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A new mares’ series to be staged at Corbiewood in 2017 is to be sponsored by Oakwood Stud (Co Offaly, Ireland).   The series, which will be staged over 7 weeks, will be run by the Scottish Harness Racing Club (SHRC) for its members and is open to mares aged 4 and above with a BHRC handicap of Grade 1 or above.   Mare owners must be members of the club at the date the entries close.  SHRC members do not need to reside in Scotland. The Oakwood Stud Mares’ Pacing Series will be limited to the top 12 BHRC handicapped mares which enter, with the handicap mark to be determined on the date the nominations close (Friday 9th June).   The series will consist of 6 legs, with the first 3 legs run as open preferred handicaps in two lines as per the BHRC handicap system (lowest earnings drawn 1, highest earnings drawn 8) and the remaining 3 legs run as open preferred handicaps in two lines based on monies won within the series.   The series will culminate with a £1500 purse final for the top 8 highest earners in the series, with the winner receiving £1000 as well as a rug and trophy also sponsored by Oakwood Stud. Derek Delaney, speaking on behalf of Oakwood Stud, was quick to get on board with the idea: “We love to be involved in great start up ideas in UK & Irish Harness racing from the beginning and we believe there needs to be more racing for the mares and love the idea of them racing their own sex as older mares and not only juvenile stakes racing.  When Sarah Thomas told me her thoughts, I was immediately interested in supporting her forward thinking.” Each of the 12 mares will be guaranteed 4 runs in the series should they enter for all of the legs, with the purse for each leg set at £550.  The nomination fee to stake a mare is £150, with the entry fee for each leg being £40.  The final will be run in two lines with all 8 mares to ballot for position. The order of priority for the first leg will be the top 8 BHRC handicapped mares; any mares returned from the first leg will take priority for the second leg. The order of priority for the remaining legs will be as follows: Any mares returned from the previous leg; Mares with the lowest number of runs within the series; Mares with the lowest earnings within the series; Highest BHRC handicap mark. The idea for the series stemmed from the success of the three STAGBI Future Broodmares races staged at Corbiewood in 2016.  All three races were fully subscribed and provided competitive and thrilling finishes in the open preferred handicap format.  In 2017 there will be a maximum of two STAGBI Future Broodmares races sponsored by STAGBI, which will supplement the mares’ series. Further details of the series will be published via the SHRC and BHRC websites and social media pages in due course, however if anybody has any queries regarding the series, please contact Sarah Thomas. by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink

The second annual British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) and Standardbred and Trotting Horse Association of Great Britain and Ireland (STAGBI) joint awards dinner will this year feature the inaugural 'Drive of the Year' award which is being sponsored and supported by none other than world famous USA reinsman, Tim Tetrick. The six shortlisted drives were selected by a small panel from within the awards night organisation committee and the winner will be chosen by a public poll which closes at midday on Tuesday 14th February - For the link to vote click here. Before casting your vote, take a look at the drives which have been selected: Race 1 - James Haythornthwaite & Porcelain Seelster - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQkY9hcg9xA James Haythornthwaite comes from last to clinch the Victor Carson Memorial Final with a well-timed run at Corbiewood on board 3YO filly, Porcelain Seelster (September 2016) Race 2 - John Nicholson Jr & Cochise - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ius55lcwff8 Sixteen-year-old John Nicholson Jr holds off 2015 Leading Driver William 'Rocker' Laidler to win the Red John Memorial Hurricane Pace at Musselburgh (one of the major handicap events of the calendar) in a cool drive on board Cochise (June 2016) Race 3 - Ian Pimlott & Thundier Jiel - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMBpWvX21w4 Seasoned campaigner Ian Pimlott guides Thunder Jiel to the trotter's first win on British soil since being imported from France, at the inaugural fixture at Chelmsford City Racecourse which followed the Thoroughbred card and was televised live on At The Races (November 2016) Race 4 - Mick Lord & Shaba Hanover - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRjl9ntkpB8 Mick Lord with what commentator Darren Owen described on the day as a 'perfectly timed' drive to guide Shaba Hanover to victory at York, having painted the outside fence to pass the leading horses in a thrilling finish (October 2016) Race 5 - Richard Haythornthwaite & Ayr Majesty - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwjPd9Z2sik Richard Haythornthwaite guides former top British juvenile Ayr Majesty to an impressive victory when winning the Tregaron leg of the Standardbred Sales Company Battle of the Big Guns, which was the horse's sole win in the toughest of top flight company all season (August 2016) Race 6 - Vicky Gill & Rhyds Mystique - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBxw6ZD0tbY Vicky Gill passed the field coming home on Rhyds Mystique for the BHRC 2YO Filly of the Year's first of 8 victories from 9 starts in 2016 when winning the NWHOA 2YO Championship. This performance was only the first indication of what was to come from the champion performer (June 2016) The winner will be celebrated at the awards dinner on Saturday 25th February and presented with a trophy and prize package provided by world champion driver Tim Tetrick. by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink  

VINCENNES, Paris - The French harness racing governing body, Le Trot, played host to representatives from numerous countries involved in the purchase and breeding of Trotteur Francais at Vincennes over the course of the weekend of December 2nd - 4th, where each country's Horse of the Year was celebrated and 15 drivers from the member countries participated in the Prix des Recontres Internationales. Alan Richardson and Ricky Hanson from Ireland and John Foy from Great Britain attended to collect their awards on Friday evening for Vichy Du Moem (World Record Holder over 2 miles) and Sulky Du Blequin respectively, with John competing in the race on Saturday afternoon along with Sean Kane from Ireland, who is currently working at Grosbois Training Centre in France. The celebratory weekend began with an awards dinner for the TF voted as the Horse of the Year in each of the member countries, held at Hippodrome de Vincennes (Vincennes Racecourse). Ireland's winner, Vichy Du Moem and Great Britain's Sulky Du Blequin were both celebrated. The weekend culminated with the Prix des Recontres Internationales on Saturday afternoon, which featured drivers from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Malta, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the Ukraine. Sean Kane (Ireland), found himself at the reins of the betting favourite, Tornado De L'Ocean, and although the duo looked threatening throughout, the competition proved to be too strong in the stretch, with Sean finishing a respectable fifth. John Foy (Great Britain), drew an outsider who raced in midfield throughout, before galloping on the final bend which resulted in automatic disqualification. The race was won by the French driver, Franck Nivard, driving Service Secret, with Balazs Juhasz from Hungary and Sire De La Creuse finishing second and Rick Wester from Holland and Tonio Du Vivier finishing third. Both drivers were grateful for the opportunity to drive at Vincennes and to represent their countries on an international stage, and it is hoped that this event will continue to include British and Irish drivers for many more years to come. A full replay of the race can be seen here - http://www.letrot.com/en/races/replays/2016-12-03/7500/7 by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink

