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The Irish Harness Racing Association (IHRA) has announced a new partnership agreement with Black Horse, the Finnish equine feed and supplements company. Black Horse will be offering their products to IHRA trainers at a discount and are expected to announce the first of their IHRA race sponsorships in the coming weeks. For harness racing in Ireland to secure such a well known Finnish partner and sponsor while sports sponsorship, particularly international sponsorship, has declined due to the Covid-19 pandemic is a vote of confidence in Irish racing and a tribute to the hard work of those involved. Black Horse is the equine brand of Biofarm, a Finnish manufacturer of feeds, vitamins and care products for horses, farm animals and pets. Biofarm Ltd was founded in 1988. Their first products were for cattle. Black Horse was started in 1982 by Anneli Lillkvist, who held a masters in agriculture and was a well known Finnish show jumper.  After she retired  in the late 1990's Biofarm bought the Black Horse brand and began to develop and expand its equine product line with the help of Mrs Lillkvist. Today Black Horse is one of the leading horse feed and supplement brands in Finland. They have notable customers including the leading racing stables in Finland, for example Team Ojanperä whose Finnishhorse Evartti won The King of Trotters at Seinäjoki on 2nd of August this year. Arto Lindqvist, the Blackhorse Head of Sales & Product Specialist for horse products, has been at Biofarm for 21 years and has a long history in the trotting industry having trained trotters since he was 15 and driving races at 17. He drove his last race in 2004 and drove in 230 races, with 12 wins, 5 seconds and 11 thirds. He is also a former harness race official and has co-owned a number of horses in Finland. Commenting on the partnership Arto said “Last September I had the opportunity to explore Irish horse culture while being shown around various great equine sites by Pierce and Finlay Dargan. I expressed interest in importing our products to Ireland. In May of this year Pierce contacted me and about the opportunity to partner with the IHRA. We are delighted this came to pass, that we are in Ireland and have become an official partner of the IHRA. Finland has a great history of harness racing, where the Kuninkuusravit (or King’s Race) attracts 60,000 spectators every year, and we are excited to be supporting the sport in Ireland. We have recently begun offering our products to IHRA trainers and as our presence in Ireland grows, we look forward to expanding the calendar of events we are able to support in Ireland. We would like to thank the IHRA and Mark Flanagan for their hard work as well as Pierce, Finlay and the team at Equine MediRecord for helping us to begin this partnership”.   Mark Flanagan, Chairman of the IHRA, commented:   “We are delighted to add a new international partner for the IHRA especially at these uncertain times. We have already begun discussing a range of initiatives they might be interested in. It is great to have the support of such a well known and established international harness racing brand supporting us as we look to grow the sport of harness racing in Ireland. We are very excited to have them with us as we continue to work to grow and improve our sport in Ireland.”  For further information, on blackhorse you can visit their website: From the Irish Harness Racing Association

