Irish 1000 Guineas History

CURRAGH, IRELAND - MAY 22: Mick Kinane and Saoire (stars on sleeve) lead the field home to land The Boylesports Irish 1000 Guineas Race run at The Curragh Racecourse on May 22, 2005 at The Curragh, Ireland. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)Irish 1000 Guineas history began in 1922, when the inaugural race was won by the filly Lady Violette. The year before saw the first Irish 2000 Guineas, in which mostly colts participate.

Since 1922, the Irish 1000 Guineas has been raced every year in May, at the Curragh. It is one of the five Irish Classic races, which also include the Irish 2000 Guineas, Irish Derby, Irish Oaks and St Leger.

The Irish 1000 Guineas was initiated based on the popularity of the English 1000 Guineas, first raced at Newmarket on 28 April, 1814. The 1000 Guineas takes its name from the original prize fund offered for the English race – a hefty sum for the early 1800s, with one guinea equivalent to about £1.05.

In Irish racing history, the Irish Derby Festival is the oldest of the Irish Classics – it was first raced in 1866, also at the Curragh.

Curragh Racing History

Although Irish 1000 Guineas history goes back only to 1922, the Curragh Racecourse has been hosting official races since as early as 1741. Documents also show that the surrounding plain known as the Curragh – or “An Cuireach” in Gaelic – saw chariot races in the third century, and that its use for horse racing dates all the way back to pre-Christian times.

In the 1760s, a Jockeys’ Club was set up in a coffee house in Kildare town, where the Curragh is located. By 1790, this club had evolved into the Turf Club, which continues to regulate horse racing throughout Ireland to this day.

In 1865, the House Of Parliament set up a commission to examine the Curragh. This led to the 1868 Curragh Of Kildare Act, which specifically protected the use of the Curragh – a total area defined as 4,870 acres – for horse racing and training.

After 1921, the Curragh lands passed from the British to the Irish Minister Of Finance, and later to the Department Of Defence, which continues to administer them and has a military training camp on the site.

Curragh Legends And Uses

A hill to the north of the Curragh, known as Almhain, is known as the mythical meeting place of Fianna. Legends also tell that when the High King of Leinster jokingly told St Brigid that she could have as much land as she could cover with her cloak as the site for a new monastery in Kildare. St Brigid proceeded to use her cloak to cover the entire Curragh plain.

As well as its use for racing horses, the Curragh plain was used as a site for mustering armies. During the 1798 rebellion in Ireland, a massacre occurred there at Gibbet Rath.

A natural amphitheatre on the Curragh is known as Donnelly’s Hollow, because it was there that the Irish champion boxer Dan Donnelly defeated the English champion George Cooper, in 1815.

Don’t miss the continuation of Irish 1000 Guineas history at the Curragh in May!