Horse racing is largely a rural sport in Ireland but the sport of kings meets modern city life at Leopardstown Racecourse. Dublin’s only racecourse is one of the jewels in the crown of Irish racing and it is a must-visit for any racing fan in Ireland or Britain.
The location of Leopardstown is one of its main strengths. The facilities of nearby Dublin and the east of Ireland help attract the biggest training yards while racegoers have a great choice of accommodation options.
Leopardstown is outside of Dublin city centre but it is by no means remote. The course sits next to the M50 motorway and is surrounded by lots of infrastructure, including hotels. The closest of these is the Clayton Hotel, which is just a short walk away from the gates of Leopardstown. The hotel works closely with Leopardstown, which sometimes means preferential rates for racegoers. Plenty of other options can be found nearby, including the Sandyford Business Park next to the racecourse, as well as the delightful and scenic town of Dún Laoghaire, which sits on the coast and is around a 20-minute drive to the racecourse.
The closest option is the Clayton Hotel Leopardstown where you can get to the racecourse by walking in 18-minutes. The hotel offers a mini gym, a bar and brasserie, and a lounge where you can enjoy views of the mountains. There is also a coffee shop located outside the hotel.
The Radisson Blu St. Helen's is just a 17-minute drive from the racecourse and is set in 4-acres of private gardens. The hotel has a Victorian bar and ballroom lounge, which serve afternoon tea and light lunches, along with an evening restaurant that serves Italian cuisine by candlelight. The hotel also has a small gym.
Located on the seafront, Haddington House is a five floor Victorian terraced building. There is a cocktail bar, a restaurant and a garden with coastal views. There is an a la carte breakfast and the hotel is just a 20-minute drive to Leopardstown Racecourse.
Dublin Full of Options
Leopardstown Racecourse is just six-miles south of Dublin city centre. This is great news for racegoers travelling from around Ireland or making the trip over the Irish Sea. Dublin is a vibrant city full of all sorts of accommodation and Leopardstown has taken full advantage by partnering with several hotels in and around the city with many offering a shuttle service on race days. In Dublin, you’ll find everything from the big budget-friendly chains to exclusive five star hotels and small guesthouses in Dublin. Whilst we have listed the driving times for getting to the racecourse, there are also a good range of public transport options available.
The Talbot Hotel Stillorgan is on the edge of Dublin near Leopardstown Racecourse just a 13-minute drive away. There is a restaurant on site that serves a variety of cuisines with an extensive wine list. The Air Coach from Dublin Airport also stops directly outside the hotel and the hotel may offer a shuttle service to the racecourse on certain race days.
The Merrion Hotel exudes luxury with a double Michelin star restaurant, an infinity pool, and landscaped gardens in the heart of Dublin near Merrion Square Park. The hotel is just a 32-minute drive to Leopardstown Racecourse or under an hour via public transport. There is also a second restaurant, a cocktail bar and a spa complete with beauty treatments, a gym and a steam room.
The Hyatt Centric The Liberties Dublin is near St Patrick's Cathedral in the heart of Dublin, just a 33-minute drive from Leopardstown Racecourse. You could also take public transport in under an hour, including walking times on either side. The hotel has an Irish restaurant, bar, fitness centre, as well as a garden and shared lounge.
Towns Further Afield
The buzz of a big city isn’t for everybody. Leopardstown has therefore partnered with hotels in more scenic locations away from Dublin that will require extra travel on raceday. These out of town hotels tend to be luxurious like the Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Resort, which is perfect for the punter who wants to get in a few rounds of golf alongside watching the races. Further south of Leopardstown and the towns of Bray and Greystones are worth considering as is Wicklow, which is further down Ireland’s east coast.
Bray is a wonderful option for those hoping to see the Irish coast and experience a bit of racing as the town of Bray is less than 30-minutes driving to Leopardstown. Top sights include Bray Head Cliff Walk, Killruddery House & Gardens, SEA LIFE Bray Aquarium and Bray Promenade.
The town of Wicklow is around a 39-minute drive from Leopardstown Racecourse along the coast with railway links to Dublin. Tourist attractions include Wicklow Gaol, an interactive jail museum, Powerscourt House & Gardens, Glendalough National Park, Powerscourt Waterfall, Mount Usher Gardens, Black Castle and myriad of other natural beauties.
Home of the beautiful Moyvalley Hotel & Golf resort pictured here, Moyvalley makes an excellent retreat for those wishing to see the greener side of Ireland. Less than hour to Leopardstown Racecourse, some of the many sights of interest include Emerald Park, Kildare Village, Trim Castle and Japanese Gardens & Irish National Stud, not to mention all of the picturesque cycling and walking trails in the area.
About the Racecourse
Leopardstown is among the best racecourses in Ireland. A combination of a flat, fair track and world-class facilities mean that the most powerful owners and trainers are represented all year round at Leopardstown. The quality of the racing at the track is higher over jumps than the flat but there are excellent meetings in both codes.
Leopardstown itself is a village in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, six miles to the south of Dublin. The course still sits in County Dublin and the sprawling nature of the Irish capital means that Leopardstown does feel part of Dublin. That is a real strength of the course as it opens up a whole host of accommodation and travel options for racegoers across the island of Ireland and beyond.