Department of Agriculture funded Veterinary Welfare Commission leads Irish Harness Racing industry to become world leader for horse welfare and anti-doping. In light of the Programme for Government set out by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party to have funding to the equine industry be related to horse welfare outcomes the newly established Veterinary and Welfare Commission (VWC), funded by the Department of Agriculture to help regulate the integrity of the Irish Harness Racing industry, are announcing that all regulatory medical records for the Irish standardbred community will be moving from paper to a digital system. This will ensure that records can not be lost, damaged or tampered with once closed on the system greatly increasing transparency and accountability in relation to anti-doping and equine welfare for the sport of harness racing across Ireland. Together, thanks to support from the Irish Department of Agriculture, VWC and the Irish Harness Racing Association (IHRA) have commissioned world leaders in anti-doping and equine welfare software, Equine MediRecord, and are mandating this system for all of the horses that fall under their regulatory scope. While other regulators have switched to digital records for horses in training and competition, Harness Racing under the remit of the IHRA and its integrity arm, the VWC, is now the first equine sport to make it a mandatory regulation that digital medical records be maintained by breeders and keepers of standardbred horses, ensuring a continuous flow of data on the horse throughout its life. This is the first time that an equine industry will ensure that the records of a horse are digitally kept from birth to death. It is the first equine sport to do so, anywhere in the world. These changes ensure proper tracking of medical histories, making it easier for vets, trainers, keepers and owners to ensure better outcomes for horses under their care. This ensures that Irish Standardbred Industry is a world leader in animal welfare for all of its horses from birth to the end of their days.  “Funding for animal welfare in any sport that involves animals is always welcome and it is especially welcome in these formative years of the exciting sport of Harness Racing in Ireland” said Peadar Ó Scanaill, MVB, Chairman of the Veterinary and Welfare Commission. “Harness Racing in Ireland is growing and maturing into an extremely exciting equine racing sport and it has always set itself the highest and best of standards with regard to animal welfare from the very outset. It carries out all its racing on the track and it strives to instil public confidence in Harness Racing as it distances itself from any form of horses running on the road”. The VWC was established in 2015 by the IHRA as the integrity body within the sport of Harness Racing. Its funding comes from within the sport itself through a Memorandum of Understanding agreed with the Board of the IHRA with some financial assistance from the Department of Agriculture. Its aim is to ensure animal welfare reaches the highest standard possible and its mission is to instil public confidence both inside and outside the sport of Harness Racing in Ireland. Its role within the IHRA is to cover all aspects of the integrity of the sport of Harness Racing in Ireland, with similar duties to the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board for thoroughbred racing.  The VWC, with this newly announced Department of Agriculture funding, boasts some of the top equine veterinarians in Ireland. Peadar Ó Scanaill, the founding head of the VWC, was the President of the Veterinary Council of Ireland in 2018 - 2019. The Veterinary Council is mandated by the government to regulate and manage the practice of all veterinary medicine and veterinary nursing in Ireland in the public interest. This means that Mr Ó Scanaill, MVB,  brings the perfect experience and expertise for this new regulatory role. He is joined by Marcus Swail, MVB, the founder of EquiVET and Team Ireland Equestrian Olympic team’s veterinary surgeon, who is the deputy head of the new VWC. The formation of the VWC is a great boost to ensuring and improving the integrity of the sport of Harness Racing in Ireland.  Pierce Dargan, CEO of Equine MediRecord stated, “We are delighted to see further steps towards better equine care in the world. We are proud and delighted that the VWC and the IHRA decided to partner with us for this project and we hope this will be the beginning of meaningful change that helps improve outcomes for horses and the industry as a whole.” The Irish Harness Racing Association is the internationally recognised governing body of harness racing in Ireland. It is a member of the Union of European Trotting (UET) and World Trotting Association. The IHRA works closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (in Dublin) to develop the sport both domestically and internationally. Equine MediRecord is the global leader in equine anti-doping and horse welfare software. It currently operates in Ireland, the UK and France and recently partnered with the Arabian Racing Organisation (ARO) in the UK to make the ARO the first in Europe and second in the world to mandate electronic medical records be kept by their registered trainers. Equine MediRecord based on the Curragh, county  Kildare, has availed of many Local Enterprise Office Kildare financial and advisory supports as well as representing Kildare in the National Final for Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur Competition. For more information about Equine MediRecord, see:    

