Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Irish Racecourse: Kilbeggan

Irish Racecourse: KilbegganKilbeggan Racecourse – billed as “The Heart of Ireland, the Soul of Racing” – is situated in the town of the same name in Co. Westmeath, in the Midlands Region of central Ireland, approximately 13 miles from the county town, Mullingar. Utilised only during the summer months and mainly in the evening, Kilbeggan stages eight National Hunt fixtures a year, between April and September. 

The undisputed highlight of the Kilbeggan calendar is the Midlands National Handicap Chase, staged in July each year and worth €50,000 in added prize money. Run over 3 miles 1 furlong, the Midlands National is not only a recognised trial for the Galway Plate, but forms the centrepiece of what has become the most successful summer race meeting in Ireland, aside from the Irish Derby Meeting at the Curragh and, of course, the Galway Festival. 

 The steeplechase course at Kilbeggan is a right-handed, undulating circle, about one mile and a furlong in circumference, with six fences to a circuit and a short, 300-yard run-in. The run-in is uphill, but the turns – especially the turn into the home straight after the second-last fence – are sharp, to the disadvantage of big, long-striding types or dour, one-paced, staying types. The hurdle course, which is laid out, concentrically, inside the steeplechase course, features just five hurdles a circuit and is sharper still. 

Horses that tend to do well at Kilbeggan are agile, nippy and well-balanced types, who like to race on, or close to, the pace; unless the early pace is frenetic, horses that are held up may have little or no chance to make up the required ground. Especially on the very tight hurdle track, runners are constantly on the turn which, together with the undulations, may suit certain temperamental types, who would otherwise lose interest.

In common with other idiosyncratic racecourses, Kilbeggan has more than its fair share of course specialists. Recent examples of Kilbeggan course specialists include Supreme Vinnie, trained by Denise Marie O’Shea, who has recorded two of his three wins over hurdles at Kilbeggan, Net D’Ecosse, formerly trained by Noel Meade, who has won once and finished second and third – third in the Midlands National – from three visits to the course and Conrad Hastings, trained by Henry De Bromhead, who has won two of his three starts over fences at Kilbeggan and finished third on the other.


Having Fun at Kilbeggan Racing