Day At The Track
Search Results
1 to 16 of 28

Belfast, IE - It was a day to remember for harness racing driver Greg Dean at Racetime Raceway on Saturday when the Dunmurray man partnered 4 horses to victory for the first time in a driving career spanning almost five decades and what a day to do it on, his father Patsy’s Memorial Cup day meeting.   Generously sponsored by the Dean family with added prizemoney for all races, the event consisted of 3 heats with the first two home in each qualifying for a grand final. Those that did not qualify had a second bite of the cherry by entering a consolation pace with a square trot completing the programme of six races.   In the first heat, Dean steered Fairdays Dixie to a comprehensive three length victory over the skewbald Big Pete who denied race favourite Rio Bravo by a half length for the runner-up spot in 2:04.9. A gamble was landed in the penultimate heat when Ryan Hanson drove Mystical Carbs to a tactical victory over Waverly Jane and Lucky Cam in 2:02.2 with the margins four lengths and another length. The remaining heat provided the second leg of the eventual four-time for Greg Dean when Monugs Boy came from the third line to defeat Ladyford Jim by three lengths in 2:01.9 with North Art a further ½ length in arrears back in third.   Before the grand final a consolation pace sponsored by track bookmaker Charlie Finnegan was held for those who did not qualify for the feature and six went to post in this with Rio Bravo and Frisco Hold Up the joint 6/4 favourites. It looked as if punters had got it right as Peter Lyttle led them into the home straight with a commanding lead but Eamonn Griffin aboard rank outsider Hilltop North Art had other ideas and he came with a blistering late challenge to nail the luckless Rio Bravo in the shadows of the post. The time was a respectable 2:04.5 given the winners 25 yard starting deficit with Derrybeg which was trailing 35 yards also flying at the finish to snatch third. The distances were 1 length and a half length.   In the final of the Patsy Dean Memorial itself controversy reigned as favourite Monugs Boy and Mystical Carbs had a coming together with a circuit to run and although Monugs Boy emerged the best out of the altercation and went on to score impressively by eight lengths in 2:00.7, a seasons record.    A stewards enquiry was immediately called. After much deliberations by the panel of stewards on duty it was adjudged that although driver of Monugs Boy had caused interference on the top bend, this interference was not serious enough as to affect the end result as the margin of victory was so substantial. The result was therefore allowed to stand but Dean had a heavy fine imposed as to his driving of the race and a warning as to future driving etiquette regarding clearance whilst overtaking.   Monugs Boy was presented with the Patsy Dean Memorial Cup for 2020 to the delight of the Dean family who were present. The runner up spot went to Waverly Jane who fended off a rallying Mystical Carbs.   The afternoons square trot named after that mercurial grey mare RB Greystar was robbed of some its lustre when likely favourite Socrates Du Noyer was an absentee due to the recent increased Covid-19 regulations in Southern Ireland. Owner of Scorates Finbarr Brickley normally travels up from Cork, a 510 mile round trip every fortnight to compete but with that county now in lockdown Brickley was forced to withdraw on the morning of raceday.   That effectively left the trot a match race between Terry Hendersons Evan Jive (OTD) and Thomas Bennetts Bocage De Fornet which was partnered by man of the moment Greg Dean. Once the contest got underway a break in stride by Evan Jive on the first circuit handed the initiative to his sole rival and Bocage De Fornet was never headed thereafter eventually scoring by a distance in 3:18.3 for the one and a half mile trip.   This win made it a four-timer on the day for driver Dean and the Dunmurray man was visibly emotional after racing having absorbed the enormity of this achievement on what his fathers memorial race day.   Guest of honour on the day Brenda Hudson presented the rosettes and trophies to all winners and it was great to see living legend Brenda back on the track after a serious bout of illness which had affected her ability to participate or spectate at any harness racing meeting for the past 2 years. Looking a picture of health Brenda was surrounded by well-wishers all afternoon its hoped that she will become a regular again at Racetime in 2021.   All in all it was a fantastic days harness racing in golden autumnal sunshine and NISA have announced their next race meeting will be held at Racetime on Saturday October 24th where the feature will be the Anto Russell Memorial heats and final, a painted mile for skewbald pacers and a free-for-all.   Entries are now being taken for this meeting by NISA reps.   by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink    