To the Editor, The Northern Irish Standardbred Association (NISA) has been the recognised body for harness racing in Northern Ireland for more than 50 years. It is a “not-for-profit” organization where all work promoting and legislating harness racing in the region is performed by democratically elected committee members and volunteers. Tracks ran by NISA through the years included Antrim, Racetime, Dundrod, Tyrella and most recently Annaghmore. NISA have always enjoyed a mutually respectful working relationship with their counterparts in Britain, the British Harness Racing Club (BHRC) and in the Republic of Ireland with the Irish Harness Racing Club (IHRC). In the early 2000s NISA embarked on a partnership approach with the IHRC and ITHRF, the largest club in southern Ireland, whereby the IHRC would become the overall governing body for the sport on the island of Ireland with equal democratically elected representatives (comprising of 3 reps each and a round-robin style of electing chairmen, an equal period of time as chairman for each jurisdiction). The IHRC was suddenly and mysteriously disbanded however in 2015 by the then IHRC chairman Mark Flanagan and a new organization formed called the Irish Harness Racing Association. This was registered as a private limited company, with the chairman personally hand-picking “lifetime directors” to be appointed to this company. Immediately NISA was concerned and duly voiced their concerns. At no stage did they agree in writing that this was the best way forward for their members in Northern Ireland but assurances were given that it would be a fully democratically run organisation for all matters pertaining to harness racing and that all monies transferred over by the members in all 3 original clubs would be accounted for in a clear and transparent manner and these monies would be “ring fenced” for promotions in their own respective regions. With trepidation, the NISA tentatively progressed to working with this private limited company “on a trial basis” according to NISA’s Collective Committee “and subject to democratic selection and equal representation from each club”. But within a year, difficulties came to the surface between NISA and the IHRA. The direction that the IHRA were taking started to alarm the majority of the members of NISA. E-mailed and written queries about finances and other matters went for the most part was never responded to. NISA committee members were neither consulted with during the collation of the Indecon Report, an Irish government backed document outlining a 5-year future strategy for the sport. Fundamental rule changes and national handicap system alterations would be announced and immediately implemented by the IHRA without consultation and without warning. The IHRA refused to engage, had no AGMs in 2016, 2017, 2018 and produced no sets of annual accounts for 2015, 2016, 2017 (information as of December 31st 2018) for analysis despite continuous requests by NISA committee members for same. NISA and its members became more and more aghast at the way the IHRA was being run.       Whereas the old IHRC was open to public scrutiny, fully answerable to members queries over financial matters and accountable to members for all finances through the publication of sets of accounts, the IHRA on the other hand being a private limited company seemed to feel that they had no obligation to respond to requests from licence holders, that they could not be held accountable and seemed to feel that they were not legally obliged to be transparent with monies received in membership fees, race fees, allocation of purses etc. The NISA found this very difficult to overcome as its members had become accustomed to, for over 50 years, being part of a democratically run club, with all club members having an equal voice and vote and all financials published and available for public scrutiny. Along with the IHRA’s non-democratic, non-consultative dictatorial style of governing the sport in Ireland NISA found the ongoing reduction in the promotion of standardbreds in favour of French bred trotters particularly hard to swallow during that time. This began with the IHRA becoming more and more entrenched with the “Le Trotteur Francais” initiative in 2014. In simple terms, there is vast over production of trotters in France and in order to balance this out, other countries are persuaded to import this overflow in favour of receiving some form of grant-aid payment from the French to top up prizemoney locally and promote this unique breed. There are very strict guidelines before French grant aid is given including the proviso that French bred trotters are forbidden to race with trotters bred in other countries. The IHRA took this one stop further however and went for full membership of the UET in 2015. This again was without consultation with NISA. It’s well documented that the UET will not accept a country for full membership of their organisation unless they agree to “not promote pacing” (these criteria of membership are clearly defined and documented on the UET website) and it was widely publicised that the IHRA were given a 10-year timeline to tip the balance of French trotters over pacers in order to maintain full UET membership. The IHRA have done remarkably well in the promotion of French trotters over pacers over the past 5 years. Take the list below as a prime example. This is the number of French trotters versus pacers competing on the final day of the season at Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin for the past 5 years: 2014 - 10 trotters and 31 pacers 2015  - 36 trotters and 29 pacers 2016 - 29 trotters and 24 pacers 2017 - 22 trotters and 16 pacers 2018 - 25 trotters and 6 pacers It’s truly alarming that the number of pacers entered for the past 5 years is as follows: 31, 29, 24, 16, 6 and this is factual data, not opinion. These numbers speak for themselves. Just 2 major events per annum are now recognised as responsible for keeping the breeding numbers of pacers up in Ireland - the Vincent Delaney Memorial Series and the annual Sire Stakes (which are privately organised race meetings just using Portmarnock as a staging venue). It’s widely regarded that if it wasn’t for these 2 events there would be very little encouragement to breed or race pacers in Ireland. The standardbred pacer population would wither rapidly to almost extinction within a decade in this country.   Another example of why the pacers are dropping in numbers is the prizemoney issue. Whilst some pacing races have had little or no “added prizemoney” at Portmarnock and Annaghmore Raceways in 2018, there were recorded incidences were purses were even less than the amount of collected entry fees for these respective races. How many owners or trainers could tolerate this situation, where your pacing horses weren’t even racing for their own entry fees money back in purses? Enough was enough at the onset of racing in 2018 and NISA decided en-masse with to withdraw support for the IHRA. A decision was made to revert back to its original status that had held firm for over 50 years. It would once again become the primary recognised body for the sport of harness racing in Northern Ireland and no longer fall under the remit of the IHRA. It has renounced all agreements that the IHRA may have negotiated in 2015/6/7/8 with the UET, Le Trotteur Francais, STAGBI, Horse Sport Ireland and the Department of Agriculture amongst others (NISA claim they were not consulted beforehand on these agreements made by the IRHA and therefore cannot legally recognise them as to this day they are not privy to the contents of these signed agreements). It also refutes any claim by the IHRA to being the sole governing body for the whole of Ireland for harness racing. NISA in particular do not agree with the registration of Standardbreds with Horse Sport Ireland. This makes a fundamental shift from being classified as a racehorse (of which harness racing Standardbreds are recognised the world over) to a sport horse – therefore ineligible for all available government grant money for the horseracing industry.  NISA have now sought recognition from the BHRC (Northern Ireland is part of Britain) and wishes to either come under licence of the BHRC or operate as an autonomous body (but recognised by the BHRC as a governing body for the sport in this jurisdiction) NISA have leased Racetime Raceway in Lisburn, near Belfast in the United Kingdom with the intention of staging full harness racing meetings in Northern Ireland in 2019 under the same rules and handicap system of its fellow counterparts in the UK. Whilst NISA has no issue with Le Trotteur Francais initiative, they believe it should not come at the expense of the Standardbred pacers, and cite that as part of the UK has got the balance right with 2 differing organisations – The BHRC for Pacers and Trot Britain solely for French trotters with both working in harmony to promote harness racing in conjunction with each other. This is the ideal model for Ireland too believes NISA. One goal both NISA and the IHRA share is the need for more promotion of the sport of harness racing and that means more tracks opening like Racetime Raceway, more participants and more fans. Acknowledging the right to each other’s existence and governing their own jurisdictions with mutual respect for each other’s members is a must. NISA can only go forward with organisations where equal rights and democracy prevail. It is abundantly clear that IHRA in its current guise uphold neither. NISA as a Standardbred organisation will support licencing and are willing to take entries from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland, the UK or anywhere horse owners find themselves unaccommodated by developments and agreements between the IHRA and UET. From Thomas Bennett, for the NISA  

