Thurles Racecourse Hotels

Thurles Racecourse jockeys
Image thanks to Thurles Racecourse

The racing-mad nation of Ireland has a total of 26 racecourses spread over its length and breadth, three of which are to be found in the centrally located county of Tipperary. And, of that trio, Thurles boasts the distinctions of being one of just four National Hunt only tracks in the country and also the Emerald Isle’s only family-owned course.

Situated just 1.5km to the west of the town from which it takes its name, and 152km to the southwest of the capital Dublin, the rich history and countryside setting of the course continues to prove a big draw for racing fans.


Given the scenic setting and relative proximity to a number of Ireland’s tourist hot spots, many racegoers may wish to extend their visit with an overnight stay. Happily, for those looking to linger a little longer, a number of accommodation options are available, both close to the track and a little further afield.

Closest to the Course

One of the most rurally set tracks in the whole of Ireland, there are no accommodation options in the immediate vicinity of the course. There is, however, a handful of options within the town of Thurles itself, a little over a mile to the east of the track with a couple of hotels and a variety of smaller B&Bs offering a comfortable stay at a reasonable price.

A small town, with a population of around 8,000, Thurles nevertheless boasts a number of historical attractions, including Holycross Abbey, the Cathedral of the Assumption, and Lár na Páirce Museum. Those who like to follow their day at the races with a little liquid refreshment will be pleased to note that the pubs and bars significantly outnumber the accommodation options, with the County Bar, Brennan’s and Millea’s Upstairs Bar all well worth a look.

Anner Hotel Thurles
Anner Hotel
7 min drive

The Anner Hotel in Thurles is a 7-minute car journey to the racecourse or a 43-minute walk. The hotel has a leisure centre with a 20-metre pool, a childrens' pool, as well as a steam room, sauna, and hot tub. There is the main restaurant, which does an Irish and European menu, as well as a bar and bistro that is slightly more casual and does a daily carvery, along with snacks, drinks and an evening menu.

Hayes Hotel Thurles
Hayes Hotel
5 min drive

This 18th century hotel has a restaurant on site, a coffee bar and also has a nightclub on the weekends where there is live music and entertainment. There is breakfast served each morning, as well as a carvery lunch in the day and an a la carte menu in the evening. The hotel is a 5-minute drive to Thurles Racecourse or around a 28-minute walk. Alternatively, you can get there via a bus ride in around 20-minutes.

Head South to Cashel

Only around 20-minutes to the south of the track lies the beautiful town of Cashel. Home to attractions, including the Rock of Cashel, Cashel Folk Village and Clare Glens Waterfall, the town also boasts an intriguing selection of pubs and bars, including TJ Ryan Traditional Irish Pub, Billy Foleys Bar, Lounge and Beer Garden, and the Brian Boru Bar & Restaurant. Those tempted by Cashel’s charms will find an array of accommodation choices in and around the town centre with a hotel and a selection of smaller B&Bs.

Baileys Hotel Cashel
Baileys Hotel Cashel
22 min drive

Just a 22-minute drive to Thurles Racecourse, this listed Georgian hotel offers views of the Rock of Cashel in the heart of town. The hotel has an Irish/European restaurant for a la carte options, as well as a Cellar Bar that offers an extensive bar food menu. Additionally, each morning, they offer a full Irish breakfast.

Head Down in Dublin

At over 150km to the northwest of the course, the capital city of Dublin is not exactly close. It is, however, easily reachable by train and may rate the logical choice for British racegoers, who will likely be travelling through Dublin as part of their journey anyway. Easily Ireland’s most visited city, Dublin boasts a whole host of attractions, including a historic castle and the Guinness Storehouse. The city is also home to a thriving pub and bar scene, with something to suit all tastes, from Ireland’s oldest pub of the Brazen Head, to the more contemporary, the Bar With No Name.

In terms of accommodation, all of the options you would expect of a major tourist destination are to be found on the banks of the River Liffey. We have specifically chosen hotels that are within a close walking range to Dublin Heuston train station where you can hop on a train to Thurles town centre in around an hour and 12 minutes. It is then a 28-minute walk to the racecourse from the station or you can hop in a quick 5-minute cab.

