Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in Ireland. Close to 1.3 million people attend the races in person every year in Ireland. The biggest events bring in crowds in the hundreds of thousands, and are some of the biggest on the international stage. Today, we’re going to look at a couple of the biggest horse racing events in Ireland, from the Derby to the Championship Stakes.
Let’s get started.
- Irish Derby
Doubtless the biggest horse racing event on the Irish calendar is the Irish Derby. It is a Grioup 1 flat horse race, run at the Curragh over a mile and four furlongs—or around 2,400 metres. It typically takes place in Late June or early July. Its considered the Irish version of the Epsom Derby.
It was first run in 1866, and is today open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. The prize purse sits at a substantial €1,000,000. Of that enormous purse, roughly €580,000 goes to the winner. If there was any Irish horse racing event you were going to see, make it this one. It brings in the biggest talent the country has to offer.
- Irish Champion Stakes
Not quite as old as the Derby, having been started only back in 1976, the Champion Stakes are another of the big Irish horse racing events. It’s another Group 1 flat horse race, though open to a wider range of horses—any over the age of three. It usually takes place in September.
It is run at Leopardstown, and the distance of the race is a bit shorter, at 1 mile and two furlongs. Horses running this race have achieved international fame, such as the horses Stanerra and Piludski who won the Japanese cup in the same year they won this tournament.
- Irish Oaks
Originally established in 1895, the race was at first run over a distance of precisely one mile. By 1915, that length was extended to 1 mile and 4 furlongs, as it is also, like the Derby, run at the Curragh. The total prize purse is usually €500,000, with an enormous €290,000 going to the ride that secures first place.
It is open only to three-year-old fillies, and very often the leading participants of the Oaks go on to compete in the Yorkshire Oaks, held a few months later. Snowfall, in 2021, managed to achieve victory in both events.
You don’t have to go far to find a big horse racing event in Ireland, then. Without doubt, these events are the biggest annual horse racing events, but there are countless more to speak of. One thing is for certain: horse racing will remain a popular pastime in Ireland for many generations to come.