Horse Racing Gowran Park | LeoVegas

Gowran Park

Location and history

Gowran Park may not be quite as famous to racing fans outside of Ireland as the likes of Leopardstown or The Curragh, but it certainly plays its part in the Irish racing calendar.

The most famous of its races is the Thyestes Chase every January, more on that in a bit, but horseracing isn’t the only sport taking place on its premises.

2001 saw a beautiful, truly unique championship golf course built on the Gowran Park estate with five holes played within the racecourse boundary and the other 13 played out in woodland lake settings; a firm but fair test for skilled golfers.

Racing has been going on here since June 1914 when its first-ever meeting was made up of a mix of steeplechase and flat races under the Irish National Hunt rules of racing.

In 2003 the new Grandstand and its facilities were officially opened at a cost of 3.5 million Euros, a facelift that also included upgrading of the stable yard and parade ring areas. Three years later, it was re-classified as a Grade 1 course for National Hunt Meetings for prize money purposes.

Gowran Park is just 10 minutes away from Kilkenny City and less than half a mile away from the village of Gowran.

If you’re driving from Kilkenny, the track is 8 miles away and after taking the N10 and branching right onto the R702, you need to go through the village of Gowran itself and turn right following the Thomastown/Waterford Road. Then drive for a mile and the entrance to the course is on your right.

There are also complimentary coaches going straight from the gates of Kilkenny Castle to the track on race days.

Types of racing at Gowran Park and notable races

Gowran Park hosts 18 fixtures every year with six jump races and 12 flat races taking place on the right-handed oval of around a mile and a half.

Notable events here include Red Mills Day, Shamrock Chase Day, Denny Cordell Day and PwC Champion Chase Day.

But by far the best-known and most prestigious of these is the Thyestes Chase, ran every January over 3 miles and 1 furlong, with 17 fences to be jumped, in what is a sturdy test of jumping and stamina.

Limited to 18 runners and sponsored by bloodstock auctioneers Goffs, the race features horses who often go on to compete in the Irish Gand National, Aintree Grand National or the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The race takes its name from the racehorse Thyestes, a brilliant horse on the flat in the 1930s who won both (of the only) races it took part in before getting injured and being retired to stud in Yorkshire.

So, it’s fitting that some excellent horses have won the race over the years. They include three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Arkle (won here in 1964) and Aintree Grand National winners Hedgehunter and Numbersixvalverde, who won at Gowran Park in 2005 and 2006 respectively, before taking the Grand National the following year.

Heroes at Tipperary

Let’s look at the trainers and jockeys who have produced particularly good results here over the years.

Top Trainers


  • Dermot Weld has trained more winners here than anyone else with 130 from 809 horses he’s sent out to race.
  • Just two wins behind at the time of writing with 128 is Aiden O’Brien but the great O’Brien boasts a far better strike rate; his winners came from just 569 entries at a strike rate of 22%, compared to 16% for Weld. That’s the best strike rate of any trainer at this course on the flat.

National Hunt

  • When it comes to National Hunt, the figure of Willie Mullins looms large over anyone else. Not only are his 172 winners there almost three times more than anyone else but his strike rate of 26% is 10 percentage points better than the next best: Noel Meade (16%).

Top Jockeys


  • Pat Smullen leads the way with 112 winners over the years. The now-retired jockey boasted an impressive strike rate of 18% here before calling it a day as a professional jockey in 2018.

    National Hunt

  • The great Ruby Walsh (now retired) won 24% of his races here, saddling 71 winners from 285 starts. It’s the best strike rate of anyone at Gowran Park, though Davy Russell has already overtaken him with when it comes to winners with 76. Given that Russel is still active in his profession, and you’d expect him to pull further clear over the next two seasons or so.

Gowran Park Trivia

  • Gowran Park boasts a few firsts in its history. It was where the first Irish on-course commentary took place in 1952, where the first Tote Jackpot was held in 1966 and was also the first Irish racecourse to have a televised race.

    Racegoers can make the most of their time attending Gowran Park by paying a visit to the village of Kilkenny, a stone’s throw away from the track. Activities to look out for include visiting Kilkenny Castle, climbing Canice’s Round Tower and dropping into the Medieval Mile Museum, formerly a 13th century church and graveyard featuring medieval sculpture and renaissance-era tombs. If you’re getting a little thirsty, then you can rock by the Smithwick’s Experience, where you not only learn about the medieval origins of brewing but also get to taste what it is that’s being brewed: a glass of Ireland’s most popular ale.