Saturday, 30 March 2019

Irish Racecourses: Navan

Irish Racecourses: Navan
Navan Racecourse, a.k.a. Proudstown Park is situated in the townland of Proudstown, approximately three miles north of Navan town centre, in County Meath, in eastern Ireland. Navan stages 17 Flat and National Hunt fixtures throughout the year but is probably better known for the latter. 

Notable races ‘over the sticks’ at Navan include the Grade Two Boyne Hurdle, run in February, the Grade Two Fortria Chase and the Grade Three Monksfield Novice Hurdle, both run in November, and the Grade Two Navan Novice Hurdle – which, between 2004 and 2014, was a Grade One contest – run in December. On the Flat, Group Three Vintage Crop Stakes staged in late April or early May, is the most valuable race of the season, worth €60,000 in added prize money. Named in honour of the first European-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup, the Vintage Crop Stakes is a recognised trial for the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot; in recent years, Yeats, Fame And Glory, Leading Light and Order Of St. George, all trained by Aidan O’Brien, have won both races. 

The steeplechase course at Navan is a left-handed, undulating, rectangle, approximately a mile and a half in extent, with nine, fairly stiff fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The fourth-last fence, an open ditch, is directly followed by the turn into the home straight, which features three more plain fences. The hurdle course is laid out inside the steeplechase track and features seven hurdles to a circuit. The course is essentially galloping in character, but the uphill climb from the final bend, which is three-and-a-half furlongs from the winning post, provides one of the stiffest finishes in the country. In the depths of winter, soft or heavy going can make conditions very testing indeed, so Navan is no place for horses with doubtful stamina. 

The flat course, like the steeplechase course, offers no hiding place in terms of stamina, but similarly offers plenty of room for manoeuvre and is renowned as one of the fairest in Ireland. Sprint races are run on a straight course, which joins the round course at the top of the home straight, but horses can win from any position on either track and little, or no, draw bias exists.