Day At The Track

Heather Vitale heading to Ireland for big race!

06:38 AM 05 Aug 2014 NZST
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Heather Vitale, harness racing Heather Vitale, harness racing
Heather Vitale is heading to Ireland for the Ladbroke's Vincent Delaney Memorial Series
Heather Vitale (former Mrs. Harrington USA) interviewing Delaware Gov. Jack Markell

TV host for PA Harness Week and her own show, Post Time, Heather Vitale is joining the group of hall of fame drivers, announcer and journalist who are all heading over to Ireland this weekend for the Ladbroke’s Vincent Delaney Memorial series at Portmarnock Trotting Track outside of Dublin.

Vitale, a third generation horsewoman, first read about the race back in June.

“I read about the Vincent Delaney Memorial for the first time on Harnesslink,” Heather said. “It was back in June when they announced that Roger Huston was going over to call the races.

“Then, it seemed like every time I turned around there was something else written about this big race weekend,” Heather said, “So I got very curious.

“I’m the kind of girl who hates to miss a race that has this much excitement surrounding it.” Heather added, “I live for events where people like Derek and James Delaney have a passion for the sport and they are remembering their brother Vincent in this spectacular way.”

Heather said that she has traveled to Europe before but never to Ireland.

“I’ve been to England a couple of times,” Heather said, “And to several other countries in Europe, but I’ve never been to Ireland. I am beyond excited about going.”

And don’t be fooled by Heather Vitale’s last name!

“My late grandfather was a top horse trainer named Elmer Looney,” Heather explained, “I was told as a child that our family on my mother’s side was originally named O’Looney but they dropped the “O” when they came to America from Ireland.

“So I’ve already started looking up the name O’Looney in Dublin,’ Heather said, you never know, maybe I’ll run into someone with that last name. Plus, my first name is Heather and that is the native wildflower in Ireland.

“I'm Irish and Italian, Heather said, “And I've been to Italy twice so I've seen the country where my dad's family came from. Now I get to travel to the country of my mom's ancestors. “

Heather will arrive in Dublin Friday morning off the red-eye along with Hall of Famers Roger Huston, USA/Canada’s Wally Hennessey, New Zealand’s star Anthony Butt and Harnesslink’s reporter Steve Wolf.

There is a full agenda for the working guests with a trip to the breeding farms Friday afternoon and a gala dinner that night. Then a meet and greet at the Portmarnock track early afternoon Saturday followed by the special auction items finale and then the early evening race card that will feature the elimination divisions for the Ladbroke’s Vincent Delaney Memorial.

The series is for two-year-olds with elimination races Saturday and the finale on Sunday afternoon plus both days will feature other special trotting and pacing events.

Heather Vitale is on a whirlwind tour for harness racing as last month she did the CBS SportsNet Meadowlands Pace broadcast and next month will do the CBS SportsNet live broadcast of the Little Brown Jug from Delaware, Ohio.

“On Tuesday morning I fly out of Dublin non-stop to Philadelphia,” Heather said, “Then I go directly to Harrah’s Philadelphia and shoot this week’s edition of PA Harness Week with my co-host Steve Ross. I know that sounds nuts but the flight is only seven hours and non-stop so I’ll sleep on the plane and there’s a Starbuck’s in the Philly airport that I am familiar with!

“I am going to shoot lot of video for myself and my show Post Time (which airs in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia on the local CBS affiliates), “Heather explained, “I love doing features on what harness racing is like in different parts of the world. So many people are familiar with racing Down Under, in North America, and even over in Sweden and France, but what about Ireland and England? I don’t know that much about harness racing in Ireland so this is going to be a great education for me and for my TV viewers.”

It will also be a special time for Heather as she will be interviewed herself on Irish TV.

“It is so great that Heather Vitale is joining the list of special guests coming to Ireland for my brother’s race,” Said Derek Delaney. “When the arrangements were finalized for Heather coming over, one of the Irish TV stations that will be covering the races asked if they could do an interview with her about all she does in covering harness racing in the USA. I think that is more than fitting and will make for a great interview.”

“I never get tired of telling people how fantastic our sport is,” Heather said. “Whether it’s on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, meeting race fans at the Hambletonian or doing an interview in Ireland, I’m ready to talk with everyone about harness racing!”

Heather’s mother, Joanne Looney-King and her sister Susan Looney were harness racing driving stars during their careers in racing. Mom still owns and trains while her sister Susan is an attorney. Both held long time records at the Meadowlands and Heather had her trainer’s license before switching full time to journalism.

So whether it’s being interviewed, doing interviews, learning about Irish harness racing or maybe even finding her “roots” or perhaps even a long lost “O’Looney” family member, Heather Vitale is set for a big weekend in Ireland.

By Steve Wolf, for

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