At the closing of the 2016 season in the UK, the British Harness Racing Club published the final standings for leading owner, trainer and horse. In two of the categories it was a race to the wire as trainers William 'Rocker' Laidler and Teresa Haythornthwaite, and owners Raymond Huschka and Claire Fletcher, battled it out into the final meetings at Corbiewood, Scotland, to win the title. Leading owner for the 2016 season went the way of Claire Fletcher, who secured the title on the final full day's racing at Corbiewood on 23rd October when Indie Hanover and Porcelain Seelster both notched up victories to make the winning tally 30 wins and 63 top 3 finishes. Last year's leading owner, Raymond Huschka, finished in second place with 28 wins and 80 top 3 finishes. BHRC Chairman Roy Sheedy finished third in the table, with 16 wins and 48 top 3 finishes. Claire Fletcher has previously won the title in 2011, and described the highlight of this season as "winning Musselburgh (The Famous Musselburgh Pace Final with Sports Trick), "it "was the best feeling and seeing Shane's (Claire's husband and co-organiser of the race meeting at Wolverhampton Racecourse) face, we were so emotional both of us". "We can only thank Team Haythornthwaite (trainer Teresa and drivers Alan, Richard and James) for everything they do, they work so hard and love the horses. We can't thank them enough. There are a lot of highs and lows in racing but this season we finished on a high". The trainer's title was all but decided the previous week at Corbiewood, as 'Rocker' Laidler extended his lead over Teresa Haythornthwaite, a deficit which could not be overcome despite Teresa training the aforementioned Claire Fletcher-owned duo who won at the final fixture. 'Rocker' Laidler has previously won the title, before wife Alexis went on a winning streak of 8 trainer's titles in a row, making this the tenth year straight that a Laidler has won the Championship. Rocker's season highlights included winning the Park Lodge Final at Aberystwyth and the 4YO Championship with Mikey Camden, and the Bells Field Final and Tregaron Classic Final with Evenwood Sonofagun. He won the FFA at Monmouth and Newcastle with Meadowbranch Josh also. His finally tally stands at 45 wins, with 148 top 3 finishes. Second-placed Teresa Haythornthwaite recorded 43 wins, with 103 top 3 finishes; and David Taff placed third with 31 wins and 62 top 3 finishes. The driver's title was a runaway affair as the season progressed, as Scottish driver William Greenhorn stormed to the top of the leader board early in the year and maintained momentum. The achievement was made all the more impressive due to the fact that Greenhorn was not affiliated to any major stable in 2016, and although he drove a number of horses that he has an established partnership with on behalf of other trainers, he also scored with numerous catch drives, forging new partnerships with horses and trainers alike. Greenhorn described winning the title as "a great personal achievement to win as it reflects how you have done over the full season rather than how you performed on a particular day. This title hasn't been won by a Scottish driver for a good number of years so I'm proud to give Scotland this recognition also". "Competing in the VDM Final and the Crock of Gold Final were highlights of the season, although I had no success in them". Greenhorn did have success however in FFA class races with Meadowbranch Josh at Tregaron in May, as well as the SHRC 2YO Futurity with Crosshill Ace. He also proved his worth when guiding Ayr Escape to the gelding's first win in 63 starts. Numerous drives were provided by leading trainer Rocker Laidler, including winning both heat and final at Hellifield. It was good to see former leading driver Laidler showing support to Greenhorn, who has acted as catch driver for the Laidler team for many years when the stables have qualified two of more runners for major handicap finals. He topped the table with 55 wins and 135 top 3 finishes; Rocker Laidler finished second with 39 wins and 126 top 3 finishes, and SHRC Leading Driver in 2015, Grant Cullen, recorded 37 wins and 86 top 3 finishes. Leading horse for 2016 was awarded to the Sally Teeboon-trained Miraculous (Arts Conquest-Another Mattie-Presidential Ball), having won 9 of his 10 starts this season. Last year's leading 2YO colt stepped up at age three to dominate once again in his age category, but also recorded a victory in his first start of the year in open class company against aged pacers. His CV now boasts the 3YO Scottish Grass Derby at Musselburgh, the NWHOA 3YO Championship, Breeders Crown 3YO Colts, BHRC National