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West Cork, IE - Rhyds Panache with Chris O Reilly in the bike took the Red John Memorial Final at Lyre On Sunday. The harness racing final will go down as one of the greatest races ever to be held in Ireland . Rhyds Destiny, who impressed in the qualifying heat on Saturday, set a strong early pace. At the half way point of the mile and a quarter race Gentleman Jim joined the leader and with three furlongs to pace took up the running, all the while the "posse" were closing in.   Turning for home Gentleman Jim was still to the fore but the chasing pack were coming from all angles with Master Plan in the centre, Porterstown Courage on the outside and Rhyds Panache up the rail.   In the shadow of the post Rhyds Panache just got up by a neck to beat Porterstown Courage with Gentleman Jim a half length back.   Rhyds Panache winner of the 2019 RJM Final at Lyre          Nadina Ironia Photo   There were emotional scenes in the winners enclosure as driver Chris O'Reilly, a life long friend of Red John, was almost speechless.   "This is the one I always wanted to win and I think I must had got a little help from my friend John up there in heaven," O'Reilly explained. "There was no room turning for home but as the horses tired a small gap appeared and my horse ran on. He tries his heart out and we will enjoy tonight." added O'Reilly, his voice tinged with both sadness and joy.    Presentation of the RJM to winning connections of Rhyds Panache   Nadina Ironia Photo   The Maven Trot Final was another epic encounter.   Emeric Du Perreux was all the rage in the betting and punters bet this one as if defeat was not an option.   Those who wedged in looked happy as the 5 year old took up the running .With a mile to race Martin Loughran on Valliant De Gueham came long side the leader and for the remaining mile and hassled the leader.   Entering the final quarter mile "Emeric" looked the likely winner but Loughran was not done for and ran out a 3 length winner.   Martin Loughran winning the Maven Trot Final on Vaillant Du Gueham  Nadina Ironia Photo   This was the cue for a mass invasion of the winners enclosure as the Roche/Joyce /Mc Aleer families, who travel en mass to all meetings and were ten deep for the photo.   The winning driver, Martin Loughran, who hails from the Cooley Penninsula, and though diminutive in size seems to have "magical powers " when it comes to driving the trotters.   Winning connections of The Maven Trot   Nadina Ironia Photo   Tadgh Murphy, who was in the past has been Southern champion driver though in latter years, is the trainer at IB Stables and donned his silks for "a catch drive " in the PJI Engineering Handicap Final on Benny Camden, who got the better of Rhyds Rival in another epic battle.   " I think I go into retirement on a winning note," joked Murphy in the post race interview.   The meeting of Abraham and Vigo De Bassiere in the Free For All Trot was eagerly anticipated and they served up another thriller with "Vigo " coming out on top, but Beach De Bellouet almost stole the glory from his more famed rivals but his day will come.   American Rebel took the 3 year old Grass Championship and the winner looks destined for stardom In the consolation finals. King Wills Arrival with 16 year old Oisin Quill, Stakes On The Pan who ran terrible on day one in the heats but showed his true mettle and Besame Mucho who John Richardson described as the unluckiest drive he had in years in the heats, were all winners.   Competing drivers at The 2019 RJM          Nadina Ironia Photo   On a weekend of 23 races this scribe could write pages on the action which was top class on a venue that owner Ger Hegarty has done so much work on and was met with with universal approval.   The Red John Committee pulled out all the stops and were rewarded for their efforts, ROLL ON TO 2020!   Caroline Collins left (RJM Committee) making presentations to Bill Donovan & Family (Main sponsors)and to Gretta Cormican   On a sad note patrons on Sunday were told of the passing of Gerry Keenan from Dublin .Gerry was a Hall Of Fame member here in Ireland.   by Tim Kelleher, for Harnesslink   RESULTS   RED JOHN MEMORIAL FINAL 1.Rhyds Panache C O Reilly 2. Porterstown Courage J Cowden 3. Gentleman Jim J Richardson DIST NK 1L Time 2.49.9   MAVEN TROT FINAL 1 Vaillant De Gueham M Loughran 2. Emeric Du Perreux J Richardson 3. Urbano De Selles B Roche DIST 3L 1L Time 3.17.7   PJI Engineering Handicap Final 1.Benny Camden T Murphy 2. Rhyds Rival B Roche 3. Newtown Major M McAleer DIST 1L 10L Time 2.41.0   M50 Skip Hire FFA Trot 1 Vigo De Bassiere K Sheehy 2. Abraham S Duggan 3. Beach de Bellouet F Kavanagh Jnr DIST 2L 2L Time 3.24.3   Oakwood Stud/Keohane Readymix 3 Year old Grass Championship 1.American Rebel T O Leary 2. Elski P Kane Jnr 3. IB Notorious D Murphy DIST 7L 3L Time 2.50.4   RJM Consolation Final 1.King Wills Arrival O Quill 2.Coalford Bruce T O Leary 3.Streamside Star E Joyce DIST 1L 1L Time 2.46.8   PJI Engineering Consolation 1.Stakes On The Pan P Kane Jnr 2. IB McGregor F Kavanagh Jnr 3.Panam Colt L Kelleher DIST 4L 1/2L Time 2.51.1   Maven Consolation 1.Besame Mucho J Richardson 2.Banialouka K Sheehy 3. Tarnao Josselyn DIST 2L 2L Time 3.201.1  

