This Weekend Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin, Ireland really is the place to be this weekend for harness racing and although there is more than 120 horses running for €30,000+ in prize money, there is much more than money at stake over the 2 days race meet.
All season there have been battles raging across all ranks of pacers and trotters and these simmering rivalries are set to finally boil over at Portmarnock in front of what is forecasted to be a monster attendance.
The feature event of the weekend is the Christopher Dunne Memorial Derby that pitches hot favourite Rhyds Rainbow against arch rival Rhyds Art with the end result being a winner for the punters as this is set to be a no-holds-barred catfight for the €10,000 first prize.
Rainbow has beaten Art virtually every time they met so far and boasts a 1.57.3 personal best as opposed to Art’s best of 1.58.1 but the pendulum seems to have swung back in favour of the latter in recent weeks as she beat Rainbow rather comprehensively at Tregaron in August.
Has Rainbow gone “over the top” or can she bounce back to inflict yet another defeat on her arch nemesis, the rapidly improving Art?
Pundits predict that this grudge match between the two top fillies is going to get vicious and it’s us the paying public who love the sport who'll will be rewarded with a spectacle of biblical proportions.
Lob in the colts, Porterstown Chris and Ayr Regal, who are both at the top of their game at the moment and this event is shaping up to be the classic of all classics.
Whilst on the subject of top class fillies, the STAGBI aged fillies and mares race is another mouth-watering contest and this tail-ends the Saturday night card.
The popular Shades Of Grey representing England will be all the rage in this but Scottish raider Racezapan will not go down without putting up one hell of a fight.
The Welsh send over Baby Rosa in an effort to bring the coveted prize back to the valleys whilst local hope Coalford Cabrini is Ireland’s best chance of keeping the lion’s share of the prize money at home.
Sunday boasts an equally strong card and there is some serious unfinished business in the top class free for all ranks and with the Grafton Barber sponsored FFA race.
It’s widely predicted by pundits that this race will answer for once, and for all, just who is the top pacer in the British Isles. This race is worth the entry fee alone and family honour is at stake.
Current reigning UK champion Stoneriggs Mystery hammered his rivals into submission at Portmarnock last month and was just 0.5 of a second outside the track record having been parked and also sloppy track conditions.
Local up and coming superstar Springhill Alibi was 3rd that day but it was his first foray into FFA company and he put this experience in the top flight to good use at Tregaron when he exacted revenge on Mystery to lay claim to his title.
Throw in Rhyds Destiny who took the All Ireland title in Inchydoney, Brywins Magic Potion who triumphed at Aberystwyth, Meadowbranch Romeo who landed the Famous Musselburgh Pace, Tir Prince record holder Forafewdollarsmore and Tregaron Welsh Classic winner Saunder Mach Three and we have arguably the best FFA held at any venue in 2014.
The draw will be of paramount importance on the day but the overall victor will rightfully claim to be top dog across England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Le Trot Francais races may not be everybody’s cup of tea but the Gold standard of the French breds have captivated the Irish public all season.
Joe Caffrey’s Romulus Angenais can arguably claim to be the best around at present but Radjah Normand, Rubis De Lorion and Real De Morge are snapping at his heels and eyeing up the number one spot.
These clash again and it would take a brave man to accurately predict the 1-2-3 home in this popular event. It’s unusual for an owner of one of the French breds to step outside the comfort of the restricted races but Englishman John Howard has made the bold move of entering the recently acquired Robec against the speed merchants Danger Of Butcher and Yke Starlake in the Rising Force FFA trot and all eyes will be on the English raider to see if he can move up the gears faster that his French counterparts and beat the crack milers at their own game.
This race will be a thriller, an maybe a track record. Tarawood Messi came of age at Portmarnock last month winning the Paul Murtagh Memorial 4-year-old Classic and the strawberry Roan colt puts his title on the line against 3 opponents on Sunday.
McCoy is a worthy opponent and a game winner in Wales last weekend whilst Racezapan lines out a second time over the weekend – this time against the colts which must be a tip in itself from confident connections.
Ayr Majesty is a king in waiting and it’s predicted that Messi will have to dig deep to the very bottom of his reserves to stop the aptly named Majesty taking his crown.
Will we have a new 4-year-old King or will Messi score yet again and cement himself as the best? The above race previews represent just a small number of scores that will be settled over the weekend and with the advantage of being near the M50, Dublin Airport, Dublin/Dun Laoghaire Ferry Port and local train station, Portmarnock Raceway really will be the place to be this weekend.
In the words of USA Hall of Fame announcer, Roger Huston…BE THERE!
By Thomas Bennett, for Portmarnock Trotting Club