Day At The Track

USA's Merriman, NZ's Dunn find gold in Ireland

07:32 AM 14 Aug 2016 NZST
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Driver Aaron Merriman is interviewed in Ireland by Hall of Fame announcer Roger Huston after winning his first race outside North America.
Susan Looney photo
Big crowd on the track apron for the opening day of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend in Ireland
Steve Wolf photo
A special Cinderella Carriage led the opening ceremonies at the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend Saturday in Ireland.
Stephanie Wolf photo

Dublin, Ireland - Two of the harness racing world's top drivers, Aaron Merriman of the USA and Dexter Dunn from New Zealand, both found their own pots of gold on day one of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend at Portmarnock Raceway Saturday.

Merriman, the world's top dash winning driver in 2015 and the current world leader this season, had to wait until the last race on the program to get his first victory outside of North America.

It came in the 11th race Free-For-All Pace sponsored by PJI Engineering and Lee Edwards, a bulky nine-horse field where only four horses can have their nose on the starting gate. Merriman was in post nine, thus starting from the third tier for the one-mile race.

"I really wanted to get a win today," Merriman said, "and it may have taken until the last race but man is this awesome. My horse was a little aggressive and once we had clearance I just let him do it."

Driving the six-year-old Somebeachsomewhere stallion, Sepia Sands, for owner/trainer Geoff Dunne, Merriman was able to swing wide of the field after the opening quarter mile and then came first-over, clearing to the lead at the half mile. From there they were home free, coasting to the wire four lengths up on the field.

Their time of 1:58.1 was not only the fastest mile of the day on Portmarnock's half mile oval, but a lifetime mark for Sepia Sands.

"I'm loving it here," Merriman added. "I have never been on this type of track before and might of have been a bit nervous at the start of the day, but after a couple of races I was into the swing of things. The people here are so friendly and outgoing, coming up to me just to say hello and welcome me to Ireland. It's all awesome!"

There were four elimination divisions Saturday for the 5th annual Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial for two-year-old pacers. Two divisions for fillies and two for colts. The first two finishers from each division plus the fastest six other horses from either division, return and race on Sunday in their respective finals for colts and fillies.

It was in the two filly divisions where Dexter Dunn rose to the occasion, winning one division and finishing third in the other, thus now having to choose between the two fillies on which one to drive Sunday in the final.

The first division (sixth race) saw the unbeaten Rhyds Mystique and driver Vicky Gill post their fifth straight victory with a five length wire-to-wire romp in 2:02.1, the fastest of all four elimination divisions.

In doing so, Rhyds Mystique also posted a lifetime mark for trainer John Gill (Vicky's dad) and owner Victoria Elvin of the UK. Second in the mile was Greenhillbebatable (Mick Lord) with Newtown Amber (Dexter Dunn) third and also making the final, She's Royal (Billy Roche).

Then in the second division (seventh race), Dexter Dunn came first-over with IB Coyote (by Dark Bay), cleared to the lead at the half mile and then went on to win by one length in 2:04.9. It was Dunn's second winner on the day.

IB Coyote is trained by Tadhy Murphy and is owned by Bill Donoan and the IB Stables.

Second was Jennifer Camden (Aaron Merriman), third went to Crosshill Ace (William Greenhorn) and also making it to the final was Theladieslovejim (Andrew Cairns) in fourth.

The first colt division was the third race where Share A Smile (Hugh Menzies) went right to the early lead from post two with Frankie Camden (Rock Laidler) right on their back through easy opening fractions as the favorite, Tyrion Hanover (Richard Haythornthwaite) made an early bobble around the opening quarter mile.

But then surging to come back into contention, Tyrion Hanover and Haythornthwaite came sweeping three-wide before the final turn and flying on the far outside near the fan's fence, collared the race leaders and blew by them to win by three lengths in 2:03.2.

It was the second win this year and a lifetime mark for Tyrion Hanover, a gelded son of Somebeachsomewhere, who is trained by Samboy Howard and owned by John James Howard, Sr.

Frankie Camden was second with Share A Smile third and also making it to the final Sunday was Dragon's Den (John Richardson) and Rodney Camden.

In the fourth race second colt division, Benny Camden and driver Alan Richardson were seemly trapped in the two-hole early in the mile behind pacesetter Talavary Motivator (John Richardson) and All Good Hanover (Andrew Cairns) who was first-over early, but then went off-stride.

Picking up the chase first-over at the half mile and locking Benny Camden in once again was Harrison Camden (M. Loughran), but after the three-quarters in 1:34, Richardson was able to find clearance with Benny Camden, swing to the outside and gun down Rhyds Rival (Billy Roche) to win by one length in 2:04.2.

Harrison Camden held game for third place to make it to the final.

A son of Pro Bono Best, Benny Camden is trained by Richardson and owned by the Kavanagh and Forari Stables.

Sunday's action-packed program not only features the finals of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial for colts, but also the inaugural VDM filly final that is being sponsored by Adam Bowden's Diamond Creek Farm from the USA, the Oakwood Stud Derby for three-year-olds at 1.5 miles, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial for four-year-olds, the RocknRoll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace that is sponsored by Joe Bellino and the Elvin-Delaney French LeTrot FFA.

By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend

 
 
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