County Tipperary, Ireland, is home to three separate racecourses but from them, Clonmel is the one only that stays open the whole year. Hosting both flat and National Hunt racing, this dual-purpose venue has plenty to offer across its 12 annual race meetings. There is no such thing as a bad fixture here either as Clonmel are always on the ball to ensure racegoers enjoy a smooth and exciting day out.
With Clonmel itself being a town, the racecourse is not too far from several accommodation options. Unfortunately, none are what we would consider within walking distance as almost all are centrally based, whereas the racecourse is right on the outskirts, located within the Powerstown area of town. If you are absolutely insistent on walking, it can be done but you will be looking at a 35 to 45 stroll to/from most hotels within Clonmel.
In the heart of Clonmel, you will find options, such as the Hears Hotel, Mulcahy’s, Fennessy’s and Befani’s. All of these are well located if you fancy going out for some food/drink as they are within close vicinity of the most popular establishments Clonmel has to offer. If you want something surrounded by a little less foot traffic though, just head south of the river to either the Raheen House Hotel or the Minella Hotel. Although these tend to be more expensive, you do get plenty of tranquillity for the extra cash.
That said, racegoers can enjoy a decent discount on the Minella Hotel, or the Clonmel Park Hotel, which is located much further to the west. Through these deals, arranged by the racecourse, a double room and general admission ticket costs €75 per person.
Waterford an Alternative
All the options mentioned above are not even 10 minutes away by car but if you want to stay somewhere larger, Waterford should be the place you consider. The journey will take you in the region of 45 minutes but you will end up in Ireland’s oldest city, a place with over three times as many people as Clonmel. Thanks to this, there are many more hotels from which to choose.
We will not mention them all by name but we will say that the Waterford Marina, Dooley’s Hotel, Portree House and the Fitzwilton Hotel all provide great comfort at a reasonable price. For something a little more upmarket, you will want to look at four-star Granville Hotel or Treacy’s Hotel Waterford Spa and Leisure Centre.
About the Racecourse
Around 25,000 to 30,000 people arrive at Clonmel Racecourse every year, meaning it plays a substantial economic role within the South Tipperary town. With 2,000 spectators rocking up for any given meeting, Clonmel might be on the smaller size but it can still pack a respectable punch in terms of atmosphere. This is despite the course being no stranger to the rain, something which has been occasionally known to force the abandonment of some fixtures, usually the one in December or February. The vast bulk of fixtures go ahead as planned though so the threat of cancellation is not something you need to be overly concerned by.
If driving to the racecourse, you will find that it is very conveniently located less than a kilometre away from the N24 which connects Limerick and Waterford. Driving from either of these cities to the racecourse ends up being a very smooth drive as a result. Should you be arriving from further afield, the N24 does connect to the M7, M8 and M9 so you should not need to be change direction too often at all.
To get to Clonmel by public transport, the town does have a central train station serviced by the Waterford-Limerick service and it is possible to catch a bus from both too. From the train station, you are around a 30-minute walk from the racecourse but you can always book a taxi if you do not fancy the 2.5km stroll.
You don’t need to be a giant to see the competing horses in action at Clonmel Racecourse. Spectators are situated high up on the course itself meaning they have a great view of proceedings. Also enhancing the view is the abundance of mature trees and shrubs that hug the outside rail. With all things considered, this is certainly one of the most aesthetically pleasing courses in the country.
It could be that the horses enjoy the views too, but they are probably a little less keen on the character of the track. The first part of the circuit is uphill before a long downhill stretch that ends at the bottom of the home straight. It is easy to end up going at a rapid pace during the downhill section but this can be costly given the considerable climb that materialises before the finish the line. As most jockeys do not fall into this trap though, front-running tactics tend to work well here.
Just as with most smaller racecourses, there is no strict policy on what you can wear but smart casual is typically what most choose. While style may be important to you, we would always encourage you to dress for the weather conditions first. Shelter is provided by the stands but although they can keep you dry, they will not keep you warm. Regarding footwear choices, the main spectator concourse area at Clonmel has been paved over so you need not worry about getting any high heels stuck in the mud.
Clonmel has got you covered when it comes to covered standing areas. The main grandstand can fit up to 3,500 people and is located just shy of the winning post. A little further up the course, you have the Club Stand with its 1,000 person capacity as well as the modern-looking Club Stand Bar. It is possible to reserve tables in the bar and this will enable you to watch the racing from inside, while still enjoying a great view.
With a general admission ticket, racegoers can head to either stand and view the parade ring up close. It will also allow you to visit the available catering options available whether you want a light bite, some hot food or any alcoholic/non-alcoholic beverages. A ticket for adults will set you back €15 while children under 18 can join in too for just €2, if accompanied by an adult. Tickets can be purchased online up until the day of the race. If you miss the deadline, you can simply purchase your ticket at the gate.
A slight word of warning if purchasing tickets online. The ticket will include your name and you may be asked to show photo ID to prove the ticket belongs to you. This means you cannot transfer the ticket to a friend/family member if you cannot attend.
Most meetings at Clonmel take place in the afternoon but the April, May and June fixtures are all scheduled for the evenings. While these are often well-attended thanks to the weather, Clonmel is better known for its winter, National Hunt races. Featuring among them is the Clonmel Oil Chase, of which the sole November fixture is named after. Thanks to this Grade 2 race, the highest calibre contest to feature at Clonmel, you will not find any meeting bigger here.
Previous editions of Clonmel Oil Chase Day have given spectators the chance to see some truly elite thoroughbreds up close in the flesh. The list of previous winners of the fixture’s showpiece event includes the likes of Douvan, Sizing Europe, Beef Or Salmon and Dorans Pride (five times). There is also a notable Grade 3 hurdle race scheduled for the February meeting and again, this typically welcomes a good deal of spectator interest due to its pedigree.
A long time ago, in the early 19th century, you could go and watch racing for free at Clonmel as horses used to race on an open, unenclosed course. This itself was located within Powerstown, the same part of Clonmel, northeast of the city centre, where racing takes place today. The Powerstown course was fit for racing but there were concerns relating to public safety and how it could raise any money from those watching. Due to this, some steeplechase racing began taking place around 8km east of Clonmel, in Kilsheelan.
1912: Course Enclosed
To the west, you used to have Cahir Racecourse although this closed for good in 1857 having only survived for around four decades. Back to Clonmel though and in 1912, Villiers Morton Jackson formed a committee to investigate how feasible it would be to enclose the course located at Powerstown. Led by Jackson, an agreement was reached and soon after the course was enclosed and there was a designated area for bookmakers to trade. To watch the action here punters now had to pay a small entry fee and then an additional two shillings to access the stand.
New Fixtures & a Change of Name
The new-look racecourse’s first meeting took place on April 1913 with another three fixtures scheduled for May, August and September. At the time, and for many years to come, the course was referred to as Powerstown Park but in the 1970s it changed to its current name of Clonmel Racecourse.
The Supporters Club
Another significant change came in 1987 as a Supporters Club was formed, with the intent of promoting racing at the venue. They did this by trying to get additional sponsors on board, increasing prize money for events, suggesting facility improvements and increasing local interest.
The Supporters Club still runs to this day and features around 300 members, many of whom meet in the exclusive ‘Sponsors Room’ within the racecourse. More recently, in 2009, Clonmel underwent extensive refurbishments in one of the most major makeovers the course has ever witnessed.