The following letter was sent to Harnesslink Sunday, February 3.  Dear Harnesslink Editor, Please be advised that a recent article advertised on the Harnesslink Website regarding Harness Racing in Ireland is grossly inaccurate, misleading and damaging to our sport both nationally and internationally. The Irish Harness Racing Association (IHRA) is the internationally recognised Governing Body of Harness Racing for the Island of Ireland and as such licenses all race tracks and personnel who compete under rules. The IHRA has worked hard over the last five years in particular to move our sport to a professional level which includes a report commissioned by our Department of Agriculture which was compiled by International Consultants Indecon and clearly identifies the strategic roadmap for this development. A five year Strategic Plan has been compiled by an independent Consultancy firm as part of the Indecon Report and this plan has been signed off by Department of Agriculture Officials and is currently with the Minister for Agriculture for evaluation and funding of our industry. To date the IHRA has no application to license any new race track in Northern Ireland and any racing activity that may take place at the suggested venue will happen outside of any official rules and governance. Any suggestion that our counterparts in Great Britain the British Harness Racing Club would license any tracks or individuals on the island of Ireland are without foundation. Yours in Sport, The Board of Directors IHRA  In response to his story that appeared on Harnesslink, click here, author Thomas Bennett offered the following reply.  My article is factually correct and accurate. Racetime Raceway is located in Great Britain/United Kingdom and the IHRA have no jurisdiction over Racetime Raceway, who will seek affiliation to the Governing Body in that jurisdiction - the British Harness Racing Club BHRC....Thomas Bennett More will be forthcoming on this situation in Ireland.   

West Cork, IE - The Irish Trotting and Harness Racing Federation Awards 2018 Dinner was recently held and the ITHRF has made a wonderful video of the awards night. Video courtesy of David Sheehy  Click on link to watch the video,    ITHRF AWARDS 2018 .m4v   The 2018 ITHRF awards night was held last Friday night at The Drimoleague Inn.    The "oscars" for Harness Racing in the South Of Ireland were presented to both the young and old in the sport.   The Murphy family who run the IB Stables in Baltimore took three of the awards with Donal getting driver of the year his brother Tadhg received trainer of the year and his son Eoin was judged as joint saddle jockey winner.   Near neighbour of the Murrphy boys Kieran Sheehy was the recipient of trotter of the year Everyfor Vigo De Bassiere who also claimed the national award and the Sheehy family were guests of Le Trot in Paris recently to honour the French bred gelding.   This scribe is the proud owner of the pacer of 2019 Meadowbranch Demon the veteran securing a well deserved gong.   It was an emotional night for the O'Donovan family from Leap who were on hand to accept the best meeting of the season for The Red John Memorial meeting which was a huge success with record attendances and record purse money.   The achievements of Reclamation and Rebel Rouser who were exported to the USA were also mentioned.   Everyone is looking forward to 2019 in the Cork region as they are set to begin in early May with Portmarnock Raceway to open on St Patrick's Day March 17th.   From Tim Kelleher, for Harnesslink