Belfast, IE - A fantastic afternoon’s harness racing awaits those who make the journey up to Racetime Raceway this Saturday afternoon when the Patsy Dean Memorial Cup is staged at the Lisburn venue. Patsy was a legendary figure in Northern Irish harness racing down through the years being father to both Greg and Brenda with the horses campaigned by the Dean family through the years including some of the finest to ever grace the tracks of the British Isles – Ragman, Mayfly, Silent Running, Disco Kid, RB Greystar, Rambling Rover, Dorney Reveller, Double M, Spice Girl, Stormy Reveller to name but a few of them. Such is the popularity of this family that fierce competition is expected on Saturday in order to lift the cup which was last won by Walter Stewart and Porterstown Courage.   Getting underway at 3:00 pm a total of 21 pacers are set to go to post over 3 heats and a grand final with a consolation pace also held on the day giving all unplaced horses a second bite at the cherry. In the opening heat, Fairdays Dixie appears to be a standing dish having looking like a winner on his debut a fortnight ago only to tire badly late on. Expected to strip fitter for that run the Jimmy Long bred gelding looks the one to beat in this. Peter Lyttles latest stable star Rio Bravo is improving with every start and could give Fairdays Dixie most to do despite a 10 yard handicap trail. Others to consider are the consistent Back In Time and the skewbald Big Pete whilst Despicable Me needs to put in a clear round to figure. Frisco Hold Up has been knocking on the door in recent weeks at Racetime and this time around that door just might open for owner-trainer-driver Darren Smith giving him a well-deserved winner. Waverly Jane has taken time to adjust to the Northern Irish air since her recent importation from Scotland but shes very capable on her day and could spring a surprise. Lucky Cam is returning from injury picked up a couple of months ago and may just need the run in this whilst it wouldn’t be a major surprise should Mystical Carbs upstage them all. The remaining heat looks a very tricky puzzle to solve on paper as it boasts no less than 4 last time out winners. Newcomer Hilltop North Art was victorious on his last start at Amman Valley in Wales and is expected to run a very big race for new owner Eamonn Griffin. Ladyford Jim won a heat a fortnight ago on the day that Valentine Camden and John Barley dead-heated in the Charlie Finnegan sponsored consolation final and all three will take their chances again here. Don’t rule out the luckless Monugs Boy who has been placed on his last three starts for the days main sponsor Greg Dean. A valid case can be made five runners in what looks like a mouth-watering clash worth the admission fee alone.  In between the heats a square trotters contest will also be held and although quantity of runners is not at the forefront, the quality of runners participating almost certainly is. Evan Jive has tasted victory already this season at Racetime and if he puts in a clear round he will lead them a merry dance from the front. Bocage De Fornet was won twice this campaign but had his colours lowered by Socrates Du Noyer the last time they clashed in a very tactical affair. Finbarr Brickleys striking chestnut takes on Bocage De Fornet on slightly worse terms on Saturday and a close call is expected between these two titans of trotting when they lock horns. Also on the day will be a series of Rising Stars pony trotting races and these continue to prove popular in bringing the crowds to Racetime. At the time of writing this article the track can still welcome the general public to spectate on Saturday but as ever strict Covid-19 protocols are in place and NIS request all participants and spectators to adhere to Northern Irish Health Board guidelines. by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink  

