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Without any permanent facilities, the course is set up as the tide recedes on the morning of the races and temporary marquees are erected for the weight room, bars and restaurants on the site.
During the 1950s and 1960s, horses often ran at the track as preparation for the Galway Races, with there being no all-weather surfaces in Ireland at the time.
Nowadays, many local trainers still use the beach as a training ground and change of scene for their horses, including Gordon Elliott, who often brought the legendary Tiger Roll for a day out at the beach during his stellar career.
Originally, races run at the venue ranged from five furlongs to two miles with a U-shaped turn at Bettystown, the neighbouring village, before horses turned back to the finish at Laytown.
But in 1994 an accident occurred when one of the horses was spooked by a river stream before bolting into the crowd.
Thereafter, many safety measures were put into place. The turn was taken away with races limited to a straight and much shorter distances, while maximum field sizes were also significantly reduced.
What has remained the same, though, is the popularity of the meeting among locals and overseas visitors from across Europe, who are attracted to the storied heritage of the strand races.
Jockeys like Ruby Walsh, Pat Smullen, Patrick Mullins, Colin Keane, Pat Smullen and Joseph O’Brien have all ridden winners at the track.
And while the horse racing may lack the quality of other major festivals, crowds continue to flock to Laytown and this year promises to be no different, with an attendance of over 5,000 people expected.
When and where is it on?
This year, the races will take place on Tuesday, September 12th. The first is scheduled to start at 4.45 pm, with the last beginning at 7.15 pm.
Laytown Races is a small seaside resort in Meath, 29 miles north of Dublin. The beach itself connects with Bettystown Beach and Morningtown Beach to total a 5km stretch of sand along the coast that is a very popular tourist spot during the summer months. The home to a links golf course, a famous amusement arcade and many holiday homes, a festive atmosphere is guaranteed in the community during race week.
Trainers to follow?
One would not expect a British trainer to be one of the leading trainers at the Laytown Races, given that, despite its novelty, the prize money on offer is relatively modest. But Jamie Osborne has a terrific record at the track owing to the love the Melbourne 10 Racing, one of his owners, has for the meeting.
The group of ten owners, including Osborne himself, make the trip to the venue every year and seemingly send over a bigger team of horses every year.
Bagging a winner at the 2016 and the 2017 meetings, Melbourne 10 then had three winners in 2018. Their lack of representatives at the 2021 meeting was likely due to the Covid-19 restrictions, so expect the English raiders to be back in full force.
Other trainers to watch out for are often the local ones. Stamullen trainer TG McCourt has a very good strike rate at the track, while Lusk-based Ado McGuinness is also a trainer to follow on the sand.
Jockey to follow
In the last five years, Colin Keane has operated at a 25% strike rate at the track, with six winners from 24 rides. The three-time Irish champion jockey clearly rides the unique course well and his mounts should always be monitored closely in the market.
In terms of quality of horses, the Laytown Races is not the highest standard, but this can lend itself to competitive races where value can be had. At the 2021 meeting, there were three handicaps, a maiden, a claiming race, and a conditions race.
One would expect many big-priced winners due to the unusual nature of the track's surface, but bookmakers are wary of this, with the biggest priced winner in the last five meetings being a 16/1 chance.
You might also expect that the track would lend itself to course specialists, but in the last five years only Tyrconnell has won more than one race at Laytown Races, winning the same handicap in 2018 and 2019.
As ever, it often pays to keep tabs on jockey bookings. The fixture comes near the conclusion of the flat season when the jockey's championship could be in the balance. Therefore, it is worth taking account of who the leading jockeys are booked to ride, especially if they are riding for one of the lesser known trainers.
For example, in the last five years, Colin Keane, as well as riding a winner for leading trainer Ger Lyons, has also ridden winners for Richard Ford, TG McCourt and Gerard Keane.
How To Place A Bet
If betting on the Laytown Races, you have many options. For a beginner, it can often be very confusing. To break down how betting on horse racing works, let's first consider what we mean by the odds
Simply put: the odds are the expected probability of something happening. If a bookmaker prices a horse at 4/1, it means that they think that 1 in 5 times it will win the horse race. If the horse is 6/1, they think it will win 1 in 7 times.
The odds tell punters how much they will make if their horse wins the race. So, for example, let's say we stake a €10 bet on a horse with odds of 3/1. These odds tell the punter that for every €1 they stake on this horse, if it wins the race, they will win €3. So, if they put €10 on this winning horse, they will win €30 (€10 x 3) while they will also get their stake back.
If someone exclaims that they had a 25/1 winner, it means that for every €1 they put on the horse, they won €25!