The Hendrick Smithfield Dublin
The Hendrick Smithfield
1 hr 56 min drive

The Hendrick Smithfield is a 15-minute walk to Dublin Heuston train station and just under two-hours driving to the racecourse. The hotel is a trendy modern space that has a bar, as well as a to-go station for light meals, snacks and drinks. There is an outdoor terrace and a continental breakfast with the sights of Dublin just a stone's throw away.

Ashling Hotel Dublin
Ashling Hotel Dublin
1 hr 47 min drive

The Ashling Hotel in Dublin is a 5-minute walk to Dublin Heuston train station where you can easily hop on a train to Thurles. Alternatively, you can drive straight to the racecourse in under two-hours. The hotel is very close to Dublin Zoo, as well as the Guinness Storehouse. The hotel's restaurant is a brasserie that offers breakfast, a lunchtime carvery and fine Irish cuisine each evening and they also have a bar that serves snacks and cocktails.

Phoenix Park Hotel Dublin
Phoenix Park Hotel
1 hr 45 min drive

The Phoenix Park Hotel in Dublin is just a 6-minute walk to Dublin's Heuston train station where you can catch a train to Thurles town centre or you can drive to the racecourse in an hour and 45-minutes. The hotel offers a light breakfast each morning in the hotel's French style café and the famous sights of Dublin are a mere jaunt away.

About the Racecourse

Thurles Racecourse sunset
Image thanks to Thurles Racecourse

Whilst Thurles has staged flat racing in the past, these days the course is a National Hunt-only venue, laying on a total of 11 fixtures over the course of its season which runs between October and March each year. Barring a couple of weekend meetings, the vast majority of these fixtures take place on a Thursday afternoon slot for which the track has become known.

Racing fans making the trip to Thurles from the British mainland have the option of two main ferry crossings; either the Holyhead to Dublin route or that which travels from the Scottish port of Cairnryan over to Larne in Northern Ireland. Alternatively, for those travelling by air, Shannon Airport is the closest to the track at around an hour’s drive away.

Only around 7km off the major north to south motorway of the M8, Thurles’ central location makes it easily reachable by road from all directions; the N24 joins the M8 from the east and west, with motorists then having the option of turning off onto the N62 or N75 which lead to Thurles Town Centre and on to the course. Those travelling from a more central northerly direction should navigate to the N62 which leads almost directly to the track. Open arrival at the course motorists will find ample free parking available.

For those travelling by rail, Thurles Train Station lies within the town centre, only around 1km from the track. Sitting on the Dublin to Cork line, the station receives a half-hourly service from the capital. Once at the station, the course can be reached in around 20 minutes on foot, or alternatively racegoers may wish to take advantage of the free shuttle bus service which operates to and from the track on all race days. Bernard Kavanagh and Sons meanwhile provide coach trips to Thurles from a number of Irish destinations.

The Course

Loosely in the shape of a right-angled triangle, Thurles’ 1m2f right-handed circuit is essentially sharp in nature, featuring a tight turn following the winning post and a longer, more gradual bend back into the home straight. Undulating throughout, the final turn for home is all downhill, with the two-furlong home straight and then climbing stiffly all the way to the line.

Utilising the outer portion of the track, the chase course features a total of seven fences per circuit: three in the backstretch, two on the home bend, and a final two in the finishing straight, with a run-in of around one furlong after the last. A tricky jumping challenge, Thurles regularly sees the highest number of fallers and unseats in the whole of Irish racing – be sure to side with a solid jumper when weighing up those bets!

Lying to the inside of its chase counterpart, the hurdles track is the sharper of the two courses, and features a total of six flights per circuit, with the final two again coming in the home straight prior to a short one furlong run in.

One thing that can be relied upon at Thurles is an excellent racing surface, even during the wettest periods of the year. So well does the terrain drain here, that the course is often jokingly referred to as “Ireland’s first all-weather track”. Despite those hardy qualities, the track can still become a little churned up on the inside, which can lead to the jockeys switching to the outside in search of better ground.

In common with many sharp tracks, Thurles is a course well suited to those who like to race prominently, with the majority of winners either making all the running or racing just off the pace. Such runners, who are able to get a breather in during the back straight before gaining momentum on the downhill turn for home, can prove very tough to reel in.