A Government minister has called for new measures to completely outlaw sulky racing on public roads in Ireland. Communications Minister Denis Naughten told Cabinet today that he is deeply concerned about the impact the practice is having on road safety. Sulky racing is particular popular among the Traveller community. However, many unlicensed races have taken place on public roads. They have resulted in serious injuries in some cases. Sulky racing involves a driver placing himself in a two wheeled cart that is driven by a horse attached to a harness. Videos have appeared online showing unregulated races taking place. In many circumstances, innocent motorists have been placed in danger. At Cabinet today, Mr Naughten secured support in his calls for measures to address the issue of sulky racing. It’s understood Mr Naughten is seeking the introduction of bye-laws. He will discuss the issue this week with Agriculture Minister Michael Creed with the aim of having the issue addressed through amendments to the Animal Welfare Bill, which is due to be voted upon by TDs this week. By Niall O'Connor Reprinted with permission of The Independent.IE site

During the past twelve months the Irish Harness Racing Association has held four meetings on the all-weather Thoroughbred racetrack at Dundalk. This Sunday will see the final harness meeting at the course for 2016 and a ten race program will be highlighted with the long awaited clash between trainer Ricky Hanson’s pride of Ireland, VICHY DE MOEM and the ‘British bulldog’ Johnny Foy’s SULKY DE BELQUIN in the A Grade race six. Ireland continues to expand their live race off-track broadcasts with UK and Ireland betting television service SIS offering both pictures and data broadcasts of the meeting across England and Ireland in selected Bookmaker shops And, for the first time, all races will be broadcast and wagered on in Australia with all State Totalisators’ offering the meeting. Races will be seen on Sky1 and Sky2. The races look to be a competitive with some tricky contests in the mix. Dundalk is a large track covering 2000m in circumference and when trying to find a winner, horses with proven form on the circuit will be worth consideration. Race two brings together good form-lines from earlier meetings at Dundalk. The form from Dundalk on 11th September sees three runners domiciled in Cork engaged and all have chances – AlINEKA DARCHE, ARIANE DES TITHAUS and AUDABE A HELENE. UNI DE DONZY has performed well in the past at this track and BEST OF BUROIS must be respected. Despite this TWIST DU LAYON won with a bit in hand here two weeks ago and can repeat the performance again. The Bennett’s, who have long been masters at picking up well handicapped older horses and in race three COOL NIGHT AYR looked at home at this track last time and can repeat the performance here. As noted the sixth race will be the big clash on the card. This summer SULKY DE BELQUIN won twice in two days at Wolverhampton (UK, also an all-weather Thoroughbred surface) and hardly turned a hair in the process whilst VICHY DE MOEM has looked better than ever this season. The rest of the field are not exactly back numbers either as VICHY DE MOEM found to his cost over this course recently. Even so, VICHY DE MOEM for a local victory. With the other races on the card are also well matched events, the opening race features BEACH DE BELLEOUT, who won in nice style at the Northern Ireland track of Annaghmore last week and did so impressively enough to face the grade rise here. The fourth race is difficult, however the winner should come from SIMOSA, VAILLANT DE GUEHAM, UNIVERSE EXTREME or UMBRATICA. Having in-form driver Martin Loughran (who drove multiple winners at Dundalk two weeks ago) partnering UNIVERSE EXTREME should see him start favourite. Race five will see brother pitted against sister as Gregory and Brenda Dean (Mrs Hudson) battle it out with LUCKY CAM and KICK ON respectively. The English raider TOMMY CAMDEN comes into the race with solid form. In the eighth race FAIR ENOUGH should be considered as he always runs well at this course. Similarly LYONS SUPER NOVA and GRACE KELLY have also shown a liking for the track. COALFORD OLLIE ran well under the stable’s second driver last time out. Billy Roche has the pick of ALIENOR DUPADOUENG and BALZAC DES VILLARS in race nine and look toward his choice for guidance. SAXO DE MARRANCOURT loves this track and TAMALOU PERRINE is a trustworthy trotter. The final race on the programme will provide a chance for a number of consistent horses to reach the podium in the absence of a couple of regular ‘free-to-allers’ taking their place in the race. SHADES OF GREY is a tough mare from the Fletchers stable in Wolverhampton, England. Camden Casanova’s yard has come to life in recent weeks so consider ASTOUNDING. Apart from the racing, other Ireland horse sports will be providing displays and demonstrations including side-saddle, western riding and horses’ bred and disciplined for long-distance trekking. These, along with a Ladies Fashions on the field should be an exciting day of racing and action at Dundalk on Sunday. By Arthur Cooper for the Irish Harness Racing Association