Pacing Derby (Colts), Sire Stakes 3YO Colts and the Oakwood Stud 3YO Derby and Portmarnock, Ireland. Last year's leading 2YO filly, Jessies Conquest (Arts Conquest-Apopka Denise-Jennas Beach Boy), also stepped up at age three, recording 8 wins in 10 starts to finish second in the table for owner/trainer/driver Marc Jones. Her victories included the Monmouth 3YO Colts & Fillies Pace, where she beat Miraculous, Ceredigion 3YO Fillies, NWHOA 3YO Fillies, Little Welsh Dragoness, National Pacing Derby (Fillies) and the Sire Stakes 3YO Fillies. Rhyds Mystique finished third, winning 8 of her 9 starts in the top 2YO races this season for trainer John Gill, with the VDM Final being the only race to elude her all season. The BHRC awards for horses in the various categories will be voted on imminently by the clubs and associations around the UK, as well as individuals on the BHRC Council. The short list for each category are as follows: HORSE OF THE YEAR will be voted on by the BHRC Committee from the winners of the below categories in 2016. The winners of the below categories will be voted on at the AGM in December, with a further vote at a later date to finalise the Horse of the Year 2016. Pacer of the Year Evenwood Sonofagun From 11 starts he has only been outside the top four twice. Most notably in August he won the Bells Field Heat and Final and within the week took the Welsh Classic Heat & Final at Tregaron. Owned by Raymond Huschka, trained and driven by William 'Rocker' Laidler. Mikey Camden With 7 wins in 2016, this horse travelled for most of the big handicap races - Appleby Spring, Musselburgh, Aberystwyth and Tregaron. He was well placed in all and winner of the Park Lodge Classic Heat & Final at Aberystwyth. Owned by Raymond Huschka and trained by William 'Rocker' Laidler. Sports Trick Winner of 7 races in 2016 including the Senior Welsh Dragon at Tregaron, Appleby Spring Sunday Handicap Heat & Final, the NWSA 4YO Championship at Tir Prince and of course The Famous Musselburgh Pace Heat & Final. He was also runner up in the Park Lodge Classic Final at Ceredigion, beaten by only 1 length. Owned by Leading Owner Claire Fletcher, trained by Teresa Haythornthwaite and driven by Alan Haythornthwaite. Mare of the Year Blytheview Peach With 4 victories in 2016, this mare has advanced from Maiden through to Grade 3. Her first victory was at the Tregaron Festival in August, quickly followed by victories at Almeley and Tir Prince, with her four at York on Sale Day in October. Owned by Cheryl Podmore, driven by Jason Podmore and trained by Jason Podmore and Victoria Elvin from June. Frisco Frisk A tough and consistent mare who realised 3 victories from 12 starts in 2016. Her first victory was at Wolverhampton in June and the other two in 4YO stakes at Tir Prince; the NWSA 4YO Fillies Championship and Breeders Crown 4YO Mares. She realised £14,000 when offered for sale at Brightwells in October. Owned by the Fools Who Dream Syndicate and trained by Teresa Haythornthwaite. Shades Of Grey A terrific mare who has achieved 8 top 3 finishes from 14 races, 5 of which were victories. Her first win came at Wolverhampton in June, followed by a tough race at Musselburgh where she held on and won the top Heat of the Famous Musselburgh Pace. She won a Stayers Pace at Pikehall in some of the toughest conditions, a STAGBI Mares Pace at Tir Prince and a Red Mills sponsored Pace at Dundalk. Owned by Leading Owner Claire Fletcher, trained by Teresa Haythornthwaite and driven by James Haythornthwaite. Trotter of the Year Sacha Of Carless A late import in 2016, he squeezed in 10 races and struck up a 50% strike rate. He has raced over varying distances and had victories at Musselburgh, Newcastle and Tir Prince including the 2-mile endurance trot in September. Owned by John Foy and trained by David Taff. Sire Pazenais Another fresh 2016 import for the Le Trot series, he has been victorious in one third of his starts, placed in one third and only out of the placings on three occasions. Owner by Paul L Mather Jnr and trained by Paul Mather. Sulky Du Blequin 2016 was his second season racing under BHRC, where from 13 starts he realised 11 top 3 finishes. Racing over varying distances and on all surfaces he had back to back victories at Wolverhampton in June, the Gold Le Trot at Musselburgh, the George Dixon Memorial Trot at Tir Prince, the Le Trot Saddle race at Tir Prince and lastly an impressive 11 length win at Chelmsford. Owned by John Foy and trained by David Taff and John Foy. Tenor Meslois Imported as part of the Le Trot initiative in 2016, this trotter has been very successful with 12 top 3 finishes from 15 races. He racked up 6 victories on a variety of tracks and over a variety of distances; Tregaron over 1¼ miles, Wolverhampton over 1m100yds, Monmouth over 1¼ miles, Tir Prince over 1 mile and 1¼ miles and Amman Valley over 1m940yds. Owned by Gwenan Thomas, trained and driven by Rhys Evans. 