Dress Code

A resolutely relaxed countryside venue, Thurles has a dress code to match. Other than the common-sense approach of avoiding anything likely to prove offensive in nature, racegoers are free to dress as they please in all areas. Whatever your choice of attire though, don’t forget to factor in the weather, as central Ireland is no stranger to wet and windy conditions.

The Stands

There is juhe one enclosure at Thurles, priced at €15 per adult, and €8 for students and OAPs at the majority of meetings, whilst under 14s go free with a paying adult at all fixtures.

Entry to the main enclosure affords access to the main bar situated beside the parade ring, the adjacent restaurant, BBQ stand and the popular café under the stands, whilst a variety of mobile food and drink options will also be scattered around the course.

Major Meetings

Thurles Racecourse meeting
Image thanks to Thurles Racecourse

Despite being a relatively low-key track, and staging just 11 meetings per year, Thurles does cram a fair amount of quality into those fixtures, with the track staging a total of four contests at graded level or above. Here we take a look at the track’s biggest meetings of the year, beginning with the fixture for which Thurles is best known.

Kinloch Brae Chase Day

Taking place in mid to late January each year, this Sunday afternoon fixture represents the biggest chance to see a genuine superstar of the turf in action. Now going under the name of the Horse and Jockey Hotel Chase, the “Kinloch Brae” has been landed by a number of true greats over the years, with recent winners Don Cossack and Sizing John both going on to claim Cheltenham Gold Cup glory. With a Grade 2 novice chase for the mares heading up the undercard, it is no surprise that this is one of the first dates in the diary of local racing fans and it regularly draws fans from across Ireland and beyond.

Sunday Christmas Meeting

Everyone loves a festive fixture and Thurles doesn’t disappoint the local racing fraternity with this cracker of a Sunday afternoon meeting. Taking place on the Sunday before Christmas each year, this seven-race card is now a staple of the County Tipperary racing calendar. The Listed Class Irish EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle provides the headline act on the track and with excellent craic in the crammed stands, this is comfortably one of the course’s most popular race days.

Pierce Molony Memorial Novice Chase Day

Having served with distinction as the course manager for many years, it is only right that Pierce Molony is granted a race in his honour. He duly gets one with this 2m2f Grade 3 affair which takes place in March each year. Held on a punter-friendly Saturday afternoon, the race invariably draws runners from the top Irish yards, and with six further competitive contests on the undercard, this springtime fixture rarely fails to draw in the crowds.


Jockeys racing at Thurles Racecourse
Image thanks to Thurles Racecourse

Racing at Thurles is reported to have taken place as long ago as 1732, with a Trinity College document known as the “Pues Occurrences” providing details of a three-day festival in the June of that year. For much of the early time at the track, the meetings remained few and far between, with just the four traditionally taking place in the months of February, April, June and November.

Pierce Malony

The 1900s then marked a significant moment in the history of the course, with the Malony family taking over the sole ownership of the track for the first time. Previously run by a local committee in conjunction with the Malonys, Pierce Malony was the first of his clan to take the helm, with his son Dr Paddy Malony then taking over in the mid-1960s.

1974 saw the baton passed to the son of Dr Paddy – also going by the name of Pierce – who continued to run the track’s operations until his death in 2015. With Pierce’s wife Riona and daughters Patricia, Helen, Annemarie and Kate taking over following his passing, as of 2022, the course remains in the hands of the Malony family to this day.

Local Community

A track which has developed organically rather than being specifically planned and built as a racecourse, Thurles has enjoyed strong links with the local community throughout its history. In the early years, the course’s 20 stable capacity regularly proved inadequate, with many local residents stepping in to house horses overnight, including the slightly ominous abode of one Hugh Ryan – the local undertaker.

Whilst far more able to cope with the demands of the modern racing industry these days, Thurles remains a distinctly no-frills affair, offering quality racing action – significantly boosted by the addition of the Kinloch Brae Chase in 1997 – and solid facilities. Beloved by National Hunt enthusiasts, this ought to be one of the first tracks on the list for those seeking the traditional, countryside, Irish racing experience.