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Harnesslink’s award winning columnist, Sydney Weaver, is set to go on another world adventure starting this week. Last August it was Ireland and now she’s headed to Australia. Weaver, along with her parents, Lisa and Don, will be enjoying the trip of a lifetime down under, compliments of a host of sponsors making this “dream come true” for the Weaver’s. “I am truly blessed to be going on this trip,” Weaver said. “It’s the trip of a lifetime. It is hard to put into words my excitement, joy and gratitude. Being able to go to Australia is a dream come true!” The sports leading breeders, owners and trainers, many of whom met Sydney for the first time in Ireland, were enchanted by the young women’s enthusiasm for harness racing and her passion to achieve whatever goals she set for herself despite having Cerebral Palsy. Led by Alan Galloway of Alabar Farms, Sydney Weaver and family will be spending three weeks in Australia, sponsored in part by Adam Bowden’s Diamond Creek Farm, A Rocknroll Dance Syndicate, Nevele R Stud, Blue Chip Farm, Pepper Tree Farm (Art Major’s owners), the owners of Auckland Reactor and Joe Bellino and the owners of Rock N Roll Heaven (Pepper Tree Farm and Alabar).  "Sydney is a very inspirational person," Said Alabar's Alan Galloway. "When I first met her in Ireland I was just blown away by her enthusiasm for Harness Racing. I just knew we had to help her come down to Australia. This trip will enable her and her parents, Don and Lisa, to see some of the best horses and racing in the World. We can't thank our fellow stallion owners enough for their support as well."  Once Sydney arrives in Sydney, the funs gets started right away as she will be attending the $750,000 Miracle Mile at Menangle Park in New South Wales this Saturday, February 25. Her trip will also feature attending the APG Sydney Yearling Sales, the Lyn McPherson Memorial Night at Tabcorp Park Melton on March 11, tours of Alabar Farm, the training facilities of Andy Gath and Emma Stewart in Victoria, Aldebaran Park in Victoria plus getting to visit Tanya McDermott, who is the manager of Harness Racing Victoria’s HERO (Harness Education & Rehoming Opportunities) operations. “To think that soon I am leaving on a grand adventure still feels surreal.” Weaver explained. “I have so much to look forward to, but I am most looking forward to meeting new friends and getting to meet those who I have connected with on social media.” Of course, Sydney will be posting daily on her great adventure to Australia. By Steven Wolf, for Harnesslink

The Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee is proud to again announce that a record number of horses have been nominated for the sixth annual VDM weekend of racing. The richest stakes weekend in all of Ireland and the UK, the VDM has developed into a must attend week-long festival in Dublin, Ireland with the races being held August 12 and 13, 2017. "To say we were overwhelmed with the support from the horse owners," said race founder Derek Delaney. "would be an understatement for our festival of harness racing. While we are slightly down on numbers in the two-year-old divisions, we made up for it on three-year-old's with our new joint sponsorship with Alabar Stud and Oakwood Stud." The premier event of the weekend is the sixth annual Vincent Delaney Memorial for two-year-old's. Perhaps harness racing's most grueling race as it calls for two-year-old's to race in elimination divisions Saturday and then the final on Sunday. A record number of pacing fillies entered the Diamond Creek Farm VDM with 38 nominated over 35 in 2016. The newly sponsored Hanover Shoe Farm VDM for colts saw a decline over prior year with 38 nominated for 2017 vs 45 in 2016. Rhyds Mystique, the BHRC filly of the year in 2016 and IB Coyote, winner of the Diamond Creek Farm VDM Final last year, are both nominated. Another record was set in nominations for the three-year-old Alabar-Oakwood Stud Derby with a total of 45 colts and fillies entered. The colt division has 23 entered and the new filly division has 23 nominated. Heading the list of colts for the Derby is Tyrion Hanover, the BHRC colt of the year last season and the winner of the VDM colt final. In the four-year-old newly sponsored Yirribee Paul Murtagh, SR. Memorial, only seven entered the horse division, mainly because of the presences of the 2016 Harness Horse of the Year in Ireland and the UK, Miraculous, returning for another championship season. He is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest racehorses ever in Ireland and the UK. Unfortunately, due to a lack of entries (only four) in the Yirribee Murtagh Mare Division, the race has been canceled. "We will however," said Delaney, "try our very best to stage a four-year-old and older mare's race on the weekend. "Overall we are really excited that our three major stakes events are up again in total horses." Delaney add, "This year we have 127 entered for the three stakes and last year was at 120. Anytime we can continue to increase total nominations it shows we are growing and that is always good." Complete listings of all the horses nominated will be available soon at www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial      

