The northwest of Ireland is something of a hot spot for Irish racecourses, with nine tracks clustered in and around the Dublin locale. Included amongst that number is this high-quality dual-purpose venue in Proudstown – 4km from the town of Navan from which it takes its name, and around 50km to the northwest of the capital city of Dublin.
Owned and operated by Horse Racing Ireland, the County Meath venue has been entertaining racegoers for a shade over 100 years and continues to go from strength to strength, drawing in the crowds in ever-increasing numbers.
Conveniently located on the doorstep of both the charming town of Navan and the beauty of the Irish countryside; and within comfortable travelling distance of the capital city of Dublin, many racegoers making the trip to the track may wish to extend their visit with an overnight stay. And luckily for those hoping to take in a little more of what this corner of Ireland has to offer, accommodation options are in plentiful supply, both in Navan and a little further afield.
Closest to the Course
Being a distinctly rural venue, there are no hotels in the immediate vicinity of the track. There is however a number in and around the town of Navan itself. With a population of over 30,000, the country town of Meath has plenty to keep racegoers entertained, including the Hill of Tara and Bective Abbey for history buffs, and the popular entertainment complex of the Zone for something a little more modern. The centrally located Trimgate Street and Ludlow Street meanwhile boast an excellent selection of traditional pubs and bars.
At a little over two miles for the course, the Newgrange Hotel is the closest option, whilst the Ardboyne Hotel and Yellow House B&B are only a little further afield at around three miles. For those seeking a top-end experience, Tankardstown House and Bellinter House both regularly rate extremely highly with visitors and lie within five miles of the track.
Doze in Drogheda
At around 27km to the east of the course, the County Louth town of Drogheda is another excellent choice for those seeking to sample the charm of the Emerald Isle. Home to the closest train station to the course, and with regular bus services operating between the two towns, Ireland’s 11th largest settlement serves as a convenient base of operations.
Attractions in and around Drogheda include Mellifont Abbey, St Peter’s Church, Beaulieu House and Garden and the prehistoric monument of Newgrange just to the west of the town. And those fancying a post-race tipple won’t be disappointed by the town’s thriving pub scene, with highlights including the Admiral’s Inn, Clarke’s Bar and the racing trip staple of the Punt Pub. Those looking to get their head down on the banks of the Boyne will find a host of B&B-style operators in and around the town centre, whilst the Boyne Valley Hotel & Country Club, Glenside Hotel and Daly’s Inn offer more traditional hotel experiences.
Divert to Dublin
And, then, of course, there’s Dublin. You never need too much of an excuse to pay a visit to Ireland’s most famous city, and a trip to Navan racecourse seems as good a reason as any. Home to a historic cathedral and castle, a family-friendly zoo, an adult-friendly whiskey distillery and more pubs than anyone could hope to sample in a single weekend, the fact that the capital also boasts strong transport links with Navan only adds to the appeal.
Dublin is also tough to top when it comes to accommodation options, with all budgets and taste preferences catered for on the banks of the Liffey. The likes of Maldron, Jurys Inns and Travelodge are amongst a whole host of brand names represented; the Clifton Court Hotel and Errigal House provide solid value, whilst the excellent Marker Hotel and Fitzwilliam Hotel are worth considering for those seeking a high-end option.
About the Racecourse
Staging both flat and National Hunt action, Navan’s 18 fixtures keep racing fans entertained throughout the year, with the flat campaign operating between the months of April and October, and the jumps season running from September through to April. Whilst the course does boast a smattering of high-quality flat events, it is the jumping game for which Navan is most well-known – playing host to a total of nine Graded class contests each year.
Regularly attracting visitors from Ireland and the British mainland, those making the trip across the Irish Sea are best advised to take the Holyhead to Dublin ferry crossing, although the alternative Cairnryan to Larne route may be an option for those travelling from Scotland or northern England. Dublin International is the closest airport to the track, with a coach service operating from the airport to Navan Town centre on all race days.
