Day At The Track

Dundalk meet in Ireland a huge success Sunday

08:12 AM 29 Sep 2015 NZDT
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Big crowds came out for the one day harness racing meet at Dundalk
Photo courtesy of Dundalk Stadium
Winning driver Martin Loughran and his daughter being interviewed by Darren Owen
Photo courtesy of Dundalk Stadium
The winner's circle was a happy place to celebrate at Dundalk Stadium
Photo courtesy of Dundalk Stadium
The bookies were jammed with fans wanting to get a wager in
Photo courtesy of Dundalk Stadium
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County Louth, Ireland - After a hiatus of 6 years, bumper attendance witnessed the return of harness racing to Dundalk Stadium, where a ten race programme was held, split evenly between pacing races and imported French bred trotting contests.

The popular all-weather venue in the Northeast of the country currently stages 30+ thoroughbred flat race days a year and it is hoped that following on from this trial meeting that these can now be complemented by further harness racing meetings from 2016 onwards.

Representatives of Horse Racing Ireland responsible for sanctioning the return of harness racing to the track were on hand to oversee Sunday’s proceedings as was a French delegation including, Jacques Chartier - UET General secretary, Jean-Pierre Kratzer President of UET and Guillaume Maupas CEO of  LeTrot plus local politicians and councillors from the Dundalk area.

The afternoon kicked off with a surprise victory for Dubliner Alan Wallace with outsider Sire D’Opac and this was followed up by a comfortable win by Scoops Team with leading lady driver Brenda Hudson doing the steering. Saxo de Marancourt had been placed numerous times this season without winning but all that changed for Sean Kane in the next when he fended off Urano De Callions to finally claim his first red rosette.

Local driver Martin Loughran lives in sight of the track and hundreds thronged the winners enclosure when the Cooley native won the fourth race on the card with Rubis De Lorion. He was to follow up that success later in the day when Coalford Commander ran out a comprehensive winner of the Grade D&E pace.

The final of the five trots held was won by Rol D’Avignere who landed a substantial gamble for owner Dean Russell. Brenda Hudson took the reins on this occasion and made light work of the opposition giving her a driving double on the day.

Lyons Premier was all the rage in the betting before the Grade E,F,G pace, but the Welsh owned gelding could not hold off the sustained late challenge of Saunders Picasso, who went on to post a shock win for Goleen man Mike Goggins. Goggins travelled over 300 miles to compete at Dundalk.

President was a deserved winner of the Grade D&E pace, and having been touched off in many big races all season and owner/trainer/driver Shane Howard wore the biggest smile all evening only matched by those cheering the length of the stretch by punters that had availed of the 6/1 odds offered in the betting.

In arguably the most thrilling finish of the day, Maximus Lad hung on grimly for a hard-fought victory for owner Pat Sherlock in the Grade A,B,C, who was made to sweat it out for over 5 mins whilst the judges tried to split a four-way photo finish. Driver Patrick Kane Jnr complemented the gelding on his toughness when interviewed afterwards stating “He’s been in hard training since March and has held his form admirably all season.”

The Grade A finale almost raised the roof off the packed stands as Charlie Bennett’s Tarawood Messi sailed up the stands rails to send favourite backers home on a high.

In a poignant post-race interview with master of ceremony on the day Darren Owen, driver Jonathan Dunne confirmed that it was his final drive in Ireland before his impending move to Canada to try his luck at making it big amongst the best in the world and after his last-to-first manoeuvre aboard Tarawood Messi, he demonstrated clearly that he won’t look out of place lining up alongside John Campbell, Yannick Gingras, Tim Tetrick and Jody Jamieson in the coming weeks in the land of the Maple Leaf.

All told, Sunday’s meeting is adjudged to have been an overwhelming success and if crowd attendance is a barometer of the sport’s popularity, then harness racing is in a very healthy position in Ireland at present and deserves more meetings allocated to it by the HRI at Dundalk Stadium.

With just one calendar month left of the 2015 season, the hard-working organisations IHRA and SHRI, now have one eye firmly fixed on next year with some very big plans in the pipeline to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

By Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

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