Springfield, OH --- Unfortunately, Joe Bellino could not personally attend the second edition of the Buckeye Classic Sale conducted in Springfield, Ohio, on Tuesday (Sept. 27), but that did not impede him from purchasing the most sought-after harness racing yearling at the event for $90,000. “I was watching it on Facebook Live and I kept thinking, ‘When is the gavel going to drop?” he said. “It was like he said ‘$90,000’ for each $1,000 that was bid on him, but we were bringing him home no matter what the price was. My wife is very excited and so I am about this colt. His videos are fantastic and we cannot wait to get him to the farm and see him.” Raised and consigned by Cornerstone Stock Farm, Brangus is by Bellino’s world champion stallion Pet Rock and out of the Grinfromeartoear mare Can’t Quit Smiling. No other yearling that stepped through the ring commanded that type of attention or price tag, as the second-highest-priced individual was Bounding Dragon, a bay colt by Dragon Again out of Bound To Rock, consigned by Emerald Highlands Farm and purchased by Mike Roth of Anderson, Ind., for $50,000. Brangus is the fourth foal out of his dam and is a half-sibling to the Rockin Image filly Can’t Touch Her. She has collected $147,934 from her time on the track and was very competitive on the lucrative Indiana Sire Stakes circuit. His granddam, Day After, by No Nukes and out of Becky’s Love by Albatross produced Crisis Situation (Walton Hanover, $235,704), Keep Your Pans Off (Abercrombie, $298,411) and Lookinforasign (Life Sign, $159,849). “The people from Cornerstone starting sending me pictures and videos of him when he was very young,” Bellino said. “They said he was always the one that led the rest of the horses from the time he first left his mother. He was always the one to eat first and lead the rest of them. They also said he was very intelligent and one of the best horses they had raised. I have to give them credit because even in the sales ring with everything going on around him, nothing seemed to bother him. “He will go to Tony O’Sullivan; he won this Metro this year, and does a great job with 2-year-olds. He did not know about him at first and now that he saw his videos he is really excited as well. I’ve received numerous messages about this colt because people were so impressed with him. We all are really looking forward to his future.” This year’s sale posted an increase over last year’s results with yearling prices checking in 11.4 percent higher than in 2015. With 242 horses being sold versus 179 last year for an average of $7,055, those involved with the event were pleased with the results. “It was definitely a team effort from everyone that participated and their efforts are much appreciated,” said Steve Cross, sales manager. “This is an exceptional facility that is well laid out and with the Ohio program exploding in recent years, that addition, as well as the blend of horses from Indiana, Pennsylvania and Illinois, certainly made the sale very attractive for our buyers and consigners. “I would like to thank those buyers and consigners that made this sale such a success. The entire team is very happy with the quality of horses that were allowed to be sold and look forward to the future.” For more information on the Buckeye Classic Sale as well as comprehensive sale results please click here. by Kim French, USTA Internet News Editor