Belfast, IE - The exquisitely bred Oakwood Maverick landed the harness racing feature for owner-trainer-driver Barry Reavey at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn on Saturday.   A total of eighteen pacers went to post over 3 heats in the John, Maureen & Paddy Bassett Memorial Cup with the first 2 home in each qualifying for a grand final which was kindly sponsored by the Bassett Family from Belfast, long-standing supporters of harness racing in Northern Ireland.   In the opening heat the favourite Rio Bravo obliged for Peter Lyttle in 2:03.5 from Oakwood Maverick and Fairdays Dixie with the margins of victory two lengths and a further length. The penultimate heat went to Jason McCullough aboard Ladyford Jim who had three lengths to spare over Frisco Hold Up in 2:02.9 which just held on by a short head over Valentine Camden.   Derrybeg ran out a popular winner of the remaining heat for Billy Bassett in the fastest time of the season at Racetime 2:01.4 with Monugs Boy and John Barley filling the places with the distances three quarters of a length and another four lengths.   In the grand final Peter Lyttle led them away pursued by Oakwood Maverick and Frisco Hold Up. The odds-on favourite Ladyford Jim entered the fray at the half but his run soon petered out leaving Rio Bravo back out in front and looking good to land the spoils.   Oakwood Maverick challenged again on the final bend and just as it looked as if Rio Bravo was successfully fending off Oakwood Maverick she made an uncharacteristic break in stride and Barry Reavey then had the race at his mercy.   Monugs Boy charged up the home stretch to try and stake his claim but the post came in time for Oakwood Maverick who hit the wire in 2:03.3 The gallant Rio Bravo held on to second spot from Monugs Boy and Derrybeg. The distances were three lengths and a neck.   In the winners enclosure a jubilant Barry Reavey claimed that he just bought the horse a couple of months ago and was still finding his feet with the colt. By Hasty Hall out of Catscam the three year old is certainly a horse going places and is likely to win again before the season comes to a close at the Northern venue. Oakwood Maverick was bred by Oakwood Stud, brothers James and Derek Delaney.   A consolation pace generously sponsored by the track bookmaker was also held during the afternoon for those pacers who did not qualify for the final and six also went to post in this contest. Charlie Pan went to post a short priced favourite having broke at the start in his heat as a result of a harness issue.   This time around Hugh Friels latest acquisition quickly made up his 35 years starting handicap and hit the front just before the half. Controlling the tempo for the majority of the second circuit it looked as if Charlie Pan had the race at his mercy but his early exertions began to take their toll and he started to flag within the shadows of the post.   Mickey Connors aboard Valentine Camden, who had stalked Charlie Pan throughout, then siezed this chance to nail Charlie Pan on the line. What both didn’t realise was that Michael Goggin was building up a head of steam with John Barley and he fairly bolted the last 50 yards to stake his claim.   As they hit the wire in 2:02.8 a subsequent photo finish print dictated that they could not be split and the result was a dead-heat between Valentine Camden and John Barley with Charlie Pan third, another 2 lengths adrift.   Interviewed post-race both Micheal Goggin and Mickey Connors expressed their satisfaction with the judges verdict and both men went back to Donegal and West Cork happy with a red rosette and an equal share of the winners pot.   Another West Cork raider Finbarr Brickley struck in the afternoons square when his Socrates Du Noyer exacted sweet revenge on his arch nemesis Bocage De Fornet. Driven by Finbarrs son Ciaran the striking chestnut gelding sprinted into the lead and was never headed thereafter despite Greg Deans challenging repeatedly with Bocage De Fornet when Ciaran Brickley slackened the pace at various stages throughout the contest. It was a deserved victory for Socrates who has been knocking on the door in recent starts finishing in the runner up spot on the last two occassions and the door finally opened in fine style for the Baltimore outfit.   A selection of pony trotting exhibitions for under 14s drivers were also staged in between races and these popular attractions always add to the colour and atmosphere at Racetime Raceway.   