Those completing the journey from Dublin by car should first take the M3, before leaving at junction 8 and travelling onto the R147 from which point the track is well signposted. The M1 is the best road to take from Belfast and the north, whilst the M4 and M50 approach from the West, and the N7, M50 and M3 lead to the course from southern regions of Ireland. For satnav users, the address to select is Navan Racecourse, Proudstown Road. Upon arrival at the course, motorists will find ample free parking available only a short walk from the main entrance.
For rail travellers, the closest station to the course is that of Drogheda around 24km to the east of the course. From Drogheda, the best option is to then take the 190 bus to Navan town centre and complete the final few kilometres of the journey by taxi.
Racegoers travelling from Dublin also have the option of the 109 bus service. Departing once an hour from around 7:30 in the morning, the bus takes close to an hour and a half to reach Navan Town Centre. With no bus service operating between the town centre and the racecourse, the last leg of the journey will need to be completed by taxi, with the fare likely to be in the region of €10.
Close to rectangular in shape and 1m4f in circumference, Navan’s left-handed circuit features two long straight sections and wide sweeping bends. A broad galloping track, the Proudstown Road venue is recognised as being one of the fairest in the British isles, with an absence of hard-luck stories seeing the best horse come to the fore more often than not. Fair does not necessarily equate to easy though. Featuring a final two furlongs which rises all the way to the line, an ability to truly see out the trip is crucial to success – particularly when the rain arrives as it can get very testing very quickly around here.
In addition to the main oval, the flat course also features a chute that leads directly into the home straight, containing the starting points for events over five furlongs, six furlongs and two miles. And continuing the theme of being one of the fairest tracks in the land, there is no significant pace or draw bias over any distance at Navan.
Those tackling the chase course are faced with nine fences per circuit, including two open ditches, with the final three obstacles lying in the home straight, prior to a run-in of 150 yards. A stiff jumping challenge, the second last and first in the back straight are notably tough, whilst any mistakes at the fourth from home can prove costly, as the runners are required to veer left-handed almost immediately upon landing.
Lying to the inside of the chase course, the hurdles track is ever so slightly the sharper of the two National Hunt layouts. Runners over the smaller obstacles must negotiate seven flights per circuit, with again, a run-in of around 150 yards following the last. Utilising mobile hurdles, Navan has the advantage of being able to tweak the layout in order to place the obstacles on the best jumping ground.
Much like the flat track, neither prominent racers nor hold-up performers appear to be favoured in National Hunt events. Tactical awareness is crucial amongst the riders, however, as it can be vitally important to get a breather into their mount in the back straight before that gruelling run for home.
Priding itself on providing a relaxed, friendly, and welcoming atmosphere, there is no strict dress code in place at Navan. Smart casual is a recommendation, but no more than that, although do bear in mind that many racegoers do arrive in smart attire for the bigger race days, particularly Ladies Day. Whatever your choice of attire though, don’t forget to factor in the weather, with suitable footwear being particularly important should rain appear in the forecast.
The standard entry ticket at Navan is that of general admission. Granting access to the entire racecourse enclosure, parade ring, Kilberry Restaurant and Troytown Bar, tickets are priced at €17 for adults, €12 for students and OAP’s and €5 for accompanied 13 to 17 year olds, whilst under 12s go free with a paying adult. The above prices apply at all meetings other than the Troytown Chase fixture where a slight premium is added.
Those looking to boost their standard entry ticket may wish to take advantage of the excellent value Punters Pack offer, which for €33 grants entry, race card, a tote betting voucher and a €10 meal voucher.
Hospitality deals are also available, with the €70 Bective Restaurant package granting a four-course meal and a number of perks including access to an on-course tipster. And for €40 the Sports Bar offer provides entry, a race card, buffet dinner, reserved betting and bar area.
