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Ceredigion Trotting Club’s popular two-day harness racing event held over the weekend was once again a huge success, as the sun shone for the hard working committee, creating a well-deserved electric atmosphere for the outstanding equine athletes. Local connections had good success at the meeting, with Rhys Evans from Tregaron winning on both Enter The Dragon and Equilea Du Hauty on day one. Others who had success on Saturday were Penuwch-based trainers Michael O’Mahony, with Meldoon, who won a heat of the Travis Perkins Handicap, and Mike Evans, with Enez Leman, who is now two from two and a strong contender in the French-bred three year old division. On Sunday, Colin Bevan’s drive home back to Builth Wells was made shorter after qualifying two horses for the final, winning on Bucklands Fox Trot and placing second on Masquerade Avenue. In the three year old races Rhyds Mystique won the fillies division and has yet to put a foot wrong this season. Springhill Glory, a progressive type, was the winner of the colts and geldings division, but it was a hard fought battle to the line - first having to take on the game My Buddy in the hands of Alan Jones, and then having to fend off the challenge from Sper Buggy and Richard Haythornthwaite. One of the highlights of the weekend was 16 year-old Lee Wakefield making his first ever drive a winning one on Forest Drifter, both his parents are respected drivers and after his performance on the big stage he could be claiming a few more drives over the remainder of the season. The free for all was undoubtedly race of the meeting. Six of the best went to post with Miraculous in the hands of Patrick Kane Jnr, coming out on top from the gallant 11 year-old Stoneriggs Mystery and the Irish contender Porterstown Chris. Only a length separated the first three and it was phenomenal to watch the top quality individuals being cheered home. The half-brother to Miraculous, Matticulous looked incredibly impressive in the two year-old event for Andrew Cairns and his connections. Partly owned Vince and Shon Morgans he is a top prospect for the future and will be sure to return to the winner enclosure several time this season. Another notable moment of the weekend was seeing Heulwen Bulman get presented with her special contribution to harness racing award. The driving force behind the meeting won her award in February, and it was extremely fitting that she was presented with it at a meeting where she works so hard at. Heulwen is most deserving of the award, having worked tirelessly over the last 20 years to create a meeting which could rival any meeting over the UK and Ireland. Ultimately, the weekend belonged to the Laidler camp and they won seven of the races over the weekend with the likes of Happy Hands, Frankie Camden and Rockies First. They also won both finals with Jack Swagger and Evenwood Sonofagun respectively. The two were hugely impressive, winning comfortably and once again cementing Alexis Laidler as leading trainer of the meeting. by Kayleigh Evans, for the Ceredigion Trotting Club

The first visit to Ceredigion this season produced a good afternoon of harness racing without sunshine but with no rain to spoil the show. The big open track as always provided classic racing with some close finishes to test the cameraman. Derek Pritchard drove both winners of the two Nurseries at the beginning of the day with Ithon JR owned by the Thomas family from Llanbister winning the first and Cool Ice (Gething Ewyas Harold) victorious in the second. The Novice race was a straight race this week with the well regarded Immortal Breeze (Williams Llanafan) and partnered by Mel Langford coming home in front of The Wow Factor (Lewis Welshpool) on his season’s debut in second and My Amazing Grace (Evans Red Roses) in third. In the first grade B heat Hyar Temptation with her owner Janet Thomas from Tregroes at the controls swept up the home straight to snatch victory ahead of fast finishing Meadowland Maverick (Jones Evenjobb) with long-time leader Tyssul Pearl (Thomas Llanbister) holding on gallantly to third. In the second grade B George Gentle with owner Zak Lewis from Welshpool on board enjoyed their first taste of open racing by making the most of their guaranteed pole position to win comfortably from the well named Fold the Notes (Perks Presteigne) while Ayr Ontario (Weigel Llanddewi Velfrey) was third. Chinatown Kolt (Jones Llanllwni) and trainer Debbie Hitchcock claimed the first heat of the Grade A from Habberley Playboy (Jones/Gittins, Shrewsbury) with No Mercy (Weigel Llanddewi Velfrey) third. In the second heat Best of the Fleet repeated last week’s heat win with owner Matt Lewis from Welshpool on board coming home just in front of Ithon Inmate (Price Brecon) while local horse Lakeside Pan (Elder New Quay) was third. In the Baby Novice race the impressive youngster Ithon Nitro with owner Andrew Bevan from Builth in charge swept to the front to win decisively from Meadowland Olympic (Evans Newcastle Emlyn) and deputy driver Celyn Evans in the seat in second with the speedy Talavary Zara (Jones Evenjobb) in third. The next race was the Junior this always a favourite as the younger members of the family get their chance to have a go. Ellie Tromans from Newcastle Emlyn is a very experienced jockey but this week was her first effort at driving, but her partner Immortal Breeze (Williams Llanafan) was a willing collaborator and they were first over the line in front of Rachel Bevan-Thomas from Builth on her own Posezest. The next race on the card was the ladies race, and Rebecca Williams who loves leading the field, found a willing partner in the Baby Novice Ithon Nitro (Bevan Builth Wells) as they scorched around the track not allowing anyone to challenge their position. Brywins Jo Jo (Jones Ammanford) and Makemeamillionayr (Weigel Llanddewi Velfrey) had to be content with the minor places. The Consolation followed and again it was a Baby Novice, Ceiron Blue Boy (Weigel Llanddewi Velfrey) who claimed the race with his young driver Louisa Barton in the seat ahead of Tyssul Opal (Meaney, Merthyr) while Nia Patrol and dedicated owner Paul Miles was third. The afternoon ended with the two open finals, in the Grade B George Gentle with owner Zak Lewis from Welshpool won convincingly from the striking Meadowland Maverick (Jones Evenjobb) while talented Fold the Notes (Perks Presteigne) was third. In the Grade A Final four horses swept across the line to produce a blanket finish, the verdict went to Ithon Inmate (Price Brecon) and Derek Pritchard while Best of the Fleet (Lewis Welshpool) for the second week in a row finished in second place this week beating Chinatown Kolt (Jones Llanllwni) into third. At the end of the week we return to Powys when the old committee of Kington and the Vale of Arrow host a meeting at the Evenjobb track, on Saturday June 3 starting at 1.30pm. Nursery race 1 1 Ithon JR (Derek Pritchard) owned Thomas Llanbister trained Pritchard Rhosgoch 2 Hilltop Recon 3 Brywins Awesome Time: 2:18.03 Nursery – race 2 1 Cool Ice (Derek Pritchard) owned & trained Gething Ewyas Harold 2 Ithon Overdrive 3 Hobgoblin Time: 2:14.81 Novice 1 Immortal Breeze (Melanie Langford) owned & trained Williams Llanafan 2 The Wow Factor 3 My Amazing Grace Time: 2:10.07 Grade B – heat 1 Hyar Temptation (Janet Thomas) owned & trained Thomas Tregroes 2 Meadowland Maverick 3 Tyssul Pearl Time: 2:10.72 Grade B – heat 2 1 George Gentle (Zak Lewis) owned & trained Lewis Welshpool 2 Fold the Notes 3 Ayr Ontario Time: 2:08.59 Grade A – heat 1 1 Chinatown Kolt (Debbie Hitchcock) owned Jones Llanllwni trained Hitchcock Haverfordwest 2 Habberley Playboy 3 No Mercy Time: 2:10.25 Grade A – heat 2 1 Best of the Fleet (Matt Lewis) owned & trained Lewis Welshpool 2 Ithon Inmate 3 Laleside Pan Time: 2:10.94 Baby Novice 1 Ithon Nitro (Andrew Bevan) owned & trained Bevan Builth Wells 2 Meadowland Olympic 3 Talavary Zara Time: 2:10.56 Junior 1 Immortal Breeze (Ellie Tromans) owned & trained Williams Llanafan 2 Posezest (Rachel Bevan-Thomas Time: 2:14.69 Ladies 1 Ithon Nitro (Rebecca Williams) owned & trained Bevan Builth Wells 2 Brywins Jo Jo 3 Makemeamillionayr Time: 2:04.94 Consolation 1 Ceirion Blue Boy (Louisa Barton) owned & trained Weigel Llanddewi Velfrey 2 Tyssul Opal 3 Nia Patrol Time: 2:14.97 Grade B Final 1 George Gentle (Zak Lewis) owned & trained Lewis Welshpool 2 Meadowland Maverick 3 Fold the Notes Time: 2:05.93 Grade A Final 1 Ithon Inmate (Derek Pritchard) owned Price Brecon trained Pritchard Rhosgoch 2 Best of the Fleet 3 Chinatown Kolt Time: 2:07.78 By Brecon and Radnor Reporter in Equine  

