Irish Grand National (Fairyhouse Easter Festival): Race List & Meeting Info

A little over a week after One For Arthur won the Grand National at Aintree, it’s time for the Irish equivalent of the race at Fairyhouse. The Irish Grand National is not only the feature race of the Easter Festival at Fairyhouse, it’s one of the biggest races on the Irish racing calendar.

 

Day One Races - Easter Sunday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Ryans Cleaning Event Specialists Maiden Hurdle   2m €9,240 5YO plus
YR Sauce Novice Handicap Hurdle   2m 4f €12,320 4YO plus
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final Grade 1 2m 4f €59,000 4YO plus
Lauro At Hayes Stud Rated Novice Chase   2m 5f 100y €12,320 4YO plus
Boylesports Novice Handicap Chase Grade B 2m 150y €29,500 5YO plus
Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase Grade 1 2m 4f €59,000 5YO plus
Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper   2m €59,000 4YO to 5YO

Ryans Cleaning Event Specialists Maiden Hurdle

2m

A race for horses aged five and over, this maiden hurdle event is sponsored by Ryans Cleaning Event Specialists at the time of writing. Run over two miles and boasting eight hurdles for the horses to jump, you can expect the event to last about four minutes when the Going is Good. The winner takes home €15,000 in prize money.

YR Sauce Novice Handicap Hurdle

2m 4f

A race for novices aged four and over, this event was first run in 1992. Taking place over two miles and four furlongs, it has been a Grade 2 offering since 2004. Its most successful jockeys is that man Paul Carberry again. He won it four times between 1999 and 2007.

As it's a race for novices no horse has won it more than once, but that name Al Boum Photo was victorious in 2017 the year before he won the Gold Cup here and two years prior to his Cheltenham Gold Cup victory. Names like Jessica Harrington, Noel Meade and Gordon Elliott have won it as trainers, but Willie Mullins leads the way in that regard with is five wins.

Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final

Grade 1, 2m 4f

First run in 1995, the Mares Novices' Hurdle Championship Final is run over two miles and four furlongs. It's for novice mares aged four and over, with ten hurdles to be jumped during its running. A Grade 3 race from 2004, it was moved to Grade 2 in 2011 and then promoted once more to Grade 1 two year later.

Obviously the fact that its for novices means that it's never been won more than once by the same horse, but the same is not true of jockeys. Between 2001 and 2008 Paul Carberry rode the winner three times, which was enough to put his name at the fop of the leader board. Willie Mullins, meanwhile, is the most successful trainer thanks to his five wins between 2003 and 2018.

Lauro At Hayes Stud Rated Novice Chase

2m 5f 100y

This even for novice hurdlers has €20,000 in prize money won offer for the winner and is open to horses aged five and over. It is run over two miles, five furlongs and one hundred yards, with the horses needing to negotiate seventeen fences before hitting the finish line. This will normally take about five and a half minutes when the Going is Good.

Boylesports Novice Handicap Chase

Grade B, 2m 150y

As the name suggests, this Grade B race is the series finale for novice hurdlers. Run in association with the Irish National Hunt Stallion Owners European Breeders Fund, the event takes place over three miles and features twelve hurdles. Lasting for about six minutes when the Going is Good to Soft, it’s for horses aged five and over.

Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Chase

Grade 1, 2m 4f

Obviously not to be confused with the far more prestigious race that takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse the month before, the Gold Cup Novices' Chase has been taking place since 1960. Just as it's traditional for the Irish Grand National to be run on Easter Monday, so too does traditional dictate that Easter Sunday is Gold Cup day at Fairyhouse.

Open to horses aged five and over, it is run over two miles and four furlongs and features sixteen fences. The weight information is as follows:

  • 5-year-olds: 11 stone, 6 pounds
  • 6-year-olds and over: 11 stone, 10 pounds
  • Mares are given a seven pound allowance

No jockey has won the race more times than Paul Carberry, who notched up four wins between 2003 and 2011. Equally Jim Dreaper is the most successful trainer of race winners, having seen his horse cross the finish line first five times between 1973 and 1994.

No horse has won the race more than once, but there have been some noteworthy winners of it. In 2018, for example, Al Boum Photo won it before going on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year. A similar thing happened to one of the Cheltenham race's most famous victors, Arkle. He won it in 1963 and then won at Prestbury Park in the three successive years that followed.

Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper

2m

Finishing off Day One of the Fairyhouse Festival is the George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper, a flat race run under Irish National Hunt conditions. It takes place over two miles, lasting for about three minutes and fifty seconds when the Going is Good. Open to horses aged four and five, they are competing over €100,000 in prize money.

 

Day Two Races - Easter Monday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle   2m €12,320 4YO plus
Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle Grade 2 2m €29,500 4YO only
Fairyhouse Steel Handicap Hurdle   2m 6f €18,450 4YO plus
Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle Grade 2 2m 4f €41,300 5YO plus
Devenish Chase Grade 2 2m 4f €59,000 5YO plus
Boylesports Irish Grand National Chase Grade A 3m 5f €270,000 5YO plus
Fred Kenny Lifetime Service To Racing Handicap Chase   3m 150y €15,375 5YO plus
Cawley Furniture (Pro/Am) Flat Race   2m €12,320 4YO to 7YO

Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle

2m

The Novice Handicap Hurdle takes place over two miles and yields just over €12,000 in prize money. When the Going is Good, you can expect the winner to come in under 4 minutes with approximately 22 runners participating.

