Day At The Track

Racetime Raceway opens for 2020 season

02:46 AM 20 Jul 2020 NZST
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Harness racing
Tom Wood on the rail and with the lead is being challenged by Derrybeg and eventual winner of the Final, Ontop Blackshark, at Racetime Raceway opening day Saturday.
Des Loughrey photo

The Northern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA), the recognised body for harness racing in Northern Ireland, staged its opening race meeting of the 2020 season on Saturday 18th July with national broadcaster the BBC on hand to cover the event which was held at Racetime Raceway, just outside Belfast.

Three heats of pacers and a concluding grand final provided the main entertainment with a European bred trotters race also held on the day.

In the opening heat, William McClelland drove Niall Loughrans Fold Mischief to a narrow victory over Conall McGuigan’s Tom Wood and John Murdy’s Rhyds Premier in 2:04.6 with the distances a short-head and 10 lengths.

The penultimate heat was an equally tight affair with Cathal Donnellys Ceiron DJ just prevailing by a half length from longtime leader Derrybeg in 2:02.1 with the favourite Monugs Boy unable to land a blow a further four lengths adrift back in third sport.

The remaining heat went to Barry Dean aboard Lucky Cam who outclassed the opposition to score comfortably in 2:03.2 with Ontop Blackshark staying on well for the runner-up spot ahead of Lakeview PanAm with the distances four lengths and two lengths.

In the 6 runner final for £1000, an incident on the opening bend resulted in driver Barry Dean being decanted from favourite Lucky Cam. Under a NISA ruling this horse was precluded from taking part in the re-run. 

When they finally got underway second time of asking Fold Mischief and Tom Wood engaged in an early battle with the latter getting the better of the exchange and leading them throughout the first circuit.

As they got the bell with a lap to go Billy Bassett and Derrybeg surged forward from the chasing pack to take up the lead before readily going five lengths clear. Cerion DJ the favourite was then asked to improve from the tail of the field but Cathal Donnellys charge couldn’t make any inroads despite his urgings.

All the while Ontop Blackjack was quietly building up a head of steam and in the final 50 yards when it looked as if Derybeg had the race in safe keeping, the seven-year-old gelding by The Preacher Pan came with a storming late charge to land the spoils for owner/trainer/driver Eamonn O’Connor. The winning time was 2:02.3 with Tom Wood Fold Mischief filling the frame. 

A trotters race was also held with mixed Euopean breds and this was won by the Swedish bred seven-year-old Diva Valentina from the French bred Evan Jive with the other French bred Avetot getting disqualified by the stewards for galloping across the line when in contention. The time was 2:14 and winner won by a comfortable six lengths.

The afternoon was complemented by a brace of pony trotting races where parents of young boys and girls partnered with their children on the track in some mini races covering the length of the home straight.

A round of applause and a trophy was given to each child who participated and such encouragement was to be commended as these kids will be the star drivers of the future in Ireland. A carriage driving exhibition was held on the afternoon and this added to the family friendly atmosphere that was present throughout the day.

Interviewed post-racing, Chairman of the NISA, Greg Dean, conveyed his satisfaction with how the opening meeting went, adding that having governed the sport in the province for the past 70 years harness racing under NISA was in safe hands for another 70.

Entries are now being taken for all grades of pacer and trotter for the next meeting which will take place at the venue on August 1st.   

by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

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