On Friday 23rd January 2015, UK harness racing fans learned of the passing of one of the modern day harness racing legends, Rhyds Five Star. Known as ‘Sam’ to those closest to him, Rhyds Five Star was one of the country’s most prominent Free For All class horses and his loss has been felt across the harness racing community. Born in 2007 at Rhyd Farm, north Wales, Rhyds Five Star was the third colt out of Tonda Star (Albert Albert) to be born in the UK, by John & Grethe Wright’s own stallion Hasty Hall. At public auction as a yearling he broke the then British sales record, selling for £24,000 to John Howard. The training and driving partnership chosen to nurture and develop Rhyds Five Star were Sheelagh and Michael ‘Mick’ Lord, who firstly broke him in and then guided him through his early qualifiers. These initial appearances did not indicate the level of success that would befall Five Star, however on his first start as a two year-old he finished second at Tir Prince. This would prove to be the springboard from which he launched arguably one of the most impressive juvenile campaigns seen in the UK. Rhyds Five Star went on to win the Will Cowan 2YO at Musselburgh, York 2YO, Breeders Crown 2YO Colts at York, BHRC National Pacing Futurity at York, Junior Welsh Dragon at Tregaron, and finally the Sire Stakes 2YO Colts Heat and Final at York in September. In 2010 he returned to the racetrack under the guidance of Sheelagh and Mick, and built upon the foundations laid in his two-year-old season, with the NESA 3YO Grass Championship at Staindrop being the first title added to an already impressive collection. The 3YO Derby Trial at Ffos Las followed, with Rhyds Five Star seeing off his closest rival by a staggering 10 lengths, and after that the victories kept coming. Fivestar went on to claim the York 3YO Championship Heat and Final, BHRC National Pacing Derby, Foster Care Associates 3YO, Corbiewood 3YO Derby Heat and Final, Musselburgh Scottish 3YO Derby, Hereford & Borders 3YO Colts and the Christopher Dunne 3YO Memorial Heat and Final in Ireland. At Tregaron in August in the Little Welsh Dragon he lost out slightly in the heat being placed fourth, but still qualified for the final and went on to win. He finished his 3yo year at York in September in the Sire Stakes where he was beaten into second in the heat, but a week later he was back to take the prize in the final. The only titles to elude Rhyds Five Star in his three-year-old campaign were the Breeders Crown and Appleby Grass Track Championship, however he never competed in either event. It was in this peak of form that he broke the two-minute barrier, clocking a time of 1.58.4 at York and setting his lifetime best of 1.57.7 in Annaghmore. Rhyds Five Star began the 2011 season at the top of the handicap system, a Grade 12 at four years of age. Only a handful of horses, if any, can claim to have attained such lofty heights at the end of their three-year-old season, but such was the success of Rhyds Five Star’s early career. Perhaps it was the sheer number of races in these early years which accounted for him only facing the starter five times in his four-year-old season, however yet again he returned to the winner’s enclosure, this time netting the Tregaron Senior Welsh Dragon early in the season and a heat of the York 4YO Championship. His other three appearances saw him finish outside the first four on only one occasion. In winning at Tregaron, Five Star became only the fourth horse in history to complete the hat-trick of ‘Dragons’ – the Junior, the Little and the Senior Welsh Dragons, and joined his half-brother Star’s Dragon (Dragon Again/Tonda Star), Rhyds Destiny (Hasty Hall/CPR) and Mattador Hall (Blissfull Hall/Matt’s Sunshine) in the history books. Stepping up to the Free For All ranks, Rhyds Five Star encountered his toughest opposition yet. Taking on the likes of Forafewdollarsmore (The Panderosa/Oh My Dear) and Stoneriggs Mystery (Village Jasper/Stoneriggs Quality) amongst other top class pacers, Five Star finished second in the Crock of Gold Final at Tir Prince and the FFA at Musselburgh. However, the horse knew better than most where the winning post was and returned to victory lane in the FFA at Pikehall and the BHRC European Pacing Classic. In 2013, Rhyds Five Star raced competitively, finishing second in the European Pacing Classic which he had added to his list of accolades the year before. Rhyds Five Star had amassed such great success whilst trained by Sheelagh Lord, however his owner made the decision to bring the horse home mid-season for his son, Samboy Howard, to train. With his usual pilot Mick on board, Five Star returned to Musselburgh as a 16/1 outsider in the Hazel Kemp Memorial FFA. They say a change is as good as a rest, and John Howard’s decision to let his young son train a horse that some would say had seen his best days paid off. His impressive victory at Musselburgh saw him surpass the £50,000 lifetime earnings mark, making him one of the