West Cork, IE - King Wills Arrival claimed another big handicap final when landing the West Cork Horse Owners Handicap at Dunmanway on Sunday. There were three elimination heats with two qualifiers from each going forward to the final. In the opening heat IB A Magician looked to have the race at his mercy but went off stride in the final eighth of a mile handing the race to Meadowbranch Matt with Best Talent filling the second qualifing spot. Heat two was all about Coalford Bruce who followed up on his win at Bandon to lead home The Hitman by four lengths. In the third and final heat Rhyds Panache with Chris O Reilly in the bike made a race winning move after four furlongs and was not for catching leading home King Wills Arrival by a length So on to the final .The Hitman and Meadowbranch Matt set the early fractions with Coalford Bruce just behind .The order reamined the same into the final three furlongs of the mile and a quarter trip.Turning for home Coalford Bruce hit the front but Oisin Quill produced King Wills Arrival with a perfectly timed run to land the spoils . "Since he had the wind operation last Winter he has really shown his true potential" Commented 16 year old winning driver Oisin Quill. "The saddle race at Ladies day in Portmarnock is next on his list "added winning owner Finbarr Quill. The Quills had a double on the day when Ariane Des Tithais landed the low grade trot .This one was driven by Finbarr Quill Jnr (The Calender Boy of Harness Racing in Ireland) Vigo De Bassiere enhanced his reputation as Irelands leading Trotter with a faile win in the high grade trot. Kieran Sheehy played with his three rivals taking up the running with three furlongs remaining and won by a flattering eight lengths . The sheehy family have a long association with the square gaiters and this looks one of the best they have owned Paul McInerney made the long trip from Co Clare a winning one when landing the Grade G & G1 Pace when Just A Promise a son of Fantastic Western set out his stall early doors and led home IB Felicity by three lengths. Next week racing moves to Gloun with a 2.30 start by Tim Kelleher, for Harnesslink RESULTS Race One Heat One . 1.Meadowbranch Matt L Kelleher 2. Best Talent S Jennings Jnr 3. Moorside Captain J O Mahony DIST 2 3 TIME 2.36.1 Race Two Heat Two 1. Coalford Bruce T O Leary 2. The Hitman M Goggin Jnr 3. Rebel Rouser D Murphy DIST 4 1 TIME 2.35.3 Race Three Heat Three 1. Rhyds Panache C O Reilly 2. King Wills Arrival O Quill 3. Hail Spartacus P Hill DIST 1 3 TIME 3.34.5 Race Four 1. Ariane Des Tithais F Quill Jnr 2. Vallanzana S Quill 3. Silvano Bello D Murphy DIST 2 7 TIME 3.16 Race Five 1. Just A Promise P McInerney 2. IB Felicity D Murphy 3. Coalford Laurel M O Reilly DIST 3 SH TIME 2.39.7 Race Six 1. Vigo De Bassiere K Sheehy 2. Tarnao Josselyn S Quill 3. Tenor Meslos D Murphy DIST 8 6 TIME 3.09.7 Race Seven Final 1.King Wills Arriva O Quill 2. Coalford Bruce T O Leary 3. The Hitman M Goggin Jnr DIST 1 4 TIME 2 33.5   Virus-free. www.avast.com

WALES, UK - Last December, five lucky drivers from the UK and Ireland were given the opportunity to travel to Florida to compete in an amateur driving series against five US reinsmen. Now these five US drivers will be making the trip to Wales to see if they can reign supreme on British soil. Those standing in their way are recent Musselburgh final winning driver Richard Haythornthwaite, Wales & West specialist Jaimie Davies, father and son combination Patrick and Lee Morris and Irish contender Chris O'Reilly. These British and Irish contenders proved that we have some great talent having won the series in Pompano Park. The races will take place at both Tir Prince and Tanycastell and are set to be hotly contested events with the Americans hoping they can take home the bragging rights and the 'locals' looking to stand their ground on home turf. Tir Prince racing manager Eric Witherspoon spoke of his excitement towards having such a memorable race at the North Wales venue, "We are delighted to be hosting this prestigious event and look forward to seeing the guest drivers put their skills to the test in what looks a very competitive race. May the best driver win!" Here's a closer look at the 10 drivers who will be hoping they can land the spoils. Team America Ron Cuismano followed in his father's footsteps and began training and driving in the late 1980s. He was a regular driver throughout the 90s winning several New York Sire Stake races and Florida Breeders Stakes. He left the harness racing business altogether in 1999, but continued to follow harness racing. After 17 years away from the business he had the chance to join the Florida amateur drivers club an opportunity which would allow him to give back to the sport that he loves. Tony Dinges is a full time trainer and currently trains 25 horses at Tioga Downs. He got involved with harness racing as a child through his grandfather. His career