‘Sligo’s Racing Tradition
(Reference “ Sligo Races”, 50 Years of Racing at Cleveragh by Rory O’Beirne)
In August 2005 County Sligo Race Committee celebrated fifty years of horseracing at Cleveragh racecourse, which is situated within the Borough of Sligo and is reputed to be one of the most picturesque courses in the country.
Horseracing has been held at various venues in County Sligo from time immemorial but the earliest recorded race meeting under Turf Club rules took place at Bowmore, Rosses Point in September 1781. This was a four day festival of racing over the three-mile horseshoe-shaped seaside arena with stakes totalling 200 Guineas. Racing continued annually, barring a few cancellations, at this popular venue until the 1840’s.
After a lapse of a number of years Mr John Wynne made a new course available on his lands at Hazelwood in the vicinity of Sligo Town. The first meeting at this venue took place on Wednesday, April 16th, 1873. There were five races on the card, run under Turf Club rules. In 1886 the lands at Hazelwood were unavailable for racing and the Sligo Race Committee of the day decided to return to Bowmore to hold their annual fixture. They remained at Rosses Point course for the next twelve years.
Racing returned to Hazelwood in 1898 and with the exception of the World War 1 years it continued there annually until the last meeting on the shores of Lough Gill was held on April 8th 1942. At this final meeting several well-known local names are featured in the results – the Brownes and Rowlettes of Sligo, the Boyds of Easkey, Leo McMorrow, Sligo, Frank O’Beirne, Rosses Point,Frank Boland and H.C. Burke of Ballina.
With the loss of the Hazelwood venue Sligo races struggled to survive, even to the extent of staging a “Sligo fixture” in 1946-47 and again in 1949-50 on the Newbrook course outside Mullingar.’