by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Belfast, IE - The Northern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA), the officially recognised governing body for the sport of harness racing in Northern Ireland hosted their 6th meeting of the 2020 season at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn this Saturday where the feature event on the programme will be the John, Paddy & Maureen Bassett Memorial Cup. Generously sponsored by the Bassett family from Belfast, 3 heats will be held on the afternoon with the first 2 home in each qualifying for a grand final. In the opening heat, all eyes will be on Peter Lyttles Rio Bravo which finished third, then second on its previous two starts at the venue and with more improvement expected the mare should secure the red rosette this time of asking. Oakwood Maverick looks the biggest danger to the selection. Barry Reaveys colt won on his debut then finished third last time but made a break at the half losing valuable momentum. With a clear round he will give Rio Bravo something to think about. Of the remainder Big Pete qualified quite nicely recently and could be anything as could Fairdays Dixie who also makes his seasonal reappearance. The penultimate heat is likely to have head bookmaker Charlie Finnegan scratching his head when pricing them up for opening show. The ultra-consistent Rhyds Premier won last time out whilst Valentine Camden and Ladyford Jim have both tasted victory in heats and finals in recent weeks at Racetime. Frisco Hold Up has been knocking on the door and although Waverly Jane acted up at the start on her debut she boasts strong form having won regularly across in Scotland in 2019. A horse that might out-run its likely odds and could spring a surprise is Springhill Bilzer. Owned by the Galway family and trained by the late Jacky’s son Garth this gelding impressed when last seen and should strip fitter for that experience. The last heat is worth the admission fee alone where a solid case can be made for all 5 runners. Derrybeg is a renowned front runner and will try to make all. Monugs Boy could be considered an unlucky loser in the last meetings final and will be out to atone. Boomtown qualified impressively in 2:03 on the bridle and looked to be a top horse in the making. Charlie Pan is another newcomer to Racetime but has ran with great credit at York and Amman Valley for Welsh trainer Lee Morris. Long overdue a visit to the winners enclosure is Michael Goggin’s John Barley and he will never get a better opportunity than this to rectify matters having been dropped a grade in the handicap. Finbarr Brickley can make it a double for the West Cork raiders in the afternoons square trot with his Socrates Du Noyer. Likely to be partnered by son Ciaran, this striking chestnut has shown improvement with each run at the venue and with his arch nemesis Bocage De Fornet penalised yet another 10 yards in the handicap this could be the day that Socrates finally overhauls Bocage. Terry Henderson’s Evan Jive isn’t out of the equation either with a clear round of trotting. Before the final a consolation pace will be staged for all non-placed horses on the day giving those who felt unlucky first time around another bite at the cherry. This will be kindly sponsored by leading bookmaker Charlie Finnegan. A series of pony races will also be held in between races for budding reinsman under 14 years old and these are very popular amongst our young drivers of the future. As always at Racetime Raceway ALL prizemoney is paid in cash on the day. Spectators are welcome but advised to strictly adhere to Covid-19 protocols. Post time 3:00 pm. by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Belfast, IE - There were wild celebrations in the winners enclosure at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn on Saturday when the McCullough family’s latest acquisition, Ladyford Jim, driven by Jason McCullough, won both his heat and then the grand final of the Alex Patterson Memorial Cup. Six went to post in the first heat where Rhyds Premier won cosily from Rio Bravo and Oakwood Maverick in 2:05.8 with the distances three quarters of a length and a further four lengths. “Its been a long time between drinks” was the quote from driver Barry Dean who partnered the 11 year old gelding which was having his first visit to the winners enclosure since 2014 for local owner John Murdy.  