Cramming nine Graded contests over the jumps, one Group class flat race, and a whole host of quality handicaps into its eighteen fixtures, the standard of racing at Navan is by and large quite excellent. And whilst for racing purists, the quality of the equine entertainment likely sells itself, the track does its bit to enhance that appeal in laying on not one, but two Ladies Days, a Family BBQ Day and Christmas Party Race Day. All told, there’s never a bad time to call in at the County Meath venue, but in terms of profile and attendance, it is the following three fixtures that stand out from the crowd.
Troytown Chase & Winter Ladies Day
Despite that impressive tally of Graded events, it is a handicap that provides one of the biggest betting heats at Navan each year. Named in honour of the 1920 Grand National winner, the Troytown Chase is one of the standout staying handicaps of the Irish season, and acts as a significant draw to the top owners and trainers in the game. With the Grade 3 Monksfield Novice Hurdle topping a quality undercard, additional entertainment in the stands, and excellent prizes on offer in the Best Dressed Lady competition, this February fixture is a major social occasion for the Navan natives.
Vintage Crop Stakes
Traditionally taking place in April, this Saturday afternoon meeting is comfortably the track’s standout fixture for flat racing fans. Introduced as a Listed class contest in 2003, the headline act of the Vintage Crop Stakes was upgraded to Group 3 status in 2014 and invariably attracts a field of the most talented stayers in the game, with Yeats, Fame And Glory and Order of St George all winning both this race and the Ascot Gold Cup. Featuring a pair of Listed events in the shape of the Committed Stakes and Salsabil Stakes, this springtime cracker rarely fails to draw in the crowds.
Boyne Hurdle Day
Of the nine Graded class events held at the track, three are crammed into this Sunday afternoon February fixture, with an additional Listed class contest thrown in for good measure. Taking place over a stamina-sapping 2m5f, the titular contest of the Boyne Hurdle has been graced by a number of real Irish superstars over the years, including the hugely popular Limestone Lad who landed back-to-back editions in 2000 and 2001, and dual Grand National hero Tiger Roll who came home in front in 2019. Quality action on the track, in combination with a punter-friendly weekend slot, helps to ensure that this is always one of the best-attended meetings of the year.
Propelled by the racing enthusiasm, and £20,000 in funds, of the local farmer and auctioneer Albert Lowry, Navan – or Proudstown Park as it was then known – first opened for business back on the 16th September 1921. A horse by the name of Bachelor’s Mark won the very first race that day, handing the £83 in prize money to his owner – a certain Albert Lowry. Only £19,917 more to go Albert, and you will have your money back!
Notable Winners at Navan
A number of genuine superstars have lit up the turf at Navan over the years, both on the flat and over jumps. Four-time Ascot Gold Cup winner, Yeats, tops the list on the level, with the dual Vintage Crop winner also landing the Ascot Gold Cup on an incredible four occasions.
Dawn Run, Tiger Roll and Moscow Flyer are notable winners in the National Hunt sphere, but they are all surpassed by Arkle who made his debut over obstacles in a maiden event here on the 20th January 1962. The horse, who would go on to become the highest-rated chaser of all time, duly made short work of his 26 rivals that day at rewarding odds of 20/1 – not a bad price for those in the know!
A period of slow progression over the following decades was then seemingly given a boost with the addition of the Graded class double act of the Lismullen Hurdle and Fortria Chase in 1988. Far from signalling a boom period though, the following years saw Navan endure one of the toughest spells in its history, with worsening financial difficulties placing the future of the track in doubt.
Investment & New Races Added
Thankfully, Navan managed to weather that storm, with an upturn in fortunes coinciding with the appointment of Richard Lyttle as the track’s first full-time manager in 1997. Improved business performance wasn’t long in being reflected in an increase in quality on the course, with the Graded class Ten Up Novice Chase, the Flyingbolt Novice Chase and the Webster Cup Chase all making their debuts in the early 2000s together with the Group 3 Vintage Crop Stakes.
Benefitting from a further €8.3million in investment, including the opening of the sparkling Arkle Pavilion in 2007, the track is now recognised as one of the fastest-growing and most admired tracks in all of Irish racing, and well worth a visit should you get the chance.