.

Breaking those results down into handicap & non-handicap races gives us:

  • Non-handicaps – 169 winners from 370 runners = 46% -£0.65 A/E = 0.99 274 placed 74%.
  • Handicaps – 43 winners from 195 runners = 22% -£36.46 A/E = 0.81 108 placed 55%.

Summary: Non-handicap favourites are doing slightly better than the Irish average for the race type (45%) at Fairyhouse.

General Stats – National Hunt

Odds SP: 14/1 & above

  • 68 winners from 3794 runners = 2% -£2,236 A/E = 0.51 365 placed 9%.

Summary: Runners sent off 12/1 & under are favoured. Those 14/1 & bigger have won just 2% of all National Hunt races at the track. Once again, big priced winners win races here but it’s a very small pool that punters are fishing in.

Wins at Track: 1+

  • 102 winners from 816 runners = 13% -£204.91 A/E = 0.87 267 placed 33%

Summary: Fairyhouse isn’t a really a ‘horses for course’ track and those runners with 1+ course wins are performing 13% below market expectations.

Flat

Clear favourites have produced the following set of results:

Favourites

  • 47 winners from 176 runners = 27% -£33.38 A/E = 0.75 109 placed 62%

Breaking those results down into handicap & non-handicap races gives us:

  • Non-handicaps – 25 winners from 95 runners = 26% -£34.19 A/E = 0.61 63 placed 66%
  • Handicaps – 22 runners 80 runners = 28% +£0.81 A/E = 1.02 46 placed 58%

Summary: Rather surprisingly non handicap clear favourites are not doing well and have been performing 39% below market expectations.  In fact, handicap favourites have a better win strike rate which you don’t often see.

General Stats – Flat

Odds SP: 14/1 & above

  • 21 winners from 1078 = 2% -£596  A/E = 0.49 placed 10%

Wins at Track: 1+

  • 14 winners from 98 runners = 14% +£1.5 A/E = 1.02 30 placed 31%

Summary: Previous course winners here on the flat are performing better than their National Hunt counterparts and are probably worth closer inspection.

Trainer to Note

Given Fairyhouse is one of Ireland’s premier jumps track’s you would expect that winning races here is tough and so it is, with the winners being spread around the training community.

Padraig Roche – Padraig Roche is a relatively new to the training ranks but already has a good record with his National Hunt runners at Fairyhouse.

  • 7 winners from 18 runners 39% A/E 2.36 9 placed 50%.

Providing his backers with a £23.50 profit to a £1 level stake.

Given that record, his runners at the upcoming Easter Festival will be worth more than a second look, albeit the competition will be much stiffer.

I hope you enjoyed this brief look at Fairyhouse racecourse. Next month, I will be looking at the home of the Irish Flat Classic’s Curragh racecourse.

Until next time

John Burke

Featured Image -  (CC BY 4.0) - https://www.flickr.com/photos/113417287@N08/

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