The Northern Irish Festival of Racing is an occasion that people across Britain and Ireland look forward to every November, with the feature Champion Chase long established as a major event.

Past winners include Gold Cup winners Looks Like Trouble and Kauto Star, while other legendary names from the past include Florida Pearl, Beef or Salmon and the Listener.

As always, there was a heaving crowd for the 2013 Festival, which saw the big race won by up and coming star Roi Du Mee, who beat the mighty Sizing Europe.

We caught up with Molly McCluskey recently, for a look at what makes Down Royal such a successful racecourse.

Kauto Stone winning Down Royal's 2012 Champion Chase Image reproduced with the kind permission of Down Royal Racecourse

Kauto Stone winning Down Royal’s 2012 Champion Chase
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Down Royal Racecourse


What is the history of the racecourse and where exactly is Down Royal located please?

Since the 17th Century Down Royal Racecourse has brought the “Sport of Kings” to generations of people in Northern Ireland – it’s a race course steeped in history, established in 1685 by Royal Charter. Racing horses isn’t just something we do at Down Royal, it’s a part of our culture, our heritage and our spirit. We live, breathe and sleep it!

Location – 60a Gravelhill Road – BT27 5RW
From Dublin

M1 to The South and Dublin exit (Junction 8). At roundabout take first exit A101 past B&Q and Sainsburys on left hand side. At roundabout junction with A1 take second exit towards The South and Dublin. Travel up A1 Dual Carriageway to top of hill. Turn right across carriageway (to follow brown heritage signs) before the Hillsborough roundabout. Continue down Harry’s Road to crossroads and go straight through. Continue on the Aghnatrisk Road to next crossroads and turn right onto Kesh Road. Racecourse is about 2 miles further down the road.

From Newry

Road to Newry (N1 South of the border) then onto the A1 Dual Carriageway to Belfast. At Hillsborough Roundabout continue as for Belfast and take the first turn to left on Harry’s Road and directions are same as above.

Have you signed up any new sponsors for the Jumps season? If so, how many and who – and what events will they sponsor?
We have a loyal sponsorship following at Down Royal and the current sponsors will be continuing for the foreseeable future.

What are the fixtures for 2014?







Entrance Price

Time (approx)

Card Type

Wed 5th Feb

February Race Day




 Mon 17th Mar

Daily Mirror St Patrick’s Day Race Meeting




Mon 5th May

Daily Mirror May Day Meeting




Fri 30th May

Barclay Communications Race Evening




Fri 20th Jun

Summer Festival – Day 1




Sat 21st Jun

Magners UlsterDerby – Summer Festival – Day 2




Fri 25th July

Magners Race Evening




Fri 29th Aug

Musgrave Retail Partners NI Race Day




Fri 12th Sep

 Summer Evening Race Meeting




Fri 31st Oct

Down Royal Festival of Racing – Day 1




Sat 1st Nov

Down Royal Festival of Racing – Day 2




26th Dec

Boxing Day Race Meeting







The Northern Ireland Festival of Racing regularly attracts top horses which in the past included Kauto Star Image reproduced with the kind permission of Down Royal Racecourse

The Northern Irish Festival of Racing regularly attracts top horses which in the past included Kauto Star
Image reproduced with the kind permission of Down Royal Racecourse



What is the crowd capacity for Down Royal?


10,000 maximum

What are the main highlights for the remainder of the season and what dates?


Boxing Day (St Stephen’s Day) is a big meeting for us, details are set out below:

Boxing Day Race Meeting at Down Royal in support of the Jonjo Bright Trust  – First Race 12.25pm (approx.) and Admission £12

Boxing Day at Down Royal is the other great Christmas tradition and has become a firm favourite for both families and racing enthusiasts alike. This year Down Royal is proud to be running the Boxing Day Race Meeting in support of the Jonjo Bright Trust. There will be a collection at the turnstiles and a specific hospitality package available for those wishing to support the Trust. The seven strong racecard provides an opportunity to wrap up warm and beat the ‘Boxing Day Blues’ with some top quality National Hunt racing. Our gates open 11.00am with the first race kicking off at 12.25pm (approx.) and the last at 3.30pm (approx.). Concession admission is £10 and children under 16 receive free admission. Entrance tickets will always be available at the turnstiles on the day. For further information on the fantastic work done by the Jonjo Bright Trust or to make a donation please go to

Premium Entrance Package – £17

This includes your entrance to the racecourse and admission to the immensely popular Beef or Salmon Suite where you can enjoy a private bar, food outlets, balcony and views over the finishing straight.