The penultinate heat went to Ladyford Jim who overhauled longtime leader Springhill Bilzer in the dying strides to triumph in 2:05.3 from another newcomer Micks Magic Trick with the distances four lengths and a half-length. Springhill Bilzer was driven on this occasion by Garth Galway son of the late Jackie Galway and it who was making his debut in the sulky aboard the gelding. The remaining heat had eight runners and was won by Monugs Boy in 2 mins 2.2 secs with Ceiron JD and Derrybeg filling the frame with the distances one length and the same. Driven by Greg Dean, this meant that both father and son had now won heats and would go head-to-head in the grand final. Rio Bravo, who finished second in its heat was declared a non runner so the final only had 5 going to post. At the off Rhyds Premier was first to show but was quickly tackled and past by Springhill Bilzer who sprinted on into a six length lead pursued by Ladyford Jim and Ceiron JD. At the three quarter pole Springhill Bilzer sent out distress signals as the blistering pace began to take its toll and sensing this Jason McCullough put Ladyford Jim into overdrive and gunned him down rounding the final bend. In the home straight Monugs Boy came with a storming late challenge but Ladyford Jim had enough in the tank to repel Greg Dean’s charge to land the spoils in 2.01.8 a seasons record for the track. Cieron JD finshed an honourable third with the margins one length and another two lengths. Ladyford Jim by Kikcolt out of Three Men Dreamin is a recent import from the UK where he was plying his trade for Durhams Alf Swinbank who incidentally also campaigned the third placed horse Ceiron JD and in the winners enclosure the victorious driver Jason McCullough couldn’t thank Alf enough for his advice on how to bring the best out of Ladyform Jim who looks destined for the free for all ranks based on this stellar performance. A consolation race for all unplaced runners was contested on the day giving those who felt unlucky another bite at the cherry. In this Back In Time led them a merry dance until tackled and passed by favourite Valentine Camden going down the back straight for the final time. All the while driver Hugh Friel was gradually reducing his 40 yard starting deficit aboard Vyrnwy Saddlepan and when asked for his challenge at the ¾ pole the response was instant. Quickly forging five lengths clear the 12 year old veteran stayed on gamely in the home stretch to win convincingly in 2:05.9 from Valentine Camden and the rallying Back In Time. A square trot was also held during the afternoon and this was won by Thomas Bennett’s Bocage De Fornet in a track record of 2:32.6 for 1 ¼ miles. A winner on its debut a fortnight ago the nine year old French bred was giving all three rivals a handicap start this time around and driver Greg Dean was therefore forced to change tactics. Content to track the pace-setting Socrates Du Noyer for most of the journey Bocage De Fornet was produced late to nail the longtime leader in the shadows of the post with Avetot finishing a distance behind the main protagonists and Evan Jive bringing up the rear. It’s a testament to the hard work of promoters that Racetime had more pacer entries than any other track operating in Ireland over this particular weekend and NISA have confirmed that racing will continue to be staged at the venue right through to the end of October with a whole host of major sponsored races being lined up for trainers to enter up for. by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Belfast, IE - Harness racing resumes at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn this Saturday where the Alex Patterson Senior Memorial Cup provides the main highlight of the afternoon. Featuring two heats of six and one heat of eight runners the winners and runners-up will go forward to a grand final with added money generously sponsored by the Patterson family.   In the opening heat Peter Lyttles Rio Bravo is favoured to come on from her first start where she finished an unlucky third. Out of Klondyke Girl the mare is selected to hold off Kiki Express and last time out winner Oakwood Maverick.   The penultimate heat sees 4 of the six runners making their Racetime debuts. Little is know about Micks Magic Trick whilst Waverley Jane, Ladyford Jim and Springhill Bilzer have been doing their racing across the water at York and Corbie Wood respectively. These are joined by the consistent Tom Wood and veteran Pandercrombie but they will have it all to do to beat Ladyford Jim who looks like the most likely winner on paper.   The remaining heat with eight going to post looks equally as competitive with renowned front runner Valentine Camden likely to lead them a merry dance from the outset. Ceiron DJ On Top Blackshark and Derrybeg will be all out to upset Valentine Camden whilst John Barley and Frisco Hold Up will be doing their best work at the end. Monugs Boy is another not out of the equation however the fastest horse in the line-up Vyrnwy Saddlepan is chosen to sprint past them all in the home straight to land the spoils.   A square trot will also be held on the day and with only 4 facing the starter it’s a case of quality not quantity in this contest. Evan Jive and Avetot have both won at Racetime earlier on this season