This June, racing enthusiasts from near and far will flock to Downpatrick Racecourse for its ‘Festival of Racing’, an exciting two-day event taking place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June that will offer an abundance of exhilarating races, popular style competitions with fantastic prizes up for grabs, and ultimately, great craic to be enjoyed by all.
Ahead of this highly anticipated celebration of racing, Dufferin Coaching Inn recently caught up with racecourse manager, Richard Lyttle, to discuss what makes Downpatrick Racecourse a must-visit attraction in our local area!
What amenities does Downpatrick Racecourse offer its guests?
The racecourse is set in the idyllic countryside of County Down and makes for a brilliant day out whether you are a racing fan or new to the sport. Our top-class facilities and warm welcome are renowned across Ireland and have won us awards in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Just one mile from the historic town of Downpatrick, a race meeting at Downpatrick Racecourse is the perfect way to experience local life and enjoy an exciting sport at which the Irish are the best in the world.
Downpatrick Racecourse’s modern facilities can be enjoyed by everyone from large groups to small parties and individuals. Our superb hospitality suite seats 400 and private boxes can also be booked for groups of 10 people or more, allowing a special experience. In addition, a wide range of public bars and function rooms can cater for any event or function you may be thinking of holding.
Throughout the season we host various themed race days, including a Family Day in July and Ladies Day in August. The two-day ‘Festival of Racing’ is our June highlight!
What attracted you to the world of horse racing and what do you enjoy most about the sport?
Horse racing is one of the most exciting and dramatic sports in the world. Having previously been involved in equestrian sports, moving into racing was a logical switch and I have greatly enjoyed my years as a Racecourse Manager, first at Navan Racecourse and now at Downpatrick. We have big plans and I hope to see Downpatrick Racecourse continue to flourish in the years ahead.
Who are some of your all-time favourite jockeys?
Northern Ireland has produced some of the best jump jockeys of all time, including the likes of Tony McCoy and Richard Dunwoody. They would definitely be at the top of my list, even if they are now retired from the saddle. In terms of jockeys still riding, Davy Russell is at the top of his game and also has a great record at Downpatrick.
What sets apart Northern Ireland’s horse racing scene from other areas in the world?
Though there are 26 racecourses on the entire island of Ireland, there are only 2 in Northern Ireland - Downpatrick Racecourse and Down Royal. The old Downpatrick course is in fact the oldest racecourse in Ireland, where racing was first held in 1685. What sets us apart is our uniquely challenging track set in the rolling countryside of County Down, our friendly atmosphere, and our sense of fun. Racing at Downpatrick is like nowhere else and our race days always live long in the memory!
What will the Festival of Racing involve?
From a series of exciting races perfect for the punters, to glamorous style competitions for ladies and gents and lots of fun for the little ones, our Festival of Racing certainly has something for everyone. On Saturday 16th June there will be live music after racing from The Iconettes, the Motown Divas of Northern Ireland and on Sunday 17th June, Ritchie Remo, one of Ireland’s best Country acts, will take centre stage.
Kids will enjoy our special activities on Saturday 16th June, which will include face painting, kids’ races and show jumping (on foot), bouncy castles, and more!
For the fashion-conscious, there will be four style competitions held across the two day festival. Saturday will feature the ‘AJC Group Winner Alright Ladies Upstyle Hair Competition’ and the ‘Downpatrick Racecourse Most Stylish Hat and Accessories Competition’. On Sunday, guests have the chance to impress the judges in the ‘Rekorderlig Cider Most Appropriately Dressed Lady Competition’ and the ‘Hannontravel.ie Best Dressed Gentleman Competition’. The winners and runners-up in of each of our four categories will receive prizes on the day, as well as ‘Golden Tickets’ into the Finals at Ladies Day on 27th August, where fabulous trips to Vienna, Nice, Thailand, and a 7-Day Cruise can be won.
Looking for love? World-famous matchmaker Willie Daly from Lisdoonvarna, County Clare will also be on site working his magic. Having made 3,000 matches in his 50 years, Willie is an expert at finding the key to people’s hearts
For dads who love the horses, we’re offering an Ultimate Father’s Day package on Sunday 17th June. An exclusive offer limited to 20 places, this £80 +VAT pre-booked package includes complimentary early morning breakfast, stable yard and weighroom tour, course walk, private tips with Cheltenham Gold Cup-winning trainer Noel Chance, photo shoot with Jockeys and Pamela Ballantine, Racecourse Admission, Race card, £5 bet voucher, prosecco, a light luncheon with dessert and tea / coffee, reserved table in Festival Suite, and access to the Ritchie Remo Country Concert after Racing! Along with our Vintage Car Display and Coors sampling, this is certain to bring a smile to his face!
How can guests book their tickets for the event?
Guests can easily book via our website or by phoning our office at 028 4461 2054. There are various types of tickets available: General Admission, Hospitality, DownTime Lounge Admission, Punters Packs, and the Ultimate VIP Father’s Day package. See the website for further details.
Any tips for those placing bets over the two-day event?
Horses with form at Downpatrick are a good starting point as we definitely have some course specialists who love racing here. There are also some trainers to follow, none more so than Gordon Elliott, who has been leading trainer at Downpatrick for the last three seasons and rarely comes away without a winner. If you don’t fancy studying the form of each horse, then take a look at them in the paddock and see which one looks the best to you.
Where are the horses taking part in the races 16th/17th June from?
Horses will travel from across Ireland for the ‘Festival of Racing’. We don’t yet know which horses might run, but we can guarantee exciting racing action across the 2 days. What is more, with the Irish being the best in the world at jump racing, the jockeys and trainers you will see at Downpatrick will be truly world-class sportspeople!
Is there a set dress code that guests should be aware of?
The dress code on race days is generally ‘smart casual’. With that said, there will be hotly contested style competitions across the two days of the ‘Festival of Racing’. Impressive prizes will be on offer, so it is really worth making the effort!
In the hunt for a place to stay during the Festival of Racing at Downpatrick Racecourse? Racing enthusiasts can take advantage of Dufferin’s special room rate for the races. Enjoy two nights B&B in a premier room with a bottle of wine on arrival for £170 – call 028 4482 1134 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book today!