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Earliest meeting: Wednesday 26th January 1853
Final meeting: Wednesday 14th March 1866
The county Antrim town of Ballymena is the eighth largest town in Northern Ireland, although it is surprising that it only hosted noteworthy steeplechase meetings for a short period in the middle of the 19th century. One of the earliest meetings was on Wednesday 26th January 1853 when the feature race was the Ballymena Handicap Steeplechase over 3 miles. Meetings continued on a regular basis, although the course changed. On Wednesday 26th March 1856 races were held on the Ballykeel course located on the Craigbilly estate in the vicinity of Ballymena. The day began with the Ulster Hunt Stakes which went to War Eagle, while the Scurry Stakes saw Mr Saunders’s Louth beat Malvina and Blind Harper. The principal race, the Ballymena Handicap Steeplechase, run over 3 English miles, was won by Mr McGrane’s The Rejected. Meetings were still being staged a decade later on Wednesday 14th March 1866 at Killybegs, 2 miles from Ballymena, on the Castledawson road when a crowd in excess of 8000 saw the Farmers race won by Mr Miller’s The Knave. The Ballymena Open Chase, twice round the course, was won by Mr Todd’s Wire In, beating King of Trumps and Turn and Go.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 4 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Lieut. Colonel Wardlaw, Captain Gray, Mr V W Magill (Stewards)
Principal Races Ballymena Handicap Steeplechase, Ulster Hunt Stakes

Wednesday 26th March 1856
Ballymena Handicap Stakes over 3 miles
1. The Rejected, brown gelding owned by Mr McGrane
2. Blind Harper, grey gelding owned by Mr Dillon
3. Molly Brown, chestnut mare owned by Mr Flood

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 14th March 1866.
Course today Initially at Ballykeel and latterly at Killybegs.
If you have photos, postcards, racecards. badges, newspaper cuttings or book references about the old course, or can provide a photo of how the ground on which the old racecourse stood looks today, then email

Much of the information about this course has been found using internet research and is in the public domain. However, useful research sources have been:-

London Illustrated News

Racing Illustrated 1895-1899

The Sporting & Dramatic Illustrated

Northern Turf History Volumes 1-4 by J.Fairfax-Blakeborough

The Sporting Magazine

A Long Time Gone by Chris Pitt first published in 1996 ISBN 0 900599 89 8

Racing Calendars which were first published in 1727

ISBN 978-0-9957632-0-3

652 pages

774 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-1-0

352 pages

400 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-2-7

180 pages

140 former courses

ISBN 978-0-9957632-3-4

264 pages

235 former courses

Copies of the above books are only available by emailing stating your requirements, method of payment (cheque payable to W.Slusar) or Bank transfer, and the address where the book(s) should be sent.
Download an order form
  Quantity Cost
Volume 1 North of Hatfield £19.99 + £4 postage    
Volume 2 South of Hatfield £14.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 3 Wales & Scotland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volume 4 Ireland £9.99 + £3 postage    
Volumes 1 - 4 £54.96 + £5 postage    
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