Come the weekend of August 9 and 10, harness racing in Ireland and the United Kingdom will see their richest stakes race ever as the Vincent Delaney Memorial will take place for two-year-old pacers at the Portmarnock Trotting Track in north Dublin, Ireland.
It is a fitting tribute by Derek and James Delaney in memory of their younger brother Vincent as a record number of 52 pacing colts and fillies have been nominated to the event and thus there will be elimination races held Saturday, August 9 and the final on Sunday, August 10.
Nominations had come soaring in from across Britain and Ireland because the Delaney brothers convinced Ladbrokes to become a major title sponsor for the race and with their added monies the Delaney Memorial will race for total purses of more than 25,750 pounds ($43,291 US).
The race series first came about after the death of Vincent Delaney in 2011 at age 27. The Delaney brothers have been involved with horses since they were children and in 2000 they moved from Dublin to the country and establlshed Oakwood Stud, where they run a successful breeding operation and train young horses. They also now stand American import, Share The Delight. It was there that young Vincent learned about harness racing.
“My brother Vincent loved the horses,” explained Derek Delaney. “He would help us with everything we did on the farm, so that is where we came up with the idea of having a top flight two-year-old series in his memory.
“Vincent was the athlete among us,” Derek recalled, “He ran in the Dublin City Marathon only eight month before he passed on. We were very close the three brothers. Then one day he stopped in a bookies to have a bet and suffered a massive heart attack. It was so sad because he also left behind a beautiful young daughter named Ryhanna.
“My brother James and I later came up with this race series,” Derek said, “So that everyone would remember Vincent and how much he loved the young horses and going to the races.
“There has never been a proper 2-year-old event in Ireland,” Derek said, “We knew that there was a gap in the market that could be filled and help benefit ourselves and any other stud breeders, etc. as people would want to breed again and the more superior studs could offload their youngsters for better money and re-invest in the sport.
“This has all happened in such a short time the race has been running,” Derek added, “There has been a lot of top broodmares bought in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in the USA this past year and yearlings just for this event. I personally bought a mare that has bred a few in under 1:50. Others also bought some mares and stallions. This year the yearlings here set new marks in sales in the UK with one top colt bringing 38,000 sterling ($64,000 US) and another brought 26,000; 23,000 and 13,000 etc.”
The list of nominees for the race reads like a yearling sales catalog in the USA. Foals are sired by Somebeachsomewhere, Western Ideal, Cambest, Cam’s Card Shark, Pro Bono Best, No Pan Intended and more.
Fillies will race in separate elimination divisions of the Delaney Memorial depending on the number of entries, but the final on Sunday will be mixed with all the Saturday divisional winners returning. Fillies will draw for the inside post positions. Portmarnock is a half mile track and distance will be one mile. The winner of each elimination division will earn 1,200 pounds ($2,000 US). These elimination races will also allow punters a chance at some insight into what horses to look out for in the main event. Every horse nominated must have competed in at least two wagering events before they can be entered in the Vincent Delaney Memorial Series.
The purse to the winner in the final on Sunday will be 12,000 pounds ($20,177). Over the weekend the track will also host the Oakwood Stud 3YO Derby; the Paul Murtagh Senior 4YO and the Elvin & Delaney FFA Trot.
“Most people just put up a cup for a memorial race,” Derek said, “But my brother James and I wanted to do more than just that. My cousin Denise Moore is area manager for Ladbrokes in North Dublin and I worked very hard on her to get Ladbrokes to secure the sponsorship. They (Ladbrokes) don’t acknowledge harness racing in Ireland too well so this is a big deal to get their name on the event. We also get sponsorship monies from farriers, horse feed suppliers, stud farms, equine vets and more. It was be a super fine weekend of racing.”
Most people told Derek and James that the race series would not work for two-year-olds and should have been developed for three-year-olds because two-year-olds were never really raced in Ireland. But Derek and James have proved the naysayers wrong.
“I personally believe the race has influenced people to go and invest in breeding and buying broodmares and yearlings,” Derek said. “It has put the buzz back in the sport which has been missing since the downturn in the economy. The problem, as I see it, is that we had in Ireland and England too many people waiting to see a horse on the race track before they bought it and now they have to take a chance and follow bloodlines, etc. in order to race for the big money.
“This has had a major positive effect on breeding, sales, reinvestment and general buzz around the event,” Derek added, “and with the not knowing what’s going to make it to the races, who is going to win, I think makes it all the more exciting for everyone. This is why I personally love youngsters as you just don't know what you have and that makes the event unique.
“I am so proud off the way we have turned a negative into a positive for me and all my family,” Derek said. “Now we will enjoy a weekend of top class racing at our local track and to remember my brother that passed. It will be a very emotional weekend for me.”
Derek and James Delaney have not only gone all out in paying tribute to their late brother and in helping change the status of harness racing in Ireland and the UK, but they have more in store for this major weekend of racing….stay tuned!
By Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink.com