04 June 2011
The west is well and truly awake this weekend as Ráiseanna Beál Bán got underway today on the beach in Baile an Fheirteáraigh in the heart of the Corca Dhuibhne Gaeltacht.
Beál Bán, believed to be the most westerly racecourse in Europe, will see racing taking place over Saturday June 4th and Sunday June 5th on the beach (adjacent to Ballyferriter village). The racecourse is the beach itself (at low tide) and overlooks the majestic Three Sisters and the pristine waters of the the Dingle Peninsula.
This is the first year that Ráiseanna Beál Bán will be hosted as a two-day horse and pony racing meet. Six races are scheduled today and seven tomorrow with a 20-minute race between races on both days (due to expected pressure from the tides). Visitors can enjoy children's events and plenty of family fun at the races with Best Dressed Man & Lady Competitions, Bonny Baby and lots more. Many auxiliary events will also be taking place alongside the races during Féile Chultúrtha Bhaile 'n Fheirtéaraigh with cultural activities and the best traditional Irish music will be heard in Ballyferriter's pubs. Racing at Beál Bán really is an amazing spectacle as competitors from all over Ireland battle it out in what is arguably, one of the most beautiful racing settings in Ireland, with the Atlantic Ocean lapping at your feet. Racing at Beál Bán first took place in the 1950s, dying out towards the end of the decade, until it was revived by an active local committee in 2002. This is the 10th year of racing in Beál Bán and last years event was the biggest to date. With the fine weather we are experiencing, this year's promises to be even better.
This is also one of the most eagerly anticipated events in the Horse and Pony Association's Southern Division and some past competitors have even gone on to compete at professional level with names such as Paul Townshend, and Philip Enright (whom people will know from their outings at Cheltenham and the Irish Grand National) as past competitors at Beál Bán. Local jockey Katie O'Brien from nearby Gallarus, one of the fixture's local stars, is now carving out a successful racing career for herself having cut her teeth at Beál Bán. Other former amateur stars such as Chris Hayes, Billy Lee and Eoin McCarthy also paid their dues at Beál Bán in the past. Local jockey Patrick Kennedy, another alumni of Beál Bán, has also made a big impact on the professional scene. Spectators can expect to see some fantastic racing action today and tomorrow with competitors from all over Munster and beyond converging to battle it out on the sandy beach of Beál Bán.
Coiste Ráiseanna Béal Bán is keen to welcome everyone to Baile an Fheirtéaraigh. They are also very grateful to the many local businesses whose sponsorship ensures the continuation of this great event.