Paris, France - This weekend at the meeting of the Union of European Trotting (UET) General Assembly, the Irish Harness Racing Association (IHRA) was admitted into their ranks at a presentation at Vincennes racetrack, Paris.   Over the course of the past two years, the IHRA had a one year observer status within the Union and has progressively introduced trotteur-français horses from France to its racetracks throughout Ireland during the past two years.   To become a full member, they also underwent an audit by the UET throughout 2015, which included multiple visits by UET Executives to race meetings conducted at both Dundalk and Portmarnock. The IHRA is delighted to join the twenty other member states in the UET, the governing body of the European trotting.   The Union’s purpose is ‘the promotion of trotting races and horse breeding in Europe and set up a close and lasting relationship between member federations’ and Ireland looks to benefit from the flourishing organisation.   At Vincennes for Ireland’s ratification into the UET on the $1 million Prix de l’Amerique weekend, chairman of the IHRA, Mark Flanagan, said: “This is fantastic for our organisation and for Ireland. We have already benefitted from the support of the UET and have cultivated strong relationships with France and their breeding industry, which has only helped trotting in Ireland. Full membership means we can now progress further in the sport’s growth, at home and abroad.”   Twenty-five enthusiast members of IHRA travelled to Vincennes for the weekends’ inauguration and to enjoy the Group One racing action.   During the past week IHRA received recognition in Ireland within ‘The Irish Horse Report’ prepared by the Joint Committee for Agriculture, Food and the Marine. In part its recommendations included IHRA to receive appropriate Government funding to develop the sport and to for IHRA further develop international relationships so that Irish trotting can flourish on the world stage.   Membership of the UET will enhance IHRA’s current and future opportunities. During the past two years IHRA has laid the foundations for the sport of trotting to grow in Ireland and this UET Membership is the most significant achievement to date. It is the culmination of the work achieved and the UET admittance will pave the way for the sport to develop and prosper during the coming years.    From the Irish Harness Racing Association

The following statement came from the Irish Harness Racing Association. The foundation is in place, we now need to build an industry together. The Joint Committee for Agriculture will shortly prepare a comprehensive Report on the horse industry in Ireland. This will include an extensive chapter on Harness Racing in Ireland and will contain the Committee’s recommendations to the Minister for Agriculture.   The Report from the Turf Club concerning the race meeting in Dundalk in September and recent Veterinary Stable inspections will be sent to the Minister for Agriculture and the Oireachtas Joint Committee for Agriculture in early January.   All the criteria set out by Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) has now been met which should pave the way for clearance to race at Dundalk in 2016, once clearance is received dates will be announced for racing to include both Trotteur Francais and Pacing with a potential starting date in April.    IHRA is in advanced negotiations for the export of Irish Harness Racing from Dundalk which will allow these races will be bet on internationally with a commission to be paid to the IHRA based on recognized international rates. Contracts are being prepared and the aim is for finalization during the coming weeks.   Advanced discussions are also in progress for the development of a dedicated tote for harness racing which will initially cover races from both Dundalk and Portmarnock which will allow betting both on and off course on our races.   The tote is an integral and extremely important part of our development as it will form the basis for our races to potentially be bet on nationally as well as internationally. A strong tote is the proven formula for a strong industry funding. Apart from online tote offering IHRA is also seeking the inclusion into bookmaker shops.   The 2016 Trotteur Francais program will see a sizeable increase in prize money distribution which is expected to be in the region of €300,000 with continued and additional supports from Le Trot.   A further 20 Trotteur Francais horses have been added to the pool following the recent sale in November.   June 19th has provisionally been assigned for ‘French Day’ at Dundalk. Le-Trot intend sending some of their leading drivers to race against our Irish drivers which promises to be a fun filled day.   IHRA application for Full Membership of the Union of European Trotting is looking promising and we should receive the confirmed position in late January. If IHRA is successful in achieving this it will create more racing and promotional opportunities for Irish Harness Racing.   The process of registering the first Irish Standardbred horses in the IHRA’s new Stud Book has now commenced which gives official recognition for the first time in our history to the Irish Standardbred Horse.   A concerted effort to rebuild our breeding industry is also required as part of the overall strategy to build a strong racing industry over the coming years and various initiatives are being considered in this respect.   There is a solid foundation being laid and we are in a position to capitalize on the many ongoing developments. For all of these areas to be successful it will be a matter for all IHRA members to support where they can. This is only the beginning and a lot more work is required but much has been and will continue to be achieved. Every Member has a part to play whether you have one horse or twenty horses in training and we now need to work collectively to help in achieving these goals. From the Irish Harness Racing Association

