Saturday, 27 April 2019

Irish Racecourses: Limerick

Limerick racecourse, Ireland
Limerick Racecourse, a.k.a. Greenmount Park, is situated in Co. Limerick, in the Mid-West Region of Ireland, approximately five miles southwest of the county town, Limerick. The course was opened in 2001, as a replacement for the historic Greenpark Racecourse, nearer the city centre, which closed in 1999 after 130 years. 

Indeed, Limerick has the distinction of being the newest turf racecourse in the country and, nowadays, stages 18 Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year. Twilight meetings staged, under both codes, at Limerick Racecourse in May, June, July and August are extremely popular, but the annual highlight is the four-day Christmas Festival, which starts on St. Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day, and includes the Grade Two Greenmount Park Novice Chase. Other notable National Hunt races run at Limerick include the Munster National Handicap Chase, in October, Limerick E.B.F Mares’ Novice Hurdle and Dawn Run Mares Novices’ Chase, in March and the Dorans Pride Novice Hurdle, in April. On the Flat, the Listed Martin Molony Stakes, worth €26,550 to the winner, is the most valuable race of the season. Interestingly, the 2018 winner, Sir Erec, is currently favourite for the Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival. 

The steeplechase course at Limerick is a right-handed oval, approximately one mile and three furlongs in circumference, with seven fairly stiff fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The course is essentially galloping in character, but heading away from the stands runners must negotiate a fairly sharp turn into the back straight, which climbs steeply and features five fences, including two open ditches, in quick succession, before running downhill into the home turn. The home straight is three-furlongs long and slightly uphill for the last two furlongs, so jockeys must be wary of asking horses for an effort too soon on the downhill stretch. That caveat aside, the finish is, essentially, fairly easy, so horses granted an uncontested lead can be difficult to catch. 

On the Flat, front-runners are similarly favoured when the going is on the fast side, making it difficult to make up ground from off the pace. However, softer going places more emphasis on stamina and the early leaders regularly come back to the rest of the field.