Down Royal Racecourse History

Along with its near neighbour Downpatrick, Down Royal first had a connection with racing through its association with the Down Royal Corporation of Horsebreeders in 1685; its Royal Charter was issued by James II. Racing has been held on the current course at Maze since the early 18th century, developed on land donated by Arthur Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire. However, the meetings were billed as both Maze and Down Royal races over time. The principal races at the track are the Ulster Derby and Oaks.

Currently the course hosts 11 fixtures annually.


Although Down Royal remains a thriving racecourse, nearby Derry closed its gates for the final time in 1905.
There is evidence of racing in Derry (Londonderry) before the 1770s, the so called ‘Father of the Irish Turf Club’ Thomas Conolly sponsored the first Gold Cup race run on the New Derry course in September 1777. By 1779 he had introduced a Silver Cup and within a year the first running of the King’s Plate took place. In 1812, in a bid to ease the fixture congestion that was causing all Irish courses a problem, the Irish Turf Club assigned days or weeks to particular courses; Derry was assigned the second Monday in July. During the 1830s the racecourse, like the majority of courses in the country, struggled as a consequence of the great famine and racing lapsed in 1836. Racing returned in the spring of 1859 and by 1861 Derry was hosting a Royal Plate race again. The course was at its strongest during this period, securing good races with strong fields supported by a loyal crowd. This period of strength lasted until 1876, after which fields depleted, the quality of races declined and crowds decreased. By the end of the 1870s the course had lost its Royal Plate again and it was on a downward spiral of decline. The final meeting took place on Friday 5th May 1905.
I am grateful to Google Maps (© Googlemap) for permission to use the map shown below.

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

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