This young lad at Laytown Races had one eye on the horses and the other one on his ice cream. All photos by Jenny Callanan.
Laytown Races is one of those special events in the calendar that attracts people who never attend any other race meeting. For locals it is a day out like no other, a chance to meet friends old and new - some of whom might have a tip for a horse or even some juicy gossip.
Everything is different about Laytown. For a start there is no course as such, the horses race along the beach. In fact it is Ireland’s only horse racing event run on a beach under the Rules of Racing.
Laytown is an extremely popular event with people travelling from all over Ireland and much further afield to witness a unique event that has been running since 1868. Many in attendance have no knowledge of horses other than they have four legs, one in each corner, and big teeth with which it is best to avoid any contact
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Regular racegoers also love Laytown because of its laid back atmosphere and, after all, a day by the seaside never did anyone any harm and you never know who you might bump into.
Over the years there have been some illustrious visitors to Laytown on race day including the Aga Khan in 1949. It is not known whether he added to his fortune with winnings from Laytown but, you know those wealthy types, he probably did.
Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Home Rule League from 1880 to 1882 and then Leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1882 to 1891 was also a steward at Laytown Races.
Many of Ireland’s top international jockeys have ridden winners, and presumably also-rans, at Laytown.
Racing at Laytown wasn’t always confined to horses either - In 1875, presumably in an attempt to introduce something a bit different to the event, there was a bicycle race along the strand for gentlemen on penny farthings. The mind boggles!!
Most readers will have gathered by now that I know next to nothing about horse racing but if you’d like to read a more informed history of racing at Laytown there was a book written by racing enthusiast John Kirwan and historian Fiona Ahern to celebrate 150 years of racing at Laytown and it is available to purchase here:
In the meantime it is probably best to leave it to these photographs taken by Jenny Callanan to do the talking .....