Rathbarry & Glenview Studs Juvenile Hurdle

Grade 2, 2m

Open to horses aged four, this race is run over two miles. It features nine hurdles during that distance and has been a Grade 2 race since 2016, having been given Grade 3 status eight years earlier than that. It has enjoyed numerous different sponsors since it was first run in 1988, with Rathbarry and Glenview Studs taking over the honour in 2019.

Obviously the fact that it's limited to four-year-old juveniles means that it's never been won more than once by the same horse, but the likes of Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell and Paul Townend have all won it more than once as jockeys. Even so it's Paul Carberry and Ruby Walsh that lead the way with four wins apiece. Similarly Dermot Weld, Mouse Morris and Michael O'Brien have enjoyed multiple wins as trainers, but even Willie Mullins' six wins are outshined by the seven achieved by Noel Meade.

Fairyhouse Steel Handicap Hurdle

2m 6f

Currently sponsored by Fairyhouse steel, this handicap hurdle race is run over two miles and six furlongs. It’s open to horses aged four and over with a rating of between 0 and 140. During the race, which tends to last about five and a half minutes when the Going is Good, there are twelve hurdles for the horses to jump over in search of the €30,000 prize.

Keelings Irish Strawberry Hurdle

Grade 2, 2m 4f

A Grade 2 race for horses aged five and over, this has been taking place since 2011. The relatively youth of the event means that there's not a huge amount to tell you about it, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it isn't worthy of your attention. After all, it's not just any old race that gets given Grade 2 status.

Run over two miles and four furlongs, it takes its current moniker from the fact that it's sponsored by Keelings fruit growers. It features ten hurdles for participants to get over and no trainer has been able to get their horses to prepare for that as well as Willie Mullins, who won it three times between 2014 and 2018. Paul Townend and Tony McCoy have won it more than once as jockeys.

Devenish Chase

Grade 2, 2m 4f

A Grade 2 race that takes place over two miles and four furlongs, the Devenish Chase features sixteen fences. It was first run in 2018 and was created when an agreement was reached between Fairyhouse and Navan over swapping the distances of their two Graded chases that are run in the spring. It is open to horses aged five and over.

Boylesports Irish Grand National Chase

Grade A, 3m 5f

The key race of the entire Festival, the Irish Grand National is a Grade A offering that features twenty-four fences across three miles and five furlongs. Open to horses aged five and over, this extended handicap event boasts prize money of €500,000. Sponsored by Boylesports at the time of writing, it lasts for about seven minutes and fifty seconds when the Going is Good to Soft.

The race has been hosted by Fairyhouse ever since its first running in 1870. It was immediately taken to heart by the Irish racing community and ten of the first twelve runnings of the race had been trained at the County Kildare venue of Curragh.

The race nearly always takes place on Easter Monday and was run over three miles and four furlongs in its early years. That was changed to three miles and five furlongs in 1991, with that remaining the length ever since. Given that it is such a big race in Ireland, it's no surprise that has had any number of sponsors over the years. Boylesports, the well-known Irish bookmaker, took over sponsorship duties in 2014, for example.

Racing fans from Dublin often make the trip to Fairyhouse to watch the Irish Grand National, earning the race the nickname of 'The Dubs' Day Out'. Who knows how many racegoers from Dublin travelled there in 1848 when the Ward Union Hunt's point-to-point event was moved to Fairyhouse from its previous location in Ashbourne? Certainly it was seen as a venue full of promise and the rest of the country started to believe it after that first Irish Grand National took place in 1870.

With England having had the Grand National since 1839 and the Scottish joining them with theirs in 1858, there was no way that a country that had the same sort of love for racing as the Irish were going to miss out. In the end they were quicker to it than the Welsh, whose own Grand National came into being twenty-five years later. The Irish Grand National is part of why Fairyhouse has such a sterling reputation on the Emerald Isle, leading to the course getting a refurbishment in 1999 to thoroughly modernise it.

In 1906 Ascetic's Silver became the first horse to win the Grand National at Aintree having won the Irish version of the race the year before. Several horses have done similar, including Numbersixvalverde and Bobbyjo. No horse has won the two races in the same year, with them taking place so close to each other. Equally no horse has won the event more times than Brown Lad, who 'did a Red Rum' by winning it three times in the 1970s. Just like Red Rum, he won it twice in succession and then one final time a year later.

In terms of jockeys, a few have won it more than once. Francis Woods, Jason Titley, Martin Molony and Matt Curran have all won it twice, for example, and Ruby Walsh won it three times during his career. Yet none can come close to the six victories that Pat Taaffe achieved between 1954 and 1966. Four of those wins came on horses trained by Tom Dreaper, whose nine wins make him the race's most successful trainer.

