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Earliest meeting: Thursday 24th February 1853
Final meeting: Wednesday 29th July 1914
The county Down townland of Newtownards is located at the northernmost tip of Strangford Lough, just 10 miles from Belfast. It held race meetings for a prolonged period from the middle of the 19th century to the early years of the 20th century. One of the earliest meetings took place on Thursday 24th February 1853, with entries accepted by Mr Saunderson at the Londonderry Arms. On Easter Monday 9th April 1855 an exciting steeplechase meeting was staged on a one mile course containing 12 leaps, including 2 stiff walls, an artificial brook and a solid timber fence which presented a most formidable and dangerous obstacle. The meeting was attended by a large contingent of the North Down Rifle Brigade who witnessed Mr Cassidy’s Bon Jour take the Newtownards Handicap Stakes, while the feature Free Handicap attracted an impressive field of ten. The race was dominated by Mr Cassidy who claimed both first and second place with Roller and Bon Jour. Meetings continued intermittently for over half a century, although latterly the cards included pony races. The card on Saturday 26th December 1896, held on the Ards Recreation Society ground, was typical of later meetings, consisting of two thoroughbred races, the Belfast Plate and Newtownards Plate, and two pony races, the Bangor Plate and Mount Stewart Plate. The final meeting took place on Wednesday 29th July 1914.

This racecourse is covered in Volume 4 of Racecourses Here Today and Gone Tomorrow. Ordering details shown below.
Local Patrons Mr Cassidy, Mr Saunderson
Principal Races Newtownards Plate, Belfast and Newtownards Free Handicap

Monday 9th April 1855
Belfast and Newtownards Free Handicap over 3 miles
1. Roller, chestnut gelding owned by Mr Cassidy
2. Bon Jour, bay gelding owned by Mr Cassidy
3. Now-or-Never, bay gelding owned by Mr Graham
Betting: 2/1 Roller, 2/1 Now-or-Never, 3/1 Miss Fitzgerald, 3/1 Bon Jour

The final meeting took place on Wednesday 29th July 1914.
Course today Initially a one mile steeplechase course containing 12 leaps, although later meetings took place on the grounds of the Ards Recreation Society.
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.
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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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