Saturday, 23 March 2019

Irish Racecourses: Thurles

Irish Racecourses: Thurles
Thurles Racecourse is situated less than a mile from Thurles town centre, in County Tipperary, in the Shannon Region of Ireland. Thurles is, in fact, one of three racecourses in County Tipperary, but unlike Clonmel and Tipperary, a.k.a. Limerick Junction exclusively stages National Hunt racing. Thurles also has the distinction of being the only privately-owned racecourse in Ireland, having been in the Molony Family for at least four generations since 1911. 

Thurles Racecourse stages eight National Hunt fixtures between October and March. Notable races include the Grade Two Analog's Daughter Mares Novice Chase, run over 2 miles 4½ furlongs in January, and the Grade Two Kinloch Brae Chase, run over the same distance in late January or early February. In recent years, two winners of the Kinloch Brae Chase, Don Cossack in 2016 and Sizing John in 2017, have gone on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup. 

The steeplechase course at Thurles is a right-handed, undulating oval, approximately a mile and a quarter in circumference, with seven, moderately stiff, fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The course rises steeply throughout the back straight but falls, equally steeply, towards the final bend and the two-furlong home straight, in which the final two fences are situated. On the whole, the course is sharp in character, favouring horses that race on, or close to the pace, although those who do too much in the back straight may pay for their exertions later on. 

Above anything else, Thurles is renowned for its extraordinarily free draining soil which, even in the depths of the Irish winter, rarely becomes very testing and is almost always raceable. Thurles has received almost universal praise for its ground conditions, with trainers safe in the knowledge that they will not overface young, inexperienced horses, while the steep hill in the back straight provides useful insight for those heading to the Cheltenham Festival.