The odds can look more complicated sometimes. For example, if the horse is 7/4 it is not as straightforward to calculate. It means though that if you stake the denominator (4) you will win the numerator (7) if your horse wins the race i.e. stake €4 on this horse and you will win €7. If you stake €8, for example, you will win €14, and so on.
This is the fractional odds format that is the most commonly used in Irish horse racing. There is also Decimal and American format, which present the odds differently but use the same principles.
The Win Bet
|This is the most simple and common betting type used in horse racing. It is all-or-nothing. You are betting on your horse to finish 1st in the race, but if the horse doesn't win, you lose your stake. Whether the horse finished second or last is irrelevant to your bet as they didn't win the race.|
The Each-way Bet
Oftentimes people want to hedge their bets and have more chance of winning money or getting their stake back. The each-way bet is used for this reason.
|It is made up of two parts, the "win" bet and the "place" bet. To best understand this, it might work best to take these two parts in isolation.|
|The "win" bet is exactly the same as the win bet described above. You win money if the horse wins the race but lose all your money if it doesn't win the race.|
|The "place" bet is when you think the horse will be placed 1st, 2nd or 3rd, although this does complicate on occasions. If there are lots of runners in the race, bookmakers might pay out on the horse finishing 4th and even 5th or 6th. Whereas if there are less than eight runners, it is common that they will only pay out on the 1st and 2nd places.|
- An example: You stake €5 each-way on Tiger Roll at odds of 8/1. This means you are placing a €5 'win bet' and a €5 'place bet' on Tiger Roll. The race itself has 10 runners, so bookmakers are counting the 1st, 2nd and 3rd horses as being placed. They are also offering a quarter of the odds for place bets.
Here are the three different scenarios for the bet:
Tiger Roll wins the race:
The €5 'win bet' you placed means your profit from this part of the bet is €40 (€5 @8/1).
You also won the 'placed bet' of the bet as your horse finished in top three. However, there was a greater probability of Tiger Roll finishing in the top three than there is of him winning the race, so you get shorter odds for the place part of the bet. In this case, you get a quarter of 8/1 which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1).
In total then, for the each-way bet, your profit is €50 (€40 from the 'win bet' and €10 from the 'place bet'). Plus, you are also given your stake back of €10, so the total return is €60.
Tiger Roll finishes 2nd or 3rd:
The bad news is that you lose the stake from your €5 'win bet' as the horse failed to win the race. The good news is that you won the €5 'place bet' as Tiger Roll was placed i.e. he finished in the top three.
As above, you get a quarter of 8/1, which is 2/1. Therefore, for the place part of the bet your profit is €10 (€5 @ 2/1). It breaks down as follows:
Win Bet: - €5
Place Bet: +€10
Your total profit is €5.
Tiger Roll finishes outside the top three:
This is the worst result. You have lost both the 'win bet' and 'place bet'. You have lost the 'win bet' because Tiger Roll didn't win the race, and you have lost the 'place bet' because Tiger Roll did not finish in 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
In total, you have lost €10 on the bet.
Laytown Races Betting FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive about the Laytown Races.
As with gambling on any race meeting, there is a degree of risk involved, and punters should only bet what they can afford to lose. In general, the races on Laytown Strand are not big betting heats, with punters often attending or tuning in to experience the novel spectacle more than gambling.
The limited numbers of runners can dissuade some each-way punters from getting involved, but it is always worth comparing bookmaker's websites for the best offers on the day of the races. The good recent record for favourites at the meeting suggests that it is often a kind meeting for punters.
If travelling by car, the racecourse is easily accessible from Dublin. Drivers should take junction 7 off the M1 motorway, then follow the R132 road to Julianstown before taking the R150 to Laytown. In this sense, the racecourse is easily accessible from Belfast.
Another good option for racegoers is the train with a regular service running from Dublin (Connolly Station) to Laytown Station. Check out Irishrail.ie for further details about train services. Finally, there is also a private bus service called Matthews Coaches which runs regularly from Dublin city centre to Laytown, dropping customers right beside the track.
There are a number of places to stay in the nearby town of Drogheda, a ten minute drive away. Racegoers looking to stay closer can consider Bettystown, which has a hotel in the Village Hotel, while there are a number of B&B options in Laytown, Bettystown and Mornington.
Racegoers can book tickets in advance on the racecourse's website, where there is plenty of information about making a visit to the meeting. Laytown has a range of social media pages - Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram - with plenty of content about the strand races.
In 2021, Irish channel TG4 showed the Laytown Races for the first time, while it will also be available to watch on Racing TV.