One of only two racecourses in Northern Ireland, Down Royal hosts racing under both codes throughout the year. There are 12 race meetings that run each year at the course with the most prestigious on the flat being the Ulster Derby meeting, featuring the eponymous handicap open to three year olds, which takes place in June.
The two-day Ladbrokes Champion Chase meeting is the biggest event on Down Royal’s calendar with this taking place in November. It features four Graded races in the card, again with the eponymous race being the highlight.
The track at Down Royal, which is used for jumps and flat racing, is right-handed and not far off being square in shape, and measures around one mile and seven furlongs. It features a slight uphill gradient on the final run-in and undulates for a mile or so before that. This is a wide galloping track and there is little bias about where to be in the longer races held there, with winners able to come from anywhere depending upon the general tempo of the race and the conditions. There is plenty of turning to do on the round course and runners generally need plenty of pace when travelling round the bends.
Down Royal Jumps Course
The chase course consists of 10 fences to each circuit with four of these being in the final four furlongs, the run-in being less than a furlong in distance. Hurdle races of more than two miles start after the last fence of the chase course with the first hurdle jumped once, the run-in being just over a furlong and a half.
This is a good galloping track and it is generally fair with runners able to win from any realistic position. The chase track is on the outside and most riders will usually go wide in search of better ground, especially after periods of unsavoury weather.
Down Royal Flat Course
Flat races use the same course as National Hunt races, though for five furlong races a chute joins onto the main track after a distance of approximately one furlong and races of this length are run on a constant, if slight, right-handed turn until the closing furlong. Any runner needs to be very well balanced over this distance at this course and as such, speed isn’t the only attribute required.
Given that there is plenty of turning to be done on this track, horses with pace and balance are always going to be at an advantage. Nevertheless because of the quirky nature and layout of this track, races can change late on with finishers becoming involved when the leading bunch have been over-exerting themselves in the earlier stages. Speed is of the essence on the sprint track, a low draw being an advantage here with any runners able to get away quickly often able to sustain their advantage.
Major Races at Down Royal
|Start Date||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|31st Oct 2020||Ladbrokes Champion Chase||Grade 1||Road To Respect (5/2)|