Two of the sports biggest breeding operations in all of harness racing, Hanover Shoe Farms in North America and Alabar Stud in Australia/New Zealand, have both signed on as new sponsors for the 6th annual Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend (VDM) in Ireland for 2017. In addition, Diamond Creek Farm and Joe Bellino Racing Stable in the USA, PJI Engineering and Oakwood Stud in Ireland, have all “re-upped” their race sponsorships for the big race weekend. The Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend is the creation of Derek and James Delaney of Offlay, Ireland, who is 2012, a year after the tragic death of their younger brother Vincent, decided to have a memorial race in his honor. Little did they know that their weekend honoring their lost brother would develop into the richest harness racing stakes event in all of Ireland and the UK. “My brother James and I look back at what we’ve done with our brothers race in just four years,” said Derek Delaney. “And it blows us away. We have a VDM Committee who is the backbone of our big weekend and now we hire some outside agency’s to help us. It’s amazing. We know that Vincent is very proud of what we have done in his memory.” Hanover Shoe Farms is the leading money earning breeding farm in racing and they are now the title sponsor of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Colt Pace for two-year-olds. The icing on the cake for Hanover Shoe Farms management may have been after Tyrion Hanover, a son of Somebeachsomewhere, won the VDM colt division on August 14. He was purchased at Hanover’s Harrisburg Sale at a yearling and flown back to the UK. “Murray (Brown) came back with great enthusiasm about the weekend in Ireland.” Jim Simpson, president of Hanover Shoe Farms. “He told me how they are in it for the love of Horse Racing...not the money. The sponsorship was available so we took it. We sponsor races in Lexington, Meadowlands, The Hambletonian, The Little Brown Jug, Chester, The Meadows, Pocono Downs, UK and Germany.  So why not Ireland?” Simpson said that he is already planning on coming to Ireland next year for the VDM Weekend. The Diamond Creek Farm VDM filly division is being sponsored for the second straight year by Diamond Creek Farm and the Adam Bowden Family. “It was an easy decision.” Bowden said. “After going to Ireland for the 2016 edition of the VDM Memorial we were blown away by the hospitality of the Irish people as well as the Delaney family. “Joining a grassroots movement is addicting, Bowden explained, “and being part of something great is what we are all about. Diamond Creek Farm wants to be involved in events that showcase the greatness of Standardbred racing both at home in the US as well as abroad. Derek Delaney, single-handedly has energized the sport in that region and we could not be more excited about the what the future will bring. “How could you not be entirely blown away over there?” Bowden said. “You can see the event in pictures or follow Heather Vitale's live Facebook posts, but being there in person is an out of this world experience. My wife and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity and the generosity shown by everyone we came in contact with. “I grew up going to the races in Maine (especially the Cumberland Fair in my hometown),” Bowden added, “and being at Portmarnock Raceway was like being transported back in time to 1985 when I was a little kid and reliving my first harness racing experiences where everything was novel and new. It was grassroots racing at its finest.” The VDM is the world’s most rugged race for two-year-olds, requiring the young horses to race Saturday in elimination divisions and then return Sunday for their respective finals in the one-mile race. “We even have sponsors now for the VDM elimination races,” Derek Delaney added. “Clive and Anne Dalton from Australia have signed on and are guaranteeing that each elimination division for both the colts and fillies will race for €2,000 each.”    Alabar Stud, the largest breeding operation down under with 28 stallions in Australia and New Zealand, is now co-sponsoring the Alabar-Oakwood Derby for three-year-old pacers. This race calls for the same format as the VDM, eliminations Saturday (if necessary) and the finals on Sunday. The race is also at a one-mile distance.   And, with the Alabar sponsorship, there will also be a filly division for the 3YO Derby in 2017. Alan Galloway, owner and director of Alabar Stud, was in Ireland for the VDM Weekend this past August and was infatuated with everything he saw. “It was my first time in Ireland for the VDM,” said Galloway, “And what a show they put on. Just a fantastic race weekend. So much excitement. So much passion for the sport that I knew Alabar had to get involved again. “We actually were sponsors when the first Breeders Crown UK & Ireland came about over ten years ago.” Galloway said. “We were invited to come over and help them and the Ireland improve racing. I met and worked with its president, David Wilson, when he first developed the Breeders Crown series. We bred over 100 mares back then,” Galloway said. “We sent over Village Jasper, Armbro Operative and Safely Kept. It was very difficult getting all the approvals from the government but we got it done. Many of the horses racing there now are from their offspring’s. “I was really taken back this year,” Galloway said. “The Irish are such lovely people. Everything that Derek Delaney and his brother have done to promote this weekend is fantastic. Their story is very moving, so emotional, it’s what we at Alabar want to be part of.” Another major sponsor, smitten by coming to the VDM this year, was Joe Bellino and his family, all eight of them. The Bellino Racing Stable in the USA had agreed to sponsor the Rocknroll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace this year and was so enthralled with the entire Ireland experience, Joe re-upped for 2017 even before he came home. “It was the way the people in racing there embraced my family,” Joe Bellino said. “And their deep love for the sport that convinced me to want to sponsor the race again. The way they celebrated a win with cheering and excitement. It’s just the same way I am whether racing for $100 purse or $500,000. It was also great to see and feel it firsthand. “In some way in North America we have lost our way with that sort of enthusiasm.” Bellino explained. “It’s almost like the people who win are used to winning and have come to expect it. That’s why I really appreciated the Hambo this year as it was great to see and feel the passion for our sport just as they do in Ireland.” PJI Engineering of England, one of the largest metal fabricators in all of the UK and Ireland, has come back on board as the sponsor of the Junior FFA Pace. “I first met Derek and James in 2015,” explained Paul Johnson, owner of PJI Engineering in England, “and he was telling me the story on Vincent and the passion the two of them have for the sport is unbelievable. “These two are trying there utmost to take this sport to the next level,” Johnson said, “and the VDM has done so. This is an event that everyone looks forward to every year now, and it gets better every year. Let's not forget the charity's they give to as well. We look forward to be a part of the VDM for many years to come!” With new and renewed sponsorship support coming from around the world, Derek and James Delaney are putting the money right back into their big race weekend. “Because of the great growth of sponsors for the VDM Weekend,” Derek Delaney said, “we will be able in 2017 to also expand the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial for four-year-olds to both a horse and mare divisions with Yirribee Stud in Australia taking on as sponsor of the mare division and there will be an increase in purse for the Elvin-Delaney Invitation Le Trot race. This is all so grand! “We now have many of the world’s leading harness racing breeders, owners, trainer, drivers, announcers and journalists coming to Ireland for the VDM.” Delaney added, “It’s hard to imagine that just five years ago we raced for €20,000 ($25,000US) in total purses that first year and now in 2017 the weekend will feature more than €100,000 ($127,000US) in purses. “The VDM has become a major success story to have the biggest breeding farms in the world sponsoring our brothers memorial weekend” Delaney added, “and it's also a major step in the right direction for our breeders, owners, trainers and drivers that they can now breed and sell, train or own horses that has real earning potential in juvenile racing and more! “When you have Alan Galloway and Alabar Farms, Joe Bellino and his Bellino Racing Stables, Jim Simpson & Murray Brown of Hanover shoe Farms, Adam Bowden and Diamond Creek Farms, Rod Woodhouse of Yirribee Stud Australia, all willing to advise and sponsor us and help improve the breeding in Ireland and the UK.” Said Delaney. “We all know this can only mean a very strong future for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend and a very bright future for our Oakwood Stud.” Delaney added, “We have been a major factor in the racing and breeding in Ireland and the UK and I believe our Standardbreds will become world class in the future. Ireland has a history for producing the best gallopers in the world, so why can't we in Ireland and UK not be the best producers of Standardbreds in the world or at least one of the best! “We are also working with Sire Stakes Ireland and the Breeders Crown UK and Ireland, bricking and building stronger with devoted people like my brother James Delaney, Bernie Kelly, Dave Wilson, Jackie Mann, Thomas Bennett and others. It's all going to complement our events and others stakes. It’s going to be something special how our racing will be growing in the next two to three years’ time, getting stronger year on year. “Maybe most important about all of this,” Delaney said, “is the great new friends we have made over the years that will last a lifetime.” For more information, visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. The dates for the 2017 Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend are Saturday and Sunday, August 12 and 13. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend   

