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Carmarthenshire Community News West Wales

Ffos Las Racecourse turns 15 years old this Summer 

IT’S not quite a coming of age in the traditional sense, but Ffos Las Racecourse intends to party hard when it celebrates its 15th birthday. 

The Carmarthenshire venue will be marking the occasion later this month on Sunday, June 23, when officials of the UK’s youngest racecourse host a 15th Birthday Raceday celebration. 

There will be seven high quality flat races, plus live music from two bands – The Brothers of Blues and Bjorn to Rock – while former Wales and British Lions rugby star Mike Phillips will be delivering a Q and A session. 

There will also be a chance for party-goers to learn more about horse racing and maybe even explore the possibility of getting more directly involved as a racehorse owner, through syndicates. 

And no decent birthday party is complete without a birthday cake and this one will be large, with plenty of slices to go around. 

It was back on Thursday June 18, 2009 that Ffos Las Racecourse threw open its doors for the first time with its inaugural race meeting. 

The venue, near the village of Trimsaran, became the first new turf racecourse in the UK since 1927, the fulfilment of a dream for then owner, businessman Dai Walters. 

Only one other track had opened in the intervening years, an all-weather racecourse in Essex which lasted only eight months. 

The very first winner at Ffos Las – striding home past the winning post in the opening race before a crowd of 10,000 – was a horse called Plunkett, ridden by Irishman Donal Fahy, making Welsh trainer Evan Williams the first winning trainer. 

Williams is still training winners a decade-and-a-half later and says, “I am very proud of that achievement and equally very proud of every Welsh trainer and young jockey that has come through at Ffos Las and gained winners. 

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“Local riders who have come through and performed at Ffos – like James and Sean Bowen – are wonderful ambassadors for the sport in Wales. 

“Ffos Las has joined that list of established great Welsh sporting arenas and that’s something we should all rightly be celebrating. 

“It would be difficult enough for a new racecourse to have opened and thrived in much more populated areas of the UK, but for one in West Wales to have come along and survived – against a lot of the predictions – says an awful lot about the people in this little corner of the world.” 

That opening day set high standards for Ffos Las. Not only was multi-winning Champion Jockey AP McCoy a rider, but other legends from the sport such as commentator Peter O’Sullevan were in attendance. 

The local stardust was sprinkled by the likes of former Wales rugby star Jonathan Davies, who grew up in Trimsaran and who was honoured by giving his name to the main Jonathan Davies Grandstand. 

“It was a great day – very memorable for everyone who was there,” adds Williams, whose daughters, Isabel and Eleanor Williams, have been two of many Welsh jockeys to have since ridden at Ffos Las meetings. 

“It’s like everything in sport, if you have good facilities – and those at Ffos Las are absolutely first class – then it inspires people to come up through the grass roots. 

“Ffos Las has survived 15 years, it’s a got a fabulous reputation as somewhere to go racing, we are getting more top quality horses racing there, and I’m convinced it will still be alive and kicking long after we are all dead and gone.”