Places for this package are limited so book early to avoid disappointment. Contact the office on 02892 621 256 or book online at

Down Royal Hospitality

Hospitality will be hosted in the Moscow Flyer Suite, seating 130 guests, this suite has CCTV, Tote betting, private pay bar and direct access onto the viewing area of the grandstand. It also boasts a new balcony on the rear of the suite which has fantastic views over the Parade Ring. The package includes the following:

  • Entrance
  • Premier Enclosure Badge
  • Racecard
  • Three course meal with tea and coffee
  • Guest Tipster
  • Tote betting to your table.


The price is £70 per person, tables can accommodate up to 12 people and bookings for smaller or larger parties are welcome.

Contact the office on 02892 621 256 or book online at

How can people travel to Down Royal? What are the public transport links like?


No direct public transport, but there is a £10 return bus from College Square North which runs every race meeting and can be booked through Down Royal. The nearest station is Lisburn, 10 minutes away and Value Cabs have a taxi rank at the racecourse.
What kind of services can visitors expect? What sort of dining facilities are there and what is the ticket price range please?

During Racing at Down Royal, you will be able to see the superstars of the National Hunt world on your doorstep. However we appreciate that the racing is a backdrop to a great day out for many of those attending Down Royal.

Our tip therefore is to familiarise yourself with the bars and food offerings available on site at Down Royal. For anyone attending with a general admission ticket, the bars on site include the public bar in the main grandstand, the Dark Horse Wine Bar, Powers Irish Whiskey sampling bar and during Festival Time, an outdoor bar trailer between the two main grandstands. All bars will be open at least an hour prior to racing and will close approximately half an hour after the last race.

In terms of hospitality, there are superb packages ranging from £47.50 per person to £120+vat. Bookings are welcome for any size of party, tables hold a maximum of 12 people and if you wish to have a table reserved solely for your party we ask that you have a minimum of 8 in your booking. For full details of the packages and  to book please go to

If you opt for a general admission ticket there are plenty of food options on site. The Dark Horse Wine Bar and Cafe offers a light deli style menu in stylish surroundings with views over the finishing straight and a balcony overlooking the Parade Ring. No booking is required but it is very popular so our advice is to get there early. In addition to the hot food bar in the main grandstand there is a hot beef roll counter at the opposite end of the public bar and a variety of food trailers around the site. General admission tickets range from £10 – £15 and children under 16 receive free admission, to book please go to

How has the economic downturn impacted on the business?

We feel that we have adapted well to the economic downturn, we tend to view it as an opportunity to create new products that will appeal to the economically smart race goer.

Does the racecourse have other revenue streams such as corporate functions on non-race days?


We run a small number of outside events and weddings on site.

What does the racecourse do to encourage younger and new race goers?

We continue to innovate and develop our offerings and facilities, we try to provide something for everyone so that all race goers feel like they have had a first class racing and social experience when they come to Down Royal.
Does Down Royal run any racing education functions for visitors (such as a behind the scenes tour)?

We sponsor the Racehorse to Riding Horse NI League and also outside of racing CAFRE and Down Royal run tours for students interested in this area of Agriculture and we work with the Hospitality and Tourism students at Belfast Met.

What are the main commercial challenges?


Keeping the product fresh and encouraging new racegoers to come to Down Royal.

What are the key operational challenges on race days?
None hopefully!
How can people book tickets?
Online at or call the office on 208 92621256