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    

DUBLIN, Ireland - The biggest and richest race weekend in all of Ireland and Great Britain, the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial, is set to go Saturday and Sunday (August 13 & 14) at Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin. With a record number of 180 horses set to compete over the two days, the limelight will be on the Vincent Delaney Memorial (VDM), which is for two-year-old pacers. For the first time colts and fillies each have their own divisions to compete in. Both divisions drew 14 entries so two elimination divisions will take place Saturday with the top four official finishers returning Sunday afternoon for their respective finals. "It is the biggest and toughest challenge for any two-year-old in the sport." Said Derek Delaney, head of the VDM committee. "No other race weekend requires 2yos to race back to back days. But every year since 2012 our entry numbers increase by more than 10 percent. The VDM has become the race that everyone wants to win in Ireland and the UK." The race was developed by Derek and his brother, James Delaney, who own and operate Oakwood Stud, one of the top up and coming breeding facilities in Ireland, to honor the memory of their younger brother, Vincent, who tragically died of a massive heart attack at age 27 in 2011. The first colt division is the third race Saturday and is headed by recent Breeders Crown UK & Ireland winner Share A Smile (Pro Bono Best), Rhyds Rock Star (Hasty Hall) and Tyrion Hanover (Somebeachsomewhere). The second division is the fourth race featuring the super tough Rhyds Rival (Hasty Hall) taking on Benny Camden (Pro Bono Best) and Talavary Motivator (Crown Manhattan). The fillies get underway in the sixth race with Breeders Crown UK & Ireland winner Rhyds Mystique (Hasty Hall) the big favorite going against Greenhilldebatable (Well Said) and Coalford Honey (Coalford Laag). The Share The Delight filly, IB Coyote heads the seventh race second filly division against Cross Hill Ace (Cam's Card Shark) and Theladieslovejim (Big Jim). "We have many of the leading owners, breeders, drivers and trainers from around the world coming to Ireland this weekend." Derek Delaney said. "Our feature drivers are Aaron Merriman from the USA, who led the world with the most wins in 2015 and currently leads all drivers in 2016. Also here for the second straight year is New Zealand's Dexter Dunn, who wowed the crowd at the VDM last year and has been racing in Wales at Tir Prince Raceway the last ten days. "We also have Adam Bowden from Diamond Creek Farm in the USA," Delaney explained, "and they are sponsoring the inaugural VDM Filly Final. Top owner Joe Bellino of Rocknroll Heaven and Pet Rock fame is here from the USA with his entire family, Alan Galloway, the owner of Alabar Stud, the biggest breeders in all of Australia and New Zealand is here. World renowned trainers John McDermott from New Zealand and Joann Looney-King from the USA are all here for the VDM weekend." Additional major stakes events over the weekend include 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, the Lee Edwards/PJI Engineering Junior FFA Pace and the Elvin-Delaney French FFA Trot. In the Oakwood Stud Derby, all eyes will be on last year's VDM winner, Miraculous and driver Patrick Kane, Jr. This year Miraculous has become the top three-year-old pacer of the year with five straight wins and last week set the track record at Tir Prince and prior to that took his lifetime mark of 1:55.9 at Portmarnock Raceway. "We have full fields in nearly every race," Delaney added, "which should make for some great action and odds for the fans and the bookies on site. Both race cards are very competitive and I know the fans coming out and our special guests from around the world are going to have a super time. "And for the third straight year our special guest announcer is USA Hall of Famer Roger Huston joining Darren Owen in the booth." Delaney added. "It is just amazing how this weekend has grown into such a special event. Both James and I know that our brother Vincent would be so proud of what we have done in his memory." By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial

DUBLIN, Ireland – A record number of 180 horses have entered the weekend race card for the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend at Portmarnock Raceway just outside of Dublin. “My brother James and I cannot believe how everyone wants to race this weekend,” said Derek Delaney, head of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee. “For the fourth straight year we keep growing and growing.” A total of 188 horses have been entered for the Saturday and Sunday, August 13 and 14 two-day meet. That is up 11.12% over prior year. The big race of the weekend is the 5th annual Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial (VDM) for two-year-old pacers. This is first year that there are both a colt and filly division with 14 youngsters entered in both events. The VDM is a rugged event that requires horses to compete in elimination divisions on Saturday and then come back again Sunday to race in the finals. The inaugural filly division is being sponsored by Diamond Creek Farm of Kentucky, USA. Each of the finals race for a purse of $16,000 euros.  Vincent Delaney was Derek and James younger brother who tragically died in 2011 at the age of 27. The brothers then developed the memorial race series in his honor and it has since grown to become the richest stakes event and weekend in the history of harness racing in Ireland the UK. Additional major stakes events over the weekend include 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, the Lee Edwards/PJI Engineering Junior FFA Pace and the Elvin-Delaney French FFA Trot. There is a gala kickoff dinner Friday evening at the Airport Hilton Hotel that is already sold out and Sunday’s VIP Marquee Tent is also sold out with over 300 to attend. Every year the VDM Committee selects a local charity to benefit from the VDM Weekend, especially at the Friday night gala dinner auctions. This year’s charity is the Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) of Dublin. The organization, which is comprised 100% of all volunteers, operates a seven-day outreach service across the city, coinciding with their mobile outreach unit. ICHH’s outreach support service operates nightly providing access to beds, sleeping bags, food or case management referrals. ICHH works a 16-hour mobile outreach service, responding to rough sleeper reports within 15 minutes of getting a call. The service also operates seven days a week. The website is at http://www.innercityhelpinghomeless.ie/. It is just grand how all of this has come together,” Derek Delaney said. “And this year we have so many great horsemen and women coming over for Vincent’s weekend. Dexter Dunn from New Zealand, Aaron Merriman from the USA are the special guest drivers, Diamond Creek Farms Adam Bowden, Joe Bellino and his entire crew, Roger Huston, Heather Vitale, Heather Wilder, Murray Brown, John McDermott, Alan Galloway, Sydney Weaver, Joann Looney-King, Susan Looney and a huge group from Australia on tour. "What a great time we will show them all!” Delaney said. "Most everyone is arriving today and tomorrow and we are looking forward to meeting everyone." The guests begin their VIP weekend with carriage ride tours of downtown Dublin plus lunch at the world famous Temple Bar, a bus trip to Oakwood Stud training and breeding facility, the gala kick-off dinner Friday and then the two big VDM race days Saturday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend

After Hambletonian Week is over, a large number of owners, breeders, trainers, drivers, caretakers, journalists and race fans from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe will all be boarding planes and heading to of all places, IRELAND! They will all be coming to Dublin as part of a new age Mecca of harness racing called the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend, Saturday and Sunday, August 13 and 14.   But two very prominent owners and breeders in the industry, Joe Bellino, of Rocknroll Heaven, Pet Rock and Bellino Racing stardom and Adam Bowden of Diamond Creek Farm, Pure Country, Creatine and Divine Caroline fame are coming to Dublin for more than just a great vacation.   They are also sponsoring races that weekend at Portmarnock Raceway and are big time excited to feel the passion for harness racing that the Irish and UK horsemen and women have for the sport.   The reason that both of these men are not just coming over on holiday, but sponsoring races, came about because of their Facebook friendship with Derek Delaney, the chairman of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend (VDM). Derek, along with his brother James, run Oakwood Stud, a prominent breeding and training facility in Ireland and where they stand the former top racehorse, Foreclosure N.   Back in 2011, Derek and James lost their younger brother, Vincent, age 27, after a massive heart attack. Young Vincent was helping run the farm, working with the yearlings and showing great promise in the sport. To honor their late brother, they developed a race in his memory that has grown to become the richest and biggest stakes weekend in all of Ireland and the UK.   To Joe Bellino, his Facebook friendship with Derek Delaney has grown to the point where barely a day goes by that they are not in contact with each other via FB messenger. "I have become great friends with Derek through Facebook." Joe Bellino explained. "We have a lot in common, we both lost our brothers, and I think that has some special meaning to me.   "I am always looking to help (sponsor) groups that help promote harness racing," Joe explained when asked what prompted him to sponsor the Rocknroll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace at Portmarnock Raceway that weekend.   "Derek has a lot of the same love that I do for harness racing," Joe said, "We speak almost every day about racing. I have never met the guy face-to-face, but we are like best friends. It will be so great to finally meet him." "I have never been to Ireland," Joe said. "My mother is from the Dublin area. Maybe I will meet someone who knew her family.   "We are so excited about this trip." Joe explained, "That my wife and I are bringing her mom and most of our team over with us. Maybe eight to ten of us are coming to Ireland.   What does Joe Bellino look forward to most on this trip? "Meeting Derek and his family and then the two race days," Joe said. "I'm ecstatic about all of this. I don't go much to the races here in America. Even for the big races as we feel it is taboo, but I can't wait to come to Portmarnock Raceway for Derek's big weekend."   "I've never been to Ireland and am really excited about going." Adam Bowden said. "My wife Lindsay and I are looking forward to this trip and we are even leaving the kids are home.   "It was Heather Vitale who first came to me to consider sponsoring a race in Ireland at the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend." Adam said. "I wanted to make sure if I was sponsoring a race that I would be to come over and attend. I could not do it last year but made it a priority for this year and it's all come together nicely." Adam and Diamond Creek Farm are the name sponsors of the inaugural filly final of the VDM.   "The story that Heather told us about the VDM weekend was really intriguing," Adam explained, "Then I started reading about it online and then got a hold of Derek. He and others from Ireland and the UK have purchased horses from us over the years and this is a great way to give back and what Derek and his brother James are doing is inspiring in memory of his brother.   "Derek has developed this race and made it really big." Adam said. "They are promoting our sport and Derek has pretty much accomplished all the goals he has put to his committee. Their ability to get this race weekend so popular it is attracting people from all over the world is pretty neat and I wanted to be part of it."   Is there any Irish blood in the Bowden family? "Probably." Adam laughed. "I would have to say yes figuring if you go back far enough we would find some Irish blood.   "Everyone I have ever talked to about this race weekend has said what a wonderful place it is." Adam said, "We're really excited to experience whatever comes our way. Hopefully I will love it so much I will want to come back again next year. It's really shaping up that way." Joining Joe and Adam on this special adventure to Ireland will be Hall of Fame announcer Roger Huston and social media extraordinaire Heather Vitale, each of whom, along with this reporter, are making our third straight trip for the VDM.   Newcomers this year include North America's leading driver in 2015, Aaron Merriman, USA's Heather Wilder from the Meadows, Hanover's Murray Brown, Heather Vitale's mom (Joanne Looney-King) and sister Susan and Canada's darling owner, breeder and journalist, Sydney Weaver and her family.   Returning for his second year at the VDM is Dexter Dunn, the reigning world trotting council driving champion along with an entire tour group from down under. Other prominent breeders, owners and horsemen from down under include Alan Galloway, John McDermot, Bill Hutchison, Clive Dalton, Peter Ferguson, Peter Larkin and Steve Phillips.   "It is just so grand that Joe and Adam and everyone is coming to Ireland for the VDM," Derek Delaney said. "My brother James and I and the VDM committee are so thankful to Joe and Adam for their sponsorships and for their friendship. And for sure we will be showing everyone a great time, great racing and hopefully everyone will go home and tell their friends how they must come over to Ireland next year. That's the impression we love to leave with our guests." Just by this VIP guest list alone, Portmarnock Raceway, on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland, is THE place to be the second week of August.   For more information, visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com.   By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend          