Racegoers who are driving to Leopardstown have ample free parking to utilise. However, a word of warning is that the Dublin traffic can be a problem on busy racedays so it is advisable to leave plenty of time for journeys. Drivers from around Ireland get to Leopardstown via exit 15 of the M50 while those coming from Dublin must take the N11 past Stillorgan then take a right on Leopardstown Road.
Perhaps the best way of getting to Leopardstown from Dublin is on the LUAS tram. The journey from Dublin City Centre to Sandyford takes just 20 minutes while there is also a shuttle bus service from Dublin that takes around half an hour. International travellers can quickly make it from Dublin Airport to Leopardstown.
The track at Leopardsown is a wide oval that measures roughly 1m6f in total. It’s the track’s width that allows the track to be divided up into flat, chase and hurdles courses. There are some differences between the courses – for example, the hurdles course is on the inner of the track and is therefore sharper than the chase course – but their general characteristics are the same.
Leopardstown is a fair course that suits gallopers. The main reason for that is that it is almost flat with the only rise coming in the final two furlongs to the winning post and the only dip coming from between eight and 10 furlongs out. The closing straight is short at around two furlongs which is good news for horses to like to race prominently or from the front.
As the racecourse puts it, “style is at the heart of racing at Leopardstown”. There are fashion competitions at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and Irish Champions Weekend in which people can win prizes for dressing up to the nines and even at the smaller meetings the recommendation is that racegoers dress in smart casual attire.
The weather has a big impact on the style of dress at Leopardstown. While flowing dresses and sharp suits are normal for the big flat meetings, it’s much more a case of practicality when the weather turns in the colder, wetter months.
The facilities for racegoers at Leopardstown are found in the main Grandstand. Much of the four-storey building is open to general access ticket holders. The Tote Hall, which houses much of Leopardstown’s on-course betting facilities is found on the ground floor. As well as the chance to bet with the Tote there are fast food outlets, a coffee shop and plenty of big screens. Also on the ground floor is the Sports Lounge, broadcasting all of the major sporting events to ensure that racegoers don’t miss out on any other big events taking place.
The food options at Leopardstown are varied. For those looking for a quick refuel, the Paddock Food Hall is the perfect option with its self-service traditional dishes. If you prefer taking your time a little more than the 1888 Restaurant on the second level of the Grandstand is well worth a visit although booking in advance is recommended. Also on the second level is the Members Bar which, as you might have guessed, is open only to Leopardstown Club members.
The third floor of the Grandstand features the Top Level Seats and Circle Lounge Seafood and Tapas Bar. Booking a place here comes with a reserved seat and access to the Circle Lounge and a great view of the racecourse. The fourth floor is home to the Penthouse Suites, which can be booked for private functions such as corporate hospitality. Most of the hospitality, however, is found in the Leopardstown Pavilion right on the winning straight. The two-storey space features top-class food, drink and service.
Leopardstown, like many Irish racecourses, hosts both jumps and flat racing. As one of the country’s premier courses, the racing in both codes is of very high class at Leopardstown. There are standout cards including Group and Graded races and big valuable handicaps throughout the year with the meetings well supported by thousands of fans from Ireland and further afield.
In the jumps season, it’s the Leopardstown Christmas Festival and the relatively new Dublin Racing Festival that top the bill. On the flat, the pick of the racing comes on the first day of Irish Champions Weekend.
Dublin Racing Festival
Horse racing is a sport that can sometimes be reluctant to change so Leopardstown, and Irish racing in general, should be applauded for throwing their weight behind the Dublin Racing Festival when it was introduced in 2018. This two-day festival attracts over 25,000 fans over the two days who are treated to eight Grade 1 races including the Irish Champion Hurdle and the Irish Gold Cup. There may not be two better days of jumps racing anywhere than the Dublin Racing Festival.
Irish Champions Weekend
Irish Champions Weekend is a two-day celebration of the flat season just gone. It takes place every September and features many of the equine and human stars from the spring and summer. The meeting is split between Leopardstown and the Curragh. Leopardstown hosts Day 1 of Irish Champions Weekend where the Champions Stakes and Matron Stakes are the pick of the action.
Leopardstown Christmas Festival
Christmas is always a big time of year in horse racing and Leopardstown does its bit with the three-day Christmas Festival. The action starts by tradition on St Stephen’s Day and runs through to the 28th December. As well as plenty of family fun at the racecourse, there is a host of world-class racing to enjoy including the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle, the Savills Chase and the Christmas Handicap Hurdle.
Racing in Dublin and Ireland in general has a lengthy history. While racing took place around Leopardstown a long time previously the course’s history began in 1888 when it was first opened. The track was designed by Captain George Quin. He wanted the course to host quality racing all year round and so used Sandown Park as the model for his design.
2014: Improvement Works
Racing in Ireland continued to grow and modernise through the 20th century with Leopardstown playing a key role. The course was acquired by the Horse Racing Board of Ireland in 1967 but their ownership was not always well received. While the track was top class, the facilities at Leopardstown decidedly were not. This was only rectified in 2014 when plans were announced to give the facilities a much-needed facelift. Millions of euros were spent on upgrading the grandstand while further money was poured into the Leopardstown Golf Centre.
2018: Inaugural Dublin Racing Festival
The commitment to ensuring that Dublin’s only racecourse could keep attracting tens of thousands of fans to the biggest meetings was strengthened through the renovation work. The upgrade to the facilities was one of the major reasons that plans for the Dublin Racing Festival went ahead with the inaugural meeting taking place in 2018.