highlight to date is training Tarver Hanover, a horse he also owned to win over $850,000. He has also been lucky enough to have a runner in the 2011 running of the world famous Hambletonian. Dein Spriggs is a real estate consultant who became involved in harness racing through his father William Spriggs and both he and his brother Steve have followed in their father's footsteps. Dein was USA Amateur Driver of the Year in both 2004 and 2005 and has had the opportunity to drive in American, Canada, Finland, Germany, Italy and Spain and is no stranger to winning on international soil. He lists winning the 2005 CKG Gold Cup as his career highlight as he was able to share the experience with parents, daughter and brother. Jeff Schaefer is a full-time farrier and splits his time between Pomano Park in Florida in the winter and Tioga Downs in New York in the summer. He has had the opportunity to shoe a few champions like Horse of the Year in the USA and Canada Burning Point and Corleon Cosmos. He has been training harness horses since the age of 7 with his parents and started driving at 16 where he finished 2nd in the Junior Driving Championship. Jeff has already experienced harness racing in the UK and may have an advantage over his fellow countrymen having drove on the grass at Almeley last year. Dennis Whittemore has been around Standardbreds his whole life and started driving in the late 70's. He has owned horses since he can remember and it is a real family affair with his father, son and daughter all involved in the sport. Since taking up driving in 1977 he has won 117 races and over $167,000 in prize money. His most successful year came in 1982 where he won 18 starts and placed in 53 others. Team UK & Ireland Richard Haythornthwaite is a carpenter by trade who got involved with harness racing through his parents Alan and Teresa Haythornthwaite and the sport is very much in the family's blood. Richard is a regular at several tracks around the UK and has become the main driver for a number of owners. He has had some very high-profile winners and he names his success in the Vincent Delaney Memorial on Tyrion Hanover as his career highlight to date. Chris O'Reilly, another carpenter, started his affiliation with the sport as a young 13-year-old competing in saddle races. He then left the sport for several years and is perhaps the least experienced of the group as he only trains and drives his own horses. However, this did not affect him during the competition in America and he gave a flawless drive to win on his first ever attempt at driving a trotter, an experience which he states will be very hard to match. Jaimie Davies is one of the most utilised drivers on the Wales & West harness racing circuit and is the third generation of his family to become a driver. Although he only has one of his own in training he picks up outside drives every week and has become the go-to man for several trainers. Jaimie, who works on his family farm, was thrilled with his opportunity to travel to Florida and experience harness racing at its highest level. Patrick Morris, a shop fitter by trade, has been involved in harness racing for a number of years and got into the sport through his father. His partnership with Meadowbranch Josh provided him with some his most notable winners including heat and final at Tanycastell, a heat of the Big Guns Series at Appleby, a heat of the Crock of Gold and several Free For Alls including two 1.57 miles. Patrick enjoyed his experience in America so much that if the opportunity arose he would move there in an instant. Lee Morris is a full-time farrier. He is the main organiser of the event and was delighted to get the opportunity to drive at Pompano Park and although he didn't get a winner the experience of getting to drive around such an impressive track could only be described as "awesome" and an absolute highlight of his career. Lee however is no stranger to the winners enclosure and has won high profile races at Ceredigion with Lyons Stallone, Musselburgh with Blue Top Gun and a heat of the Crock of Gold with Meadowbranch Josh. With the first race scheduled for Tuesday night being an ultra-competitive event, excitement is building towards a great series. Good luck to all competitors and a huge congratulations to those who have worked tirelessly to make the event happen. From everyone in the UK and Ireland we hope the five USA drivers thoroughly enjoy the experience. We hope that this competition can increase in size and stature in the future to become one of the highlights of the UK harness racing season. by Kayleigh Evans      