Dublin, Ireland - Through the generous support and sponsorship of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee in Ireland and SSG Gloves in Canada, Sydney Weaver and her parents, Lisa and Don, will be going to Ireland in early August for the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend. "We have invited Sydney to be our special guest speaker at our gala kickoff dinner Friday, August 12," said Derek Delaney, head of the VDM Committee. "I have been friends with her on Facebook and she is just wonderful. Her writing on harness racing and what she has achieved and done for our industry for a young woman is fantastic and she and her parents will be our honored guests at the races that weekend." The VDM weekend is the biggest harness racing weekend in all of Ireland and the UK. The VDM is named after Derek and James Delaney's younger brother Vincent, who worked with the horses at their Oakwood Stud training and breeding center. Vincent tragically died of a massive heart attack in 2011 at the age of 27 and the brothers came up with the VDM weekend as a tribute to their lost brother. The race weekend now features elimination races Saturday, August 13 for the VDM, which is for two-year-old pacers. A record number have entered and with the sponsorship support of Diamond Creek Farm and Adam Bowden, for the first time there will be a separate filly division too. The finals take place Sunday, August 14. Other top stakes that weekend include the Oakwood Stud Derby for three-year-olds, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial for four-year-olds, the RocknRoll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA that is sponsored by Joe Bellino and the Bellino Racing Stable, LeTrot races plus other stakes events. Other sponsors from down under include Yirribee Stud and Pro-Dosa Boost feed suppliments.  "The VDM committee agreed to sponsor Sydney and her family for their hotel stay, dinner tickets and racetrack VIP access," Delaney added, "And they will be part of our tours to Oakwood Stud and carriage ride through downtown Dublin and have lunch in Temple Bar. They are going to have a super time in Ireland." Then steps in Ed James, owner of SSG Gloves. Ed is a big Sydney Weaver fan and when he heard about her being invited to come to Ireland, he set up SSG Gloves to sponsor the airfare for Sydney and her parents to go to Ireland. "I called up and talked to Sydney and told her the news." Ed James said. "And she was so excited. I also have sent her a few pairs of gloves to use when she goes jogging and to bring with her to Ireland. I know she will have a fantastic time." And what did Sydney have to say about all of this? "Unbelievable news, so fantastic and I can't believe this is all happening." Sydney said. "This is a dream trip come true. What great stories I am going to write about the people I meet, the places I see, the big dinner and the bigger race weekend. I have a lot of Facebook friends from Ireland and the UK and I hope to get to meet them in person now. "When I phoned and thanked Mr. James for the sponsorship," Sydney added, "I said I would proudly display an SSG Gloves patch on my racing colors that I will bring over, and Derek Delaney is getting me a Vincent Delaney Memorial patch too that will go on my colors once I get there. "I also got a very nice check from Hall of Famer and dear friend Bill Galvin, Sydney said. I still have to pinch myself that this is all for real." Sydney Weaver and her mom and dad are not the only ones who will be traveling to Ireland for the VDM weekend. Joining the Weavers will be Heather Vitale and her mom (JoAnn Looney-King) and sister (Susan Looney), the 2015 Dan Patch Driver of the Year, Aaron Merriman, New Zealand's top driver Dexter Dunn is returning along with Hall of Fame announcer, Roger Huston, who will be calling the races at Portmarnock Raceway for his third straight year. Michael Gallenti and Bill Hutchison of Harness Racing Travel is bringing a group of 40 from New Zealand and Australia, making the total nearly 70 that are coming to Ireland from down under. Their website is www.harnessracingtravel.com.au. Dublin, Ireland will be the place to be August 12 to 14 for the VDM and more announcements of top Standardbred visitors from the USA will be made soon. For more information, visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee

WIN FREE BREEDING TO HE’S WATCHING

Acton, Ontario - In the wee hours of the early morning Monday, Sydney "Pinky" Seelster had a filly, and nobody in the harness racing industry could not be happier than their owner, Sydney Weaver. Her first Facebook post was at  3:42 am along with a photo of the newborn daughter of Pet Rock. The text from Sydney Weaver said, "Baby Joe has arrived! For all of you who read my story on Harnesslink about  The Anticipation of Waiting for a foal, Sydney Seelster had Baby Joe on a wintry night. We will be going to the Juggette instead of the Jug." Of course Sydney Weaver was on hand for the blessed event along with her parents, Lisa and Don Weaver. Not knowing if it was to be a filly or a colt, Sydney affectionately named the unborn foal, Baby Joe, after Pet Rock's owner, Joe Bellino, who donated the breeding to Sydney Seelster for Pet Rock. And what will the name be for this pretty little filly? That will be announced later this week in a special Harnesslink exclusive press release. by Steve Wolf, for Harnesslink  