3YO Colt of the Year Miraculous Needing no introduction, he was the 2015 2YO Colt of the Year and is exactly as his name suggests. Leading Horse by number of wins in 2016 he is the champion of the Musselburgh 3YO Grass Championship, the NWSA 3YO Championship, the Barney Joyce Memorial 3YO, the Breeders Crown 3YO Colts, the Oakwood Stud BHRC Colts Derby and the BHRC Sire Stakes 3YO Colts. Owned by Arnie Flower, trained by Sally Teeboon and driven by Patrick Kane Jnr. Truly miraculous is every way. 3YO Filly of the Year Jessies Conquest 2015 2YO Filly of the Year, her 3YO campaign lived up to all expectations. Winner of the Monmouth 3YO Fillies, the Ceredigion 3YO Fillies, the NWSA 3YO Fillies Championship, Little Welsh Dragoness 3YO, the Oakwood Stud BHRC Fillies Derby and the BHRC Sire Stakes 3YO Fillies. Bred, Owned, Trained and Driven by Marc T Jones. She boasts a very strong CV. 2YO Colt of the Year Rhyds Decoy From the mare CPR this colt was always expected to excel and add to the numerous stakes races of her other progeny. He didn't disappoint, finishing in the top 3 of all his 6 starts and winning the Ceredigion 2YO Colts, a Vincent Delaney Prep at Tir Prince and also the BHRC Sire Stakes 2YO Colts. Owned by the BKB Syndicate, trained by Joanne Cairns and driven by Andrew Cairns. Tyrion Hanover Lightly raced as most 2YOs are, this colt was rightly placed by owner John Howard and trainer Samboy Howard. He finished in the top 3 of 4 out of his 5 races, conquering the heat and final of possibly the most prestigious 2YO race of present; the Vincent Delaney Memorial. 2YO Filly of the Year Rhyds Mystique From a CPR line mare, this filly also has a catalogue of successful siblings. She proved to be the best yet winning 8 out of 9 of her starts including the NWSA 2YO Fillies, the Ceredigion 2YO Fillies, a Vincent Delaney Prep, the Breeders Crown 2YO Fillies, the Vincent Delaney 2YO Fillies Division, the Junior Welsh Dragoness, the Rhyds Stud BHRC Fillies Futurity and the BHRC Sire Stakes 2YO Fillies. Owned by Victoria Elvin, trained by John Gill and driven by Victoria Gill. Overseas Horse of the Year Any horse that has connections to an IHRA registered owner or trainer in the relevant season can be nominated under this category. Kickass Katie 4YO filly who has rarely been out of the placings all season. Under BHRC she finished 2nd in the Strata Florida Heat at Tregaron and 3rd in the final. In late September she made the trip over to Tir Prince for the Sire Stakes and was victorious in the 4YO fillies division in a very respectable time of 1.59.6. Owned and driven by John Richardson, and trained by William Flanagan. Porterstown Road First raced under BHRC in June at Tir Prince he finished 2nd in a Crock of Gold Heat, followed by second again in the FFA at Ceredigion. In July he took on the Crock of Gold heats again and was triumphant in a clock of 1.57.3, a run that gained him entry to the final in August when he excelled and held off the competition to take the Crock of Gold 2016. Owned by the family of the late RGB Webster, trained by Geoff Dunne and driven by Jonathan Dunne. Special Contribution to Harness Racing The winner of this category will be determined by the Awards Event Organisation Committee. All nominations will be considered and the winner announced along with Horse of the Year: Elizabeth O'Neil & Kareen New Sarah Thomas Heulwen Bulman Sue Williams (Tir Prince) Awards will be presented at the BHRC & STAGBI Annual Awards Event on Saturday 25th February 2017 - award winners will be invited to attend; further details to follow. by Sarah Thomas, for Harnesslink

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