Project Description

Portmarnock Raceway
Standardbred Harness Racing Ireland

Portmarnock Raceway, Portmarnock, Co. Dublin

TYPE: Social Enterprise
THEME: Economic Development
FUNDING: €110,675.29

Portmarnock Raceway

Harness racing is a sport where a special breed of horses, called Standardbreds, race around a track while pulling a driver in a two wheeled cart called a “sulky.” The horses reach speeds of more than 30 mph. Portmarnock Raceway was owned and operated by private enterprise as a Harness Racing venue for in excess of 40 years from the early 1960’s to 2004 when it was sold for development purposes and closed. This left a major void in this geographical region for the Harness Racing enthusiasts who suddenly found themselves without a venue to race.

In late 2007 SHRI was formed with a view to re establishing a Harness Racing venue in the greater Dublin region.  An opportunity arose in 2011 to acquire a lease on Portmarnock Raceway and they have completed several successful racing seasons at this venue. SHRI has invested upwards of €225,000 in the refurbishment and redevelopment of Portmarnock to date. All investment to date has been from within the Club’s own resources and fundraising activities. Portmarnock raceway is seen as the ancestral home of Harness Racing in Ireland and has many unique attributes not least its location close to a very large centre of population.

Project outline

The proposal was to provide an essential service to the local and national harnessing racing equine industry through the provision of a fully integrated training and competition centre for harness racing sport horses. The organization has recently been affiliated to the Horse Sport Ireland which is the national representative body of sports horses in Ireland.

The proposed development included the following main items:

Spectator Stand
This is a 300 seated covered stand with toilets underneath and room on top that will house the commentator and camera man.

Children’s Play Ground
There are currently no play facilities for children. It is hoped that by providing a safe and interesting play area to make Harness Racing a more family friendly event.

Track Conditioner
To reset the track to its original condition after each race.

Camera system for track
This system is required to enable races to be properly stewarded at all times. It is regarded as essential at all Harness Racing tracks.

Photo Finish System
This was regarded as essential equipment at all racetracks. Providing the system will encourage more bookies to take pitches at the meetings and will add to the overall excitement for the race goer.

Cold Room
The cold room was required for storage in anticipation of increased business both in the clubhouse and at occasional functions.

Mobile unit to run the business of racing from.


The promoters were successful in their application, with funding of €110,675.29 approved. The promoters have built a new stand installed cameras and the photo Finnish system. They have purchased and installed the cold room and office. The playground is also in situ and operational and has helped make the site more family friendly. The promoters have also five placements on the TUS scheme working varied positions from maintenance to administration of race days, promotion and marketing. Numbers attending race meetings are on the rise and the promoters are coming near the end of their most exciting season of racing yet. Thanks to the investment from the LEADER programme the promoters can look forward to many more seasons as successful in the future.

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