Thursday 9 May 2019

Irish Racecourses: Tipperary

Tipperary Racecourse is situated in the village of Limerick Junction, approximately three miles northwest of Tipperary town centre, in Co. Tipperary, in the South East Region of Ireland. Indeed, until the name was officially changed in 1986, the racecourse was known as Limerick Junction Racecourse. 

Tipperary Racecourse stages a total of eleven Flat and National Hunt fixtures, more than half of which are evening meetings, between April and October each year. The seasonal highlight, though, is the last meeting of the season, which commences on the first Sunday in October, known as ‘Super Sunday’. A mixed meeting, featuring Flat and National Hunt racing on the same card, Super Sunday includes the Grade Two Istabraq Hurdle – named after triple winner Istabraq, who won the race three years running in 1997, 1998 and 1999, en route to winning the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival the following March – and the Group Three Concorde Stakes. 

Tipperary also has the distinction of being the nearest racecourse to the town of Cashel, home of Ballydoyle Racing Stables, such that horses that went on to become household names, including High Chaparral and Dylan Thomas, to name but two, won their maidens at the course en route to better things. It’s also worth noting that, in the last five seasons, Aidan O’Brien, the current ‘Master of Ballydoyle’ has a 16-43 (37%) strike rate with his two-year-olds at Tipperary. The steeplechase course at Tipperary is a left-handed, predominantly flat, oval, approximately one mile and a furlong in circumference, with six, moderately stiff, fences to a circuit and a run-in of approximately one furlong. The hurdle course is laid out outside the steeplechase track and features five flights of hurdles to a circuit. 

Tipperary is essentially sharp in character, with a two-and-a-half furlong home straight, which favours horses who race prominently. Like certain other Irish courses, such as Listowel and Sligo, the ground at Tipperary can become especially testing and holding.

The flat course is similarly sharp, making it difficult, but not impossible, to make up ground from off the pace, especially when the going is on the soft side. Sprint races, over five furlongs, start on a chute at the top of the home straight, but little or no draw bias exists, except on soft going, when horses drawn high can take advantage of less testing ground on the stands’ side. The five-furlong course is, in fact, one of the fastest in Ireland. In races over 7½ furlongs, horses must negotiate a left-hand bend shortly after the start, so a low draw is advantageous.