The origin of Listowel races can be traced back to an annual gathering at Ballyeigh, Ballybunion, about nine miles from Listowel. This event, which can be traced back to the early nineteenth century, consisted of a variety of games, horse-racing and a pre-arranged faction fight which concluded the event. One of the most memorable faction fights took place on June 24, 1834, at Ballyeigh Strand, near Ballybunion, on the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist. This Holy Day traditionally served to commemorate the occurrence of the longest day of the year. Over 3,000 people, including the Coolens, Lawlors, Blacks and Mulvihills, went up against each other, and when the skirmish was over, 200 lay dead. Due in no small part to the disturbances surrounding these faction fights, the meeting at Ballyeigh was suspended and racing transferred to Listowel, where the first meeting took place in 1858.
An extensive and comprehensive history of the Listowel Races is available in the excellent book “Listowel Races – 1858 – 1991 A History, by local author John O’Flaherty.
Highlights in the history of racing at Listowel include…
1858 – First race meeting October 5th & 6th.
1862 – Racing over three days.
1858 – Temporary bridges erecten each year over river Feale.
1910 – Work commences on the first permanent bridge crossing the Feale.
1924 – First permanent stand and enclosure opened.
1949 – Listowel Race Company incorporates.
1957 – First concrete stand erected.
1958 – Centenary Year.
1959 – Arrival of Macardle Moore Breweries as sponsors (subsequently part of Guinness UDV Ireland – our principle sponsors)
1966 – Spring Meetings commence in Listowel. One day in March and Two days in April.
1967 – A second bridge erected over the Feale.
1970 – Festival meeting extends to four days.
1977 – Festival extends to five days.
1980 – Hannon stand opened.
1987 – Listowel Races Supporters Club formed.
1998 – The New Hugh Friel Stand is opened.
2002 – Festival Meeting extends to seven days.
2005 – First June Bank Holiday Meeting Run. This Meeting replaces the Spring dates.
2008 – Listowel Races celebrates its 150th Anniversary.
2018 – Listowel Races celebrates its 160th Anniversary.