highest earning Standardbreds in British history and only the second horse ever to do so. Furthermore, the victory saw him complete a treble that remains unmatched, winning the 2YO, 3YO and FFA at Musselburgh, one of the ‘big four’ meetings in the racing calendar. The victory at Musselburgh would be Rhyds Five Star’s last visit to the winner’s enclosure, missing the 2014 season. He had resumed training with the Howard stables for the 2015 season with a view to continue his successful career, however tragedy struck. Suffering from colic initially, Rhyds Five Star was taken to Liverpool University and had to undergo surgery. That all went well but he broke his leg in the recovery stall coming out of the anaesthetic and had to be put down. His full brother, Rhyds Mega Star, sold as a yearling at public auction in October of last year for a new British sales record of £51,000, being the first colt from the mare since Rhyds Five Star. His existence alone generated much hype both before and during the sale, and he will be closely watched throughout his career, no doubt with comparisons being drawn at every step of the way. Such was Rhyds Five Star’s dominance that he leaves a very hard act to follow. There have been, and no doubt will be, other horses with Five Star in their name; but for everybody in British and Irish harness racing, there will only ever be one Rhyds Five Star. By Sara Thomas, for Harnesslink.com

Alexis Laidler’s set out with a goal at the beginning of the 2013. Her aim was to be the first person to train 100 winners in a season. For many that would seem like an impossible task but the Laidler camp had a strong team of horses. However, to succeed it would require hard work and hours of travelling over six gruelling months. The key to realising the dream was a good beginning, which they got, Alexis had trained twenty-five winners by the end of the first month of racing. Throughout the season, it has been a rarity not to see the team at a race meeting and they have travelled across the UK and back to get to their current tally of 87 training wins. Among her host of winners this year are a number of feature races including the Appleby Spring final, the Famous Mussleburgh Pace, the Junior Dragoness and the Little Welsh Dragon. The previous record for training wins stood at 77 so even if Alexis does not reach the goal she has already made history with the number of wins she has trained this year. Each year since being licenced, Alexis has been able to record a new personal best. As the season comes to a close, with a maximum of six meetings remaining, the chance to reach 100 wins is diminishing but knowing team Laidler they will leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of history. Whether or not they succeed in reaching the magical ton, they have made a tremendous effort again this season and continue to raise the bar for all harness racing throughout the UK and Ireland. by Kayleigh Evans for Ceredrotian  

On the 27th October at Portmarnock Trotting track there will be an attempt to break a world record. The record in trouble is the fastest pacing mile under saddle on a half-mile track. It is thought that the current record stands at 2.00.0 and was set in 1998 by Highly Rated ridden by Darla Conklin at Northfield Park in Cleveland, Ohio. The record attempt has been fuelled by Chantal Sutherland-Kruse’s recent time trial which set a new North American trotting under saddler record on a five-eights track. She rode DW’s NY Yank to break the record in 1.59.0. Saddle races are popular at the Dublin track and there are a number of able horses and jockeys. One of the likely entries will be Meadowbranch Romeo and jockey Sean Watson. At the start of September the pair clocked a time of 2.01.1 off a trail of 50yards to win by 12 lengths. This sparked the desire to attempt the world record as Romeo’s ‘post to post’ time could have bettered the record that day. Track connections are urging competitors from across Britain and Ireland to enter the race and make it a more competitive field.   The Guinness book of records have also been contacted. Entries will be out shortly.      by Kayleigh Evans for Ceredrotian