Fred Kenny Lifetime Service To Racing Handicap Chase

3m 150y

Run under the title of ‘Fred Kenny Lifetime Services To Racing’ in 2019, this steeplechase takes place over three miles and one hundred and fifty yards. During its running there are twenty fences for the horses to jump, with those aged five and over welcome to take part in it. The winner receive €25,000 in prize money.

Cawley Furniture (Pro/Am) Flat Race

2m

The Pro/Am Flat Race takes place over 2 miles with the winner taking home just over €12,000 in prize money. In previous years, the winning time has been around under four minutes with approximately eight runners participating.

 

Day Three Races - Tuesday

RaceGradeLengthPrize MoneyAges
Eat Your Vegetables Maiden Hurdle   2m 4f €9,240 4YO plus
Mongey Communications Beginners Chase   2m 150y €9,240 5YO plus
Boylesports Grand National Festival John & Chich Fowler Memorial Ebf Mares Chase Grade 3 2m 4f €23,062 5YO plus
Ratoath Pharmacy Ladies National Handicap Chase   2m 6f 110y €15,375 5YO plus
I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final Grade B 3m €32,450 5YO plus
RYBO Handicap Hurdle Grade A 2m €59,000 4YO plus
BoyleSports Joseph R. O'Reilly Hunters Chase   3m 150y €9,856 5YO plus
Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Flat Race   2m 4f €6,775 4YO to 7YO

Eat Your Vegetables Maiden Hurdle

2m 4f

Known as the Eat Your Vegetables Maiden Hurdle at the time of writing, this race is for horses aged four and over. It is run over two miles and four furlongs and features eleven hurdles that they’ll need to jump if they hope to win it. If they do so then they’ll win €15,000 in prize money. The race lasts for about five minutes on ground that is Good to Soft.

Mongey Communications Beginners Chase

2m 150y

Sponsored by Mongey Communications at the time of writing, this race’s title tells you everything that you need to know. It is aimed at beginner chasers and they can be aged five or over to take part. During the two miles and one hundred and fifty yards of the race they’ll have to jump thirteen fences if they want to win the €15,000 prize money.

Boylesports Grand National Festival John & Chich Fowler Memorial Ebf Mares Chase

Grade 3, 2m 4f

John Fowler was an amateur jockey who tragically died in an accident at Rahinston in 2008. The brother of trainer Jessica Harrington and son of Bryan Fowler, this race was set up in his honour the year after. When his widow Chich died in 2013 her name was added to the race's title.

Run over two miles and four furlongs, it's a race for horses aged five and over. It was given Grade 3 status in 2013 and to date neither horse nor jockey have been able to win it more than once. Indeed, the only people to have appeared in the winners' enclosure more than once are Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins who have won it at least twice as trainers.

Ratoath Pharmacy Ladies National Handicap Chase

2m 6f 110y

Usually when a horse race specifies gender it’s in relation to the horses, but this event is for female jockeys only. Run over two miles, six furlongs and one hundred and ten yards, there are eighteen fences that need to be jumped in this handicap event. It’s for horses aged five and over and there’s €25,000 in prize money availabe for the winner.

I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final

Grade B, 3m

A Grade B event that is run over three miles, the Novice Handicap Hurdle Series Final is open to horses aged five and over. At the time of writing, it's sponsored by I.N.H. Stallion Owners EBF and had 23 runners in the 2019 race. When the Going is Good, it will take them just ever so slightly over six minutes to complete the race.

RYBO Handicap Hurdle

Grade A, 2m

A Grade A race sponsored by Rybo, this event is for horses aged four and over. It’s run over two miles and features nine hurdles during that time. When the Going is Good to Soft the race will last for about three minutes and fifty seconds, with horses aiming to take home the €100,000 in prize money presented to the winner.

BoyleSports Joseph R. O'Reilly Hunters Chase

3m 150y

Another race that is run during the Festival and sponsored by Boylesports at the time of writing, this steeplechase for hunters is run over three miles and one hundred and fifty yards. It’s aimed at horses aged five and over, asking them to jump twenty fences during the length of the race if they want to win the €15,000 in prize money.

Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Flat Race

2m 4f

The last race of the day is the Mares Flat Race, which is run over two miles and four furlongs with female horses aged four to seven able to participate. The winner receives over €6,000 in prize money and the race takes under four minutes to complete. In 2019, there were 12 runners involved.

 

About the Irish Grand National

Fairyhouse Racecourse Jumps

The Irish Grand National is part of the wider Fairyhouse Easter Festival, but the prominence of the main race means that most people could bet on it without ever knowing about its place at the heart of the meeting. Wales, Scotland and Ireland all have their own versions of the Grand National and the Welsh one is the only one of them that doesn't traditionally take place in April.

It is essentially Ireland's version of the race that is run every year at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool. Those of you that are aware of the relationship between the Emerald Isle and horse racing won't be overly surprised to learn that the country boasts its own Grand National and that the people of the country take it just as seriously as the much more prestigious races run in England.