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney is set to investigate the possibility of staging harness racing at Dundalk Stadium. He said he will engage with the relevant organisations on the matter after Deputy Martin Ferris queried why the Irish Harness Racing Association’s bid to stage races in Dundalk were objected to by Horse Racing Ireland. In his response Minister Coveney said the Irish Harness Racing Association only formed a limited company in May but were looking to progress the sport here, adding that it “could be a big sport and industry in Ireland, if managed properly.” He said the association has applied for Ireland to become a full member of l’Union Européenne du Trot, UET, the umbrella organisation for national harness racing organisations in 22 European countries. This would open the way for Irish competitors to compete in Europe. Deputy Ferris said it was his understanding that the French harness racing association is prepared to make a “significant investment and provide prize money” for three meetings in Dundalk if they can be arranged. He said it was his understanding that a previous harness racing event in Dundalk was “quite successful” and questioned why Horse Racing Ireland would block future meetings. The Sinn Féin representative said: “I have seen a letter sent to Dundalk race track from Horse Racing Ireland, stating the reasons it did not want harness racing to take place there, one of which was commercial, meaning competition. If that is the case, it is disgraceful. “Horse Racing Ireland is an association for thoroughbreds. I do not accept that it has a right to do this, given that as a committee we allocate significant funding to it each year, as well as to the greyhound board. Many say HRI’s objections amount to bigotry and that HRI looks down on the sport. That in itself sends a wrong message.” Minister Coveney confirmed there had been requests for harness racing meetings at Dundalk Stadium and said he would work with the relevant bodies to ensure a satisfactory conclusion to the matter. In a written answer to Deputy Ferris, he said: “The Irish Harness Racing Association requested permission from Horse Racing Ireland to stage a number of harness racing fixtures at Dundalk racecourse, one in July 2015, one in December 2015 and three in January 2016. “The association’s intention is that the first of these events would enable the French and European authorities to conduct an audit which would guide their consideration of the association’s bid for admission to the UET. I understand that, having considered the matter, Horse Racing Ireland decided that it was not within its remit to support the staging of harness racing at an authorised racecourse and that it had a number of concerns which it communicated to the Irish Harness Racing Association. “Against that background, my Department has written to Horse Racing Ireland to ask if it would be prepared to reconsider the specific request from the Irish Harness Racing Association to hold the fixtures in July and December 2015 and in January 2016. I stress, however, that such decisions are ultimately matters for HRI and its board. “I spoke to the chairperson of HRI about the issue on Saturday at the derby meeting at the Curragh. We live in a horse-mad country. Horse sports such as show jumping, eventing, racing and harness racing need proper structures and regulation to make sure we have it right from a welfare point of view and that we allow the sports to grow and expand in a managed, controlled, responsible and ambitious way. That goes for harness racing the same as it does for any other form of racing. I will engage with the organisations concerned to see if we can make some progress. “There is an opportunity for us to build something, but we need to do it in the proper way and make sure the venues are right. Whether Dundalk race track is that venue needs further discussion. There is a commitment from me to try to have structures and regulations for this industry in order that we can deal with the welfare concerns many people have and the bad image of harness racing in the minds of the public which is unfair to the sport. We can do this if we work together,” said the Minister. Reprinted with permission of Talk of the town