Dublin, Ireland - The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee is proud to announce today that North America's leading dash winning driver in 2015, Aaron Merriman, is committed to coming to Ireland for the Delaney Memorial Weekend, August 13 and 14, 2016. "I was shocked when I got the invite," Merriman said. "I have read about the race, knew that George Brennan went last year and had a great time and now I am getting to come over this year, what a great honor this is." The 37-year-old Ohio native is coming off a career-best harness racing season in 2015, capturing his first North American driving title and earning a personal-high $7.40 million in purses. His 873 victories last year were the most for a dash-winning champion since Tony Morgan's 959 triumphs in 2008. Merriman is one of only three drivers --- joining Morgan and Tim Tetrick --- to win at least 800 races in back to back years. In 2014, Merriman won 841 times, but finished six victories behind Ronnie Wrenn Jr. for the No. 1 spot. Over the past 10 years, Merriman has won an average of 618 races per season. "Our committee board was ecstatic that Aaron agreed without even flinching to come over for the VDM this year." Said Derek Delaney, who along with his brother James, developed the Vincent Delaney Memorial in honor of their younger brother who tragically passed away in 2011. "Aaron is a world-class driver," Delaney added, "And we are sure to show him a great time here both on and off the track. He will be sure to have some good drives at Portmarnock Raceway both on Saturday and Sunday." The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial is for two-year-old pacers with elimination divisions on Saturday and the finals on Sunday. For the first time this season there will be a separate filly division, sponsored by Diamond Creek Farm in the USA. Also on the program that weekend is the Oakwood Stud Derby, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial, The RocknRoll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA sponsored by Joe Bellino and the Bellino Stable plus other big stakes events. When it comes to his heritage, Aaron says he will fit in just fine. "My father's family is British and my mother is Swedish and Irish," Aaron said. "I think I will fit in perfectly. "I'm VERY eager to experience another continent with harness racing," Aaron said. "I've never left North America before. I've checked out some of the history of this race and have read about the great enthusiasm and real love for our sport that they have and it is so heartwarming. "Harness racing is definitely a sport where people are joined together all around the world," Aaron said. "To be offered this opportunity to represent America and show my patronage to Ireland and the UK horsemen and fans is once in a lifetime and I was not going to pass it by. I'll thoroughly embrace my days there." Merriman is already on a roll in 2016. He has a commanding lead in the driving standings in North America with 214 wins, 54 ahead of his nearest rival, Jason Bartlett. And Merriman has $1.5 million in purses won already with a Universal Driving Rating at an impressive .356, second only to Bartlett. "Missing a week of racing back home is nothing compared to the adventure that awaits me in Ireland," Aaron said. "I can't wait for the second week of August to come. And I will not be homesick because Roger Huston will be there calling the races!" For more information visit www.vincentdelaneymemorial.com. By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial  

THE ANTICIPATION OF WAITING FOR A FOAL

When people hear his name they may not immediately recall the Australian import that defeated 2012 Little Brown Jug victor Michael’s Power and the richest harness horse of all time in Foiled Again, but after Polak A’s 2015 harness racing campaign was derailed by illness, the 8-year-old gelding has returned to top form and served notice he will be a top contender for the title in next month’s Levy Series at Yonkers Raceway. “I blame myself for what happened to him last year,” said Joe Bellino, who owns the horse with F Bellino & Sons LLC and Frank Bellino. “We made him eligible to the Levy before we even got him over here and it was only a couple weeks after he arrived, but he won the first two legs of the series and was third in another leg. He rebounded from a seventh in the final to take a winner’s over race and then we decided to take him to try him at Mohawk. “When we shipped him up there he got sick and it took us quite a while to get him back. We had to stop on him and turn him out, but he’s healthy now and has yet to finish off the board this year. “I should have just left well enough alone with him instead of asking him to do too much. Now that he’s well again we are excited about this year and we are going to take another shot at the Levy again. We really like his chances.” Conditioned by New Zealand native Tony O’Sullivan, Polak A will attempt to collect his fourth win from six starts this year when he and Brian Sears leave from post five in a very tough $32,000 Open Handicap at Yonkers Raceway on Saturday (Feb. 27), in the evening’s sixth race. The gelding is the 5-2 morning line selection, but it will not be an easy mile as he takes on Dream Out Loud N (9-2), Roland N Rock (4-1), All Bets Off (8-1) and Sunfire Blue Chip (9-1). “He is just a classy old gelding,” O’Sullivan said. “He gives you more than 100 percent every time and he is superb on a half (-mile track). He raced primarily at Gloucester Park in Australia. That’s a half-mile and it has very tight turns. Joe found him and picked him out, but one of the reasons he bought him was because of his ability over that type of track.” The son of Pacific Fella and the Million To One mare Capture A Million paced on 75 occasions in the Southern Hemisphere, captured 17 of those contests and collected $219,652. Since arriving in his new nation the full sibling to Australian Group One winner Schinzig Buller has amassed $133,900 from 19 miles and added eight more triumphs to his resume for a grand total of 25. He has already earned $44,400 over the last two months. “We really did not do anything to transition him to North America except place two blankets on him because he was coming from the middle of summer to the middle of winter,” O’Sullivan said. “We were looking forward to trying him at Mohawk because the fields were short and we thought he would like the track. Unfortunately, it did not work out because of his illness. Even with treating it, he still was sick and it showed. They race and are treated a lot differently over in Australia and New Zealand so it’s quite possible horses from there don’t bounce back as quickly from antibiotics as North American horses do. We do have him right now though and it is great to see him back on his game.” Although Bellino selected Polak A, he gives O’Sullivan all the credit for not only how the horse has already performed, but for what he accomplishes in the future. “I trust Tony 100 percent and he is more than just a trainer to me, he is a close friend and like one of my family,” he said. “When he told me we needed to kick the horse out, I told him, ‘Go ahead. You are the one that is with him every day.’ I didn’t even tell Tony I made the payment for the Levy until after the horse came here and he had him ready. How often does a horse pay for himself just months after you buy him? That’s what Tony prepared this horse to do and he has him ready again. I can’t say enough about the job he does and about the person he is.” O’Sullivan can’t say enough about the horse. “He is just such a nice animal,” he said. “He has a tremendous attitude and we don’t have to do much with him except send him out there. I think as long as he is healthy he will have a nice season and give a good account of himself. He also really fits superbly at Yonkers and gets around the track so well.” Despite his affinity for that surface and circumference, Polak A’s connections have plans that do not include him remaining exclusively in the Empire State for the next 10 months. “I don’t know if he is a Meadowlands horse,” O’Sullivan said. “But we might give him the opportunity to prove he belongs. We will try him again at Mohawk and probably at Pocono. The surface there is very quick and he should like it. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter where we take him or what comes up for him, when you have a horse like this you have confidence in them whenever you send them out. I have faith in him every time he is out there and feel he has the ability to be a top Open horse.” by Kimberly French, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent  

