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Listowel – things you may not know

The Listowel Festival meeting takes place this week. Here are some things you may not know about it.

The first race meeting was on October 5th and 6th, 1858.

The racecourse is on an island. Access is via a bridge over the River Feale.  In 1908, part of the temporary bridge collapsed under the weight of the crowd leaving the course, hurling 50 men, women and children into the river. Luckily, the water was not too deep. A permanent bridge was built in 1910. A second bridge was added in 1967.

No race meetings took place from 1918 to 1920. However, it was nothing to do with the state of the ground. The unstable political climate caused the abandonment of the 1918 meeting. The following year, a railway strike prevented racing from going ahead. Then in 1920, the activities of the Black and Tans turned North Kerry into a battle zone, forcing the cancellation of the race meeting. The races were cancelled again in 1922 due to the civil war in Ireland.

The first permanent wooden stand opened in 1924. The first concrete stand opened in 1957.

Tommy Carberry’s riding career ended at Listowel in 1982. He broke four ribs and punctured a lung in a fall and spent three months in hospital. Ironically, his son Paul’s career also ended there following a fall in 2015. He broke his left leg when Rich Coast fell.

It is now a seven-day fixture, having begun as a two-day one. Its only other race meeting takes place in June.

Listowel and the Kerry National

The first Kerry National took place in 1945. Knight of Venosa won the first running.

Arkle’s jockey Pat Taaffe won the Kerry National five times.

Monty’s Pass won it in 2002, six months before winning the Grand National. Dorans Pride won the race in 1997. He also won a maiden hurdle there in 1993. Gold Cup winners Captain Christy and Davy Lad both won races at Listowel. Sadly, another Gold Cup winner, Coneygree, won’t run there this week due to the heavy ground.

About Chris Pitt

Chris Pitt is a racing historian and freelance journalist. He has written three books including 'A Long Time Gone', chronicling Britain's lost racecourses, and 'Go Down to the Beaten', stories of jockeys who didn't win the Grand National. He founded the Midlands Racing Club and was formerly racing correspondent for BBC Radio WM.

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