Hail Spartacus took the top grade pace at Dunmanway on Sunday. Following torrential rain in the morning the fixture was in doubt but at lunch time the sun came out and racing commenced slightly later than the 2.30 start time.   Hail Spartacus with Patrick Hill in the bike led from the start and never looked in any danger eventually having four lengths to spare from Oakwood Diamond who ran well on his seasonal debut.   Racing opened with a popular win for Hell Boy. A bridesmaid on several starts last season he made no mistake on the soft conditions leading home Sunnyside  Jet One and newcomer Bribe The Judge.   Driver Timmy O'Leary drove two winners on the day. Scorpion opened O Learys account in the Grade E & F Pace .After his seasonal debut in Inchadoney where he finished out of the frame this imposing chestnut had his rivals well in tone eventually winning by two lengths.   Tims Surprise who O leary owns completed his brace of winners beating the more fancied Myross Son in the Grade E & D Pace.   The best finish of the day came in the second division of the Grade E & D . IB Maximus from pole position was a warm order in the betting and justified the odds but only just holding off Meadowland Tom by a short head.   The Le Trot series which have proven to be a huge success both in Cork and Portmarnock attracted seven imported trotters and Volcan Erem followed up on his  early season win in Dublin proving three lengths too good for Socrate Du Noyer.   The low grade saddle race saw two young jockeys Luke Kelleher and Shelley Brickley showing skills way beyond their age and in a cracking finish Kelleher on  Mesdowbranch Kiki having a half a length to spare over Brickley on Ringo Kid (No Doubt future battles between this early teenagers are in Store).   Clonakilty Show is the next venue for racin on Sunday June 6th with a 5 PM start .   by Tim Kelleher   RESULTS    Grade G & F Pace    1. M O Brien HELL BOY Owner   2. H Bennett SUNNYSIDE JET ONE N Forbes    3. C Murphy BRIBE THE JUDGE J Manning    DIST 3 1/2l HD Time 2.32.0 5 Ran    Grade E & F Pace    1. J O Mahony SCORPION T O Leary    2. J Boyle SUPREME SUNSHINE Owner   3. P Hill HILLSIDE DARTANIAN Owner   DIST 2l 1/2l Time 2.27.1 6 Ran    Grade E & D Pace (Div 1)    1. IB Stables IB MAXIMUS T Murphy    2. D McCarthy MEADOWLAND TOM Owner    3. J Manning GADGIE PAN Owner   DIST SH 2 1/2l Time 2.23.6 6 Ran    Grade E & D Pace (Div 2)   1. T O Leary TIMS SURPRISE Owner   2. McCarthy / Twomey MYROSS SON M O Reilly    3. D O Callaghan LITTLE BENJIO M Goggin Jnr    DIST 4l 3l Time 2.24.4 6 Ran    Saddle Race    1. Kelleher Bros MEADOWBRANCH KIKI L Kelleher   2. F Brickley RINGO KID Shelley Brickley   3. M Duggan SKY SECURITY T O Leary    DIST 1/2l 2l Time 2.28.3 5 Ran    Prix De Droumleena Le Trot    1. Kelleher Bros VOLCAN EREM M Kelleher   2. F Brickley SOCRATE DU NOYER Owner    3. M Goggin ROCKY ATOUT Owner    DIST 3l 1l Time 3.24.9 7 Ran    Grade D C & A Pace    1. P Hill HAIL SPARTACUS Owner   2. S Jennings OAKWOOD DIAMOND Owner   3. F Quill IB RAPIDO S Quill    DIST 4l 4l Time 2.25.1 6 Ran

The Irish Harness Racing Club are currently organising the next Trotteur Francais Sale series which will take place on the first week of November following the Irish Day at Hippodrome D’Argantan in Normandy on 2nd of November. Due to the success of the 2014 initiative there is a keen interest from owners and trainers to purchase additional racing stock for the 2015 season which is hoped to be in the order of 30 to 40 horses. It is envisaged that the total purse for Trotteur Francais races in 2015 will be in the order of €300,000 and an average race purse in excess of €2,500. Any intending purchasers please contact Mark Flanagan 086-2698399, William Flanagan 086-2352365 or James O’Sullivan 087-2571330 as horses will be supplied on a first come first served basis depending on suitability and availability of horses provided by Le Trot for the upcoming Sale Series. From the Irish Harness Racing Club

Feature story appeared Sunday in Dublin's Independent Newspaper

The Irish Harness Racing Club are pleased to announce that we have recently been approved as an Affiliate of Horse Sport Ireland. This process was formally approved by the Board of Directors and the Sports Sub Board of Horse Sport Ireland following negotiations by representatives from the IHRC Mr. James O’Sullivan and Mr. Mark Flanagan.  The IHRC will now have a representative on the Sports Sub Board of HSI along with the 24 other affiliated bodies. This development is considered to be a very significant milestone in the evolution of Harness Racing, it is the first official recognition of the sport at a National level. It is hoped that over the coming months we can build on this good relationship and gain from the benefits of working with the numerous other Equine Sports Governing bodies. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all the team at Horse Sport Ireland for their encouragement and support, HSI Chairman Professor Patrick Wall, HSI CEO Mr. Damian McDonald, HSI Finance Director Mr. Mark Bolger, HSI Sport Sub Board Chairman Mr. John Malone, Ms Ilona Blunden and all the affiliate representatives. Submitted by the Irish Harness Racing Club  

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

The Irish Harness Racing Club - The annual Drimoleague Road Trotting Meeting on St Stephens Day adds another chapter to a long standing tradition in West Cork, part of the heritage of the region which dates back over 143 years.

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