We are just days away from undoubtedly one of the best races staged in the British Isles. The Crock of Gold pits the best against the best to leave one horse at the top of the podium at the end of the evening at Tir Prince Race Course in North Wales, UK. The Laidler stables bring four horses into the race. The best of these is 2012 champion Stoneriggs Mystery. Following a poor performance in the European pacing classic he has some ground to make up, however everyone is entitled to a poor day at the office aren’t they? He has too much speed and class not to be a live contender in the final shake up. Rumours were flying around that we may get to see the mighty little horse and people’s champion Doonbeg at Tir Prince this Saturday. Unfortunately, he will not be gracing us with his presence but a qualifier at Portmarnock last Sunday clocking two minutes will surely mean his return is imminent. However, Porterstown stables have the luxury of another top class contender. Forafewdollarsmore is a former Crock of Gold Champion. The Dunne family stole the show at the recent Ceredigion fixture and have every chance of doing it again on Saturday night. John Richardson knows how to win a Crock of Gold. He’s been there done that with Forafewdollarsmore and Kikikolt. This year he lines up Meadowbranch DJ. Up until a month ago he was seen by many as a young pretender but his British record breaking performance in the European Pacing Classic at York announced him on the big stage. Do not disregard the luck of the Irish. Let us not forget the Ceredigion contenders. Trefor Morgans will be hoping that Meadowbranch Josh can step up in class and take on the big boys this weekend. This will be one of the toughest fields Josh has had to face but he has speed to burn, a good draw could leave him in a strong position. Rhys Evans takes Home Habana and Fool Around into the race. Home Habana has faced this strong competition before. He has plenty of ability and can put in a good run when you least expect it. Fool Around has clocked the fastest time of the season so far, 1.56.0 at Amman Valley last weekend. His performances this season have placed him firmly in the running for this event. Could he be the first Welsh trained winner of the Crock of Gold? It is not only the Crock of Gold we have to look forward to. Tir Prince has put on an action packed, top quality card of racing. Can Ladyford Indianna return to winning ways in the NWSA three-year-old fillies division? 2013 has given us a tremendous group of 3-year-old colts and geldings. They were passing the victories between them during their juvenile year and the draw will be crucial on Saturday night. Baby Rosa will face a more challenging second line draw in the STABGI Future broodmares. Different tactics will need to be adopted by young driver Rhys Evans now that he cannot use her electric gate speed to his advantage. The Free For All Trot has attracted a top quality field. Throw in a maiden and two open preferred handicaps and you have what is set to be a fantastic night of harness racing!  by Kayleigh Evans  

What a night it was for harness racing’s Ceredigion connections at Amman Valley, UK on 13th July. Ronnie John’s Lakeside Alert opened proceedings with a one and a half-length victory in race one. This set the precedent for Ceredigion throughout the night. Ronnie quickly followed with another win in race 2. His homebred Lakeside Pan justified his favouritism to win in the hands of Jaimie Davies. Next it was the turn of the Evans family from Tregaron. First to the winners enclosure was Huw Evans aboard the highly fancied Fool Around. The undoubted superstar of Welsh harness racing made light work of defeating his four rivals in a life time best of 1.56.0, in the process setting a British seasons record. We moved on to the two heats of the S4C Welsh Cup. Annwen Evans hit the lead early in heat one and proved too difficult to defeat, strolling to victory and securing her place in the final. Brother Rhys Evans lined up Luck Matters in the following heat. He opted for similar tactics and led from start to finish in another sub two-minute mile. In race six it was Mike Evans from Penuwch to have his turn in the winner’s circle. Rhyds Dilemma ran down Rhyds E-Type in the shadows of the post to give the three-year-old his first career win in a respectable time of 2.00.8. The main event, The Welsh Cup, saw nine pacers line up, all on the gate. Gareth Price and Hilltop West Art secured the lead and he looked the one to beat. However, the gutsy mare Luck Matters dug deep to chase him to the line. The two fought to the finish with no one sure of the winner. After what seemed like an eternity the judges finally decided on a result - it was a dead heat! In what is surely a first for Ceredigion racing the Cardis took home the red rosette in each of the seven races they competed in. by Kayleigh Evans

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