The English and the Irish invaded Pompano Park on Saturday night (December 10) in the British-American Amateur Driving Challenge and, after a very competitive three race “brawl,” the invaders paced and trotted off with the hardware and the only saving grace for the American harness racing contingent was a“North American” from Canada. With Britain's Richard Haythornthwaite and Cork County, Ireland's Chris O'Reilly hitting the winner's circle in the first two events, it was Canada's Shane Arsenault providing the American contingent their only saving grace with a triumph in the final race. The final tally was 86 to 67 with the "Brits" drawing first blood when Haythornthwaite captured the first event by giving the pacer Cabo Real a "splendid" drive to win in 1:55.3. Four Starz Alex, driven by Dein Spriggs, finished second, 2 1/2 lengths away, while P L Dangerous, with Billy Muggleston in the bike, third. Digam was fourth for Jeff Schaefer while  Clive Hanover, driven by England's Patrick Morris, rallied to get the final check in the 10 horse field. Haythornthwaite sent Cabo Real sprinting off the wings and took the field through an opening panel of :27.4 before yielding to Spriggs' charge, Four Starz Alex, who then posted fractions of :56.1 and 1:26.2 before Cabo Real took command turning for home and widened his margin to the wire. In a post race interview, a jubilant Haythornthwaite said, "I understand that the five post is the best one to leave out of and I did just that and the horse responded bloody well.  "I got the perfect journey after that and he just took off when we entered the stretch straightaway for the finish. "I've had some good one over in England like Rhyds Rainbow and Tyrion Hanover, but this is the fastest I have ever been in a race." Owned by Russ Guardino along with trainer Joe Sanzeri, Cabo Real,a six year-old son of Somebeachsomewhere, won for the sixth time this season in 30 starts and sent his lifetime earnings to $77,161. As the 3 to 1 third choice, Cabo Real paid $8.40 to win. Ireland's Chris O'Reilly took round two of the competition by guiding the classy trotter A Crown For Lindy to a well rated and handy 1:59.3 win, his margin 3 1/4 lengths over the pocket sitting Global Power, driven by Mitchell "Sky" Walker. The Budster was third for Dein Spriggs while Blueridge Empire finished fourth. Insider Access, last in the 10 horse field after an early miscue, finished fifth for Patrick Morris. A Crown For Lindy, a 10 year-old son of Cantab Hall trained by Mark Winacott for owner Don Campbell, posted panels of :29.1, :59.3 and 1:30.1 before a :29.2 sprint home sealed the deal. In the winner's circle after the race, O'Reilly related, "where I am from, we don't have too many meetings (days) to race a year--just 10 or so--and we race on the turf, so this was a bit different for me. Of course, it's the fastest mile I have ever been in and it was my first time ever driving a trotter!" It was the trotter's fourth straight win and a milestone 50th win career-wise. He's banked $402,963 lifetime. Despite his impressive credentials coming into the action, A Crown For Lindy was not the favorite but, rather, second choice in the wagering at 5 to 2 and paid $7.20 to win. Canadian Shane Arsenault saved face for the North American contingent by taking the finale with his own Demand An Answer in 1:58. This four year-old son of Angus Hall bided his time in fourth through some hot panels of :29, :57.3 and 1:27.3 set by Big Package, handled by Haythornthwaite, through the opener, and JLS Too Hot Taj, off at 71 to 1 and driven by Lee Morris, before finding a seam turning for home and taking the "shortest route" to the wire to win by three-parts-of-a-length over JLS Too Hot Taj with Big Package next. Rush N Supreme finished fourth while B Cor Thomas finished fifth after pressuring the leader around the final bend. Demand An Answer won for only the second time this semester and fifth time career-wise. Despite have only two wins now, Demand An Answer is enjoying his best season in terms of earnings, which now are $30,585. In the winner's circle, a somewhat muddied up Arsenault said, "he's been up in Canada the last few starts and James McDonald, Doug McNair and Scott Coulter--great drivers--couldn't get him to the winner's circle. It took an amateur to do it!" There was a lot of jostling going on and I stayed out of that. I found some room on the inside and took the shortest route home. That was it!" Demand An Answer was sent off as the fifth choice on the tote-board and paid $17.80 to win. In presenting the hardware symbolic of victory, Florida Amateur Driving Club President Dein Spriggs remarked, "This was a great competition and everyone worked hard to make this happen, especially Jeff Schaefer, who really was the catalyst for this event. "We appreciate the wonderful gentlemen from England and Ireland for crossing the ocean to be with us and make this the grand event it was. "We hope this is the first of many in future years!" Racing continues on Sunday night with Panocchio back in action and after his sixth straight win in Pompano Park's $12,000 Open Handicap Pace. Duc Dorleans, Alta Jerome, Sing For me George, Blue Hour Power, Abreathofreshart, Whogoes first and Pointsman are expected to provide plenty of competition. In the "better for the bettor" department, Sunday's racing card has a trio of carryovers--the Pick-5, Pick-6 and the Super Hi-5 with the latter the largest at $12,494. Post time is set for 7:20 p.m. Reported by John Berry for Pompano Park

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