Location and History

Kilbeggan Racecourse is a horse racing venue in Kilbeggan, County Westmeath, in Ireland that has hosted racing events ever since the 1840s.

The first record of racing there was when a group of gentlemen raised 40 guineas between them, with 10 pounds added by the Stewards, in order to offer prize money for a Challenge Cup.

Between 1840 and 1855 racing events were staged in and around the town, including the present site, until eventually in 1901 it was finally decided to just use its current location in Loughnagore.

With the exception of the Second World War years- 1941-1945 – racing has been held there every year since.

It was a course that was struggling badly throughout the 1950s and 1960s mostly due to financial difficulties. But the decision to just stick to National Hunt Racing (1971) and the start of sponsored races (1973) saved it and it never looked back after that. A notable year for it was 1990 when it purchased the land around it, opened the New Complex and won the Racecourse of the Year award.

Kilbeggan hosts 10 race meetings a year, generally on a Friday or Saturday night, between the months of April and September.

By far the best-known race to be staged there is the AXA Farm Insurance Midlands National at a track known for its hospitality, jovial atmosphere and good choice of food and drink that can be purchased on the premises, often with live music being played in the background.

Reaching Kilbeggan Racecourse is straightforward.

Located in the heart of Ireland in County Westmeath, it's easily accessible by car via the N52 as well as being on the National M6 motorway from Dublin to Galway.

For those using public transport, buses serve Kilbeggan from major cities, making the racecourse a short ride from the bus stop.

Though there's no direct train to Kilbeggan, nearby train stations like Tullamore, Athlone and Mullingar offer good alternatives, with a quick taxi ride completing the journey to the racetrack.

Types of Racing at Kilbeggan and Notable Races

Unlike most Irish tracks, it only hosts jumps racing.

Writing for the Website At the Races, former jockey Charlie Swan describes it as follows:

“This is a tale of two tracks really, as the chase track isn’t too bad, but the hurdle track was always a nightmare to ride, as it is very tight. In general, being handy is a very big help and they really have to go a mad pace in front to give those that are held up a chance to get into it. Because of the nature of it, Kilbeggan perhaps suits a quirky type of horse that needs to be kept interested, as you are always on the turn and there are plenty of undulations. It is definitely a track that produces track specialists, especially on the hurdle track.”

It wouldn’t be true to say that Kilbeggan has witnessed quite as many racing superstars in action as the likes of The Curragh, Leopardstown or Punchestown. But it has been blessed with the presence of a few greats.

These include 1926 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Koko, dual Aintree Grand National winner Tiger Roll, Irish Grand National winner Freewheelin’ Dylan and four-time Cheltenham winner Put the Kettle On.

Heroes at Kilbeggan

Let’s look at the jockeys and trainers who have taken a particular liking to the Kilbeggan course over the years by winning on numerous occasions, or who have a particularly impressive strike rate here.

Top Trainers

  • Gordon Elliott has seen 63 of his horses win here over the years from 536 runners, which is more than twice as many as anyone else has managed.
  • Willie Mullins (27), Henry de Bromhead (23), Denis Hogan (22) and Joseph O’Brien (20) have all had 20 or more winners here.
  • Of these it’s Willie Mullins who has the best strike rate (32%), but Dermot Weld’s is even better (34%) though admittedly that was a result of one win from just three entries.

Top Jockeys

  • All of Ruby Walsh (50), Barry Geraghty (56) and Paul Carberry (62) have reached the 50-winner mark here at Kilbeggan with strike rates of 20%, 22% and 21% respectively.
  • But the man with the outstanding strike rate here is Patrick Mullins who won 40 times from 98 starts here.

Kilbeggan Trivia

  • The Midlands National, Kilbeggan’s best-known race, was first run in 1997 and won by a horse called Christy’s Picnic, trained by Michael Morris and ridden by David Casey. Whereas it wasn’t a Hollywood ending in the traditional sense of the word, there was something quite Hollywood about its owners. They included famous Irish film Director Neil Jordan and well-known actor Stephen Rea, who teamed up together in the 1992 thriller ‘The Crying Game’.

  • The Irish Whiskey Maiden hurdle which carries prize money of 10,500 Euros is sponsored by Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, a distillery that’s a stone’s throw away from the track.

  • Aramon and Ariel, Group 1 winners under Willie Mullins, have both raced at Kilbeggan in the past.

  • The Bellamianta Sustainable Style Ladies Competition obviously isn’t a horse race taking place at Kilbeggan; it was a fashion contest promoting sustainability in the women’s fashion industry that was held on Friday July 15, 2023. Well, it may not have been a race but there was plenty of ‘prize money’ up for grabs. The winner walked away with 5,000 Euros worth of prizes from some of Ireland’s top beauty and lifestyle brands, including 1000 Euros in cash.

If you'd like to learn more about the racecourses in Ireland, check out our in-depth sports blog which features everything you need to know about horseracing, from betting tips to events.