Horse racing in Ireland has a storied history dating back 110 BC, according to some written records. Horse racing as we know it today was started by those lovely British in the late 17th century, why else would the races be measured in an arcane length measurement like a furlong (1/8 of a mile). In Ireland, there are 26 major racecourses (the most per capita) with more than 1.3 million people attending each year! In addition, there are also numerous beach races ever year, where the horses race not on turf but on sand. To get the full Irish experience we decided to attend both!
Through our extensive racing experience we learned all about the different race types:
- Flat, these are flat races of course
- Steeplechase where horses + jockeys jump over a diverse set of obstacles… think Tough Mudder but for horses – sounds scary!
- Hurdle where horses + jockeys jump over a paltry 3’1″ hurdle – Boring!
- Point-to-Point where the horses + jockeys run over farmland, that sounds exciting!
Throughout all of our race experience we pondered several questions:
1) What’s up with those jockeys?
Well it depends who you ask… according to experts (what do they know) jockeys account for 10% of a horses performance on any given day, which oddly equals the amount they keep of the winnings with the typical jockey making $100k to $200k per year. Jockeys are required to have the strength to control the horse barreling down the track at 40 mph, while at the same time being light, typically weighing in at 109 to 116 pounds. They also have to know a lot about the horse’s race style as well as the competition… does the horse like to go out quick and keep the speed? Or do they like to rocket ahead at the last minute? Is the horse comfortable threading the needle through a jumble of horses or do they need to pass on the right? So much to think about in the span of a few minute race! I can see why Kelley and I did not win any bets.
2) Do the bookies make money?
Well the bookies rarely lose money since they adjust the odds in their favor. However, they generally do not make money from the bets themselves but rather by acting as market makers and profit from the event regardless of the outcome.
3) How do you bet?
As you might expect there are an infinite number of betting permutations you can place but for Kelley and I we kept it simple and just bet that our horse would win (Kelley: “our horse” = the horse with the coolest name….). It turns out this is challenging and we lost every bet! Note we only lost 20 euros total, not our life savings. If you want to learn more here is a good article from the Art of Manliness. This would have been helpful to read prior to placing our bets – next time!
Kelley and I had the fortune to attend not one but two horse races in the span of two weeks. The first on were the unique Omey Races on the West coast of Ireland near Clifden. The races take place along a spit of land between the mainland and Omey Island, which at low tide forms the race track and at high tide can be covered in 6-10 feet of water. Kelley and I did not know the first thing about horse racing (all of the information above I learned after the act) but it was very fun to see these amazing animals move with such speed and grace at the peak of their potential! Not to mention the setting was very unique.
The next week we went to the fabled Galway Races, which is a seven day event that dates back to 1869. Horses gallop from all over the world to attend the races and the total prize money dolled out over the seven-day event is in excess of 2 million Euro! The Galway Races were much fancier than the Omey Races with women in fancy dresses and men in three-piece suits – not to mention the hats: Oh the HATS! Kelley and I did not really bring any fancy cloths to Ireland, so there was that… despite our fashion inadequacies we had a wonderful time!
Well that wraps it up! Watch out Kentucky…..your little derby could be next!