Throughout the month of December, 19 nominees in two categories vied against each other for the Railbird Recognition Awards, the harness racing fan-voted accolade sponsored by the United States Harness Writers Association and the United States Trotting Association. Ten individuals squared off for "Horseperson of the Year" and 9 events battled for "Racing Moment of the Year and when the pools closed on New Year's Eve, the fans of harness racing chose Joe Bellino and Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win as the categorical winners. Joe Bellino has been very successful in harness racing, but he remembers where he came from and respects everyone who works in the industry. Having campaigned such notable horses as Psiluvyuheartbreaker, Rock N Roll Heaven and Pet Rock, he knows what it's like to win the big race. But he also remembers that there are many people involved at all levels of this sport and goes out of his way to help them when he can. Bellino's benevolence is one of the worst kept secrets in the business. Although he reaches out to those in need and tries to help at every turn, he never looks for any thanks or praise for his actions. But the many people that he has helped both in and out of harness racing will be the first ones to let you know what an unselfish individual he is. Clearly people in the grandstand and on the backstretch know of his good deeds and that is why he garnered 77% of the total vote for Horseperson of the Year. This is the largest margin of victory for either category in the 8-year history of the Railbird Recognition voting. Anyone who saw the final heat of the 2015 Little Brown Jug will more than likely tell you that it was "THE" greatest horse race they ever witnessed. After taking a bad step in the first turn, Wiggle It Jiggleit was parked-out for almost three quarters of the mile before getting passed at the head of the lane by Lost For Words. But Wiggle It Jiggleit swelled up and fought back down the stretch to win one of the most epic battles two pacers ever undertook in the history of the sport. The race was an indelible memory that everyone who attended live in Delaware, Ohio and watched remotely around the world has and those fans relived it while voting to make Wiggle It Jiggleit's Little Brown Jug win the Racing Moment of the Year for 2015. Joe Bellino and Team Teague will be presented their Railbird Recognition trophies during the Dan Patch Awards Banquet, held this year at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on Sunday (Mar. 6), 2016. Information on tickets and accommodations for that event can be found at www.ushwa.org . Below are the top three voting results for each Railbird Recognition category: Horseperson of the Year Joe Bellino for his behind the scenes benevolence 77% Breanna Carsey for donating winnings from MJB Got Faith 6.5% Montrell Teague for his handling of Wiggle It Jiggleit in 2015 5.9% Racing Moment of the Year Wiggle It Jiggleit defeats Lost For Words in second Jug heat 55% Freaky Feet Pete wins Breeders Crown 15% International Trot returns to Yonkers after 20 years 5.7% By Tim Bojarski for USHWA "I've often said there's nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse." -Winston Churchill

Joe Bellino of F. Bellino & Sons LLC, owners of the notable trotting colt, Muscle Network, and John C. Green, President of Green Acquisition Corporation, in conjunction with Randy Haines of Cool Winds Farm, have jointly announced an agreement has been reached to stand the World Champion son of the great Muscle Hill, at Cool Winds Farm, in Lima, Ohio. "Muscle Network has every element needed to succeed as a prominent stallion in the developing Ohio Program." said John Green. "The Bellino's have been great to work with, and fully understand Ohio as a pivotal state for producing the next generations of world class bloodstock. We appreciate the confidence they have entrusted in us. We couldn't be happier in being able to offer a World Champion son of Muscle Hill to the Ohio Breeders. We look forward to seeing Muscle Network's offspring competing at the highest levels in Ohio and on the Grand Circuit". Green Acquisition Corporation are also announcing that it's pacing star, Western Hero, a full brother to the great Western Ideal, will be standing for stallion duties in 2016 at Cool Winds Farm. For further information, or to request a booking please contact: randy@coolwindsfarm.com, or e.vitko@greenacquisitioncorporation.com   Cool Winds Farm's website is www.coolwindsfarm.com.    From Cool Winds Farm    

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