At Downpatrick Racecourse all courses are run right handed on a fairly tight track measuring nearly one mile three furlongs in circumference.
When looking at the course from where the starting line and finishing line are the same, the course bends around into its longest straight section, it then bends again to a smaller straight before the penultimate bend to a similar straight. The course then makes its home turn into a short home straight of only one furlong. The finishing posts are situated directly in front of the Grandstand.
During the national hunt season, five hurdles are laid out around the course. Unusually, there is no hurdle on the short one furlong home straight, instead, the hurdles occupy positions on the three other straight sections described above. There are six steeplechase fences.
Downpatrick Race Course has a long and interesting history. The first race meeting was originally held over 300 years ago in 1685 at the old grounds a few miles down the road from where it is situated today. Racing has continued to take place throughout the years with few interruptions since the first race. The current Racecourse is situated one mile away from the centre of the historic town of Downpatrick and racing has been held on the present course for more than 200 years.
Like many other Irish racecourses, Downpatrick boasts a great local following and crowds flock to the attractive venue whatever the weather. The racecourse itself is a tight undulating track of 1 1/4 miles. Spectators have been rewarded over the years with some memorable horses, not least of them being 1947 Aintree Grand National victor Caughoo and Rhyme & Reason Grand National Victor 1988.
The racecourse not only attracts great horses but also some influential race goers. On her visit to Northern Ireland HM the Queen Mother saw her horse Laffy, stabled with Major John Corbett beforehand, win the Ulster Grand National. Connkehely (Cathal Finnegan) actually passed the post in front. However as course commentator Michael O’Hehir had informed the crowd, Connkehely – running in a bitless bridle – had missed out a fence. The Queen Mother – separated from her security men was mobbed by well-wishers in the winners enclosure.
Downpatrick is possibly the friendliest course in Ireland with a strong local following. It has a supporters club which was formed in the early ‘70s and has raised substantial sums since its inception.