Monday, 15th October 1951 was an important day in the lives of everybody with an interest in racing and, in particular, for those enterprising people who turned the dream of opening a new racecourse at Wexford into reality.
The new track at Bettyville looked green and spacious; the new stands afforded excellent viewing facilities for the thousands of spectators and contemporary press reports offered conservative estimates which claimed an attendance of 17,000 on that pleasant historic October afternoon.
The first race was at 2 o’clock and the admission prices for the day were ten shillings for gentlemen, five shillings for ladies and half-a-crown for the outside enclosure. Car parking was free and catering was in the experienced hands of Lawlors af Naas. The Chairman of the Racing Board, Mr. W.T. Cosgrave was in attendance to give the fixture an air of officialdom and to inspect the new course for himself, together with N. O’Dwyer, Course Architect and the Contractor for the racecourse, Paul Murphy of Brownswood, Enniscorthy was also present.
The Directors appointed were the brothers, Dr. T. E. Pierse and Dr. James Pierse, the County Manager, T. D. Sinnott, the Chief Agricultural Officer, M. T. Connolly, P.O. Lambert and Dan Murphy with James White as Secretary. The Directors became Officials on the day along with the Hon. W.E. Wylie K.C., Sir James Nelson, Major M. L. Larkin, Dr P. D. Murphy and Messrs J. G. Duggan, J. de Bromhead, P. Molony and A. French. 70 horses faced the starter, Major R. H. Scott. Each race offered £130 prize money. Sinntara, dam of the hero of 2000, Sinndar, winner of the Irish and English Derbies and the Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, won a maiden race at Wexford on 30 July 1992 and added the Irish Cesearewitch at the Curragh in September of that year.
The Board of Directors was given financial and administrative strength by the addition of Micheal O’Murchadha who was a keen racing enthusiast. James White gained respect in his position as track secretary, a roll he held with distinction until 1989. Michael Murphy became general manager in 1989. Strong support from the newly founded Wexford Racecourse Supporters’ Club meant much needed finance was raised and with the added assistance of sponsorship, a programme of improvement was set in train. The first task was to improve the condition of the track. The surface was levelled and drained, the sharp bend into the straight was eased, two furlongs were added on the western side and cambering on the bends made racing safer.
Immediate effect was felt as the top trainers began to send runners to the track. Bigger fields and better racing results. With the track in order the management turned its attention to improving the facilities for patrons. On 31 May 1996 the Minister of Agriculture, Ivan Yates T.D. opened the new stand complete with bars and Tote betting facilities. Minister Yates returned to open the Ivy Room in 1998 comprising of a bar and restaurant.
Improvement work at Wexford Racecourse continues to the present, 2 furlongs have been added to the track and the direction of racing was changed from right to left in early 2015. The reservoir has been moved in order to widen the eastern end of the track and irrigation has been updated. Track widening, which is ongoing, will allow fresh ground for 2-day racing. All toilet facilities have been upgraded to the highest standard. Stabling has been greatly improved and increased. The jockeys and valets area has been extended and upgraded and the Weigh Room is next for upgrading.