Tuesday 21 May 2019

Irish Racecourses: Sligo

Sligo Racecourse is situated less than mile-and-a-half from the centre of Sligo, the county town of County Sligo, in the Border Region of Ireland. The racecourse, in its current guise, was built at Cleveragh, or Cleveragh Demesne, on land purchased by Sligo Borough Council from the Wood-Martin Family in the Forties – originally for use as a public park – and staged its first fixture in August 1955. 

Nowadays, Sligo plays host to eight Flat and National Hunt fixtures each year, between May and October, with a two-day meeting staged on consecutive weekdays in August –which includes the Guinness Sligo Handicap Hurdle, worth €11,500 to the winner –typically proving most popular. The second day of that fixture features evening racing, as do three more fixtures in May, June and August, making Sligo Racecourse an appealing venue for local people, holidaymakers and visiting dignitaries, or so it would seem. In 2015, the Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, spent an evening at Sligo Racecourse during their four-day official visit to Ireland. 

The steeplechase course at Sligo is a right-handed, narrow, undulating oval, a little over a mile in circumference, with five, moderately stiff fences to a circuit and a two-furlong, uphill run-in. The course lies in a natural amphitheatre which, combined with the soil composition, can produce extraordinarily testing, holding ground, in which it is difficult to come from off the pace. The course is on the turn most of the way, too, and its idiosyncratic nature often produces course specialists, with enough tactical pace to race prominently, but enough stamina to cope with the uphill finish. The flat course similarly favours horses that race prominently, but beware races in which several horses like to race on, or close to, the pace; they may ‘cut each other’s throats’ in the early stages and set the race up for something coming from behind. On any of the courses at Sligo, the previous form is a major positive.