Co. Louth is Ireland's smallest county and the only one in that sporty and horsey?
Co. Louth is Ireland's smallest county and the only one in that sporty and horsey land to be without a racecourse. Consolation comes each June, however, when Laytown, on the east coast above Dublin, stages its unique Strand Races. Unique because these are the only sand races officially recognised by the British Racing Board.
On a day favourable for its low tide, the crowds, the bookmakers, the jockeys and the horseboxes gather on the damp and serried strip of sand between low and high water mark. Quickly, between 3.30 and 6 p.m. this year, the six events were run, each race worth 150 movs., from the Committee Plate to the Ballygarth Handicap.
Local personalities mingle with the crowds that swarm over the casually marked course. This year, Noel Purcell, Irish film actor, was present.
And it's all such a darlin' Cirish, don't-give-a-hang atmosphere. Laytown's own answer to Ascot cones informality. The starts are a most casual affair to lock at: crowds block the course, pressing in to get a front-on view. Only a few seconds before the jockeys thunder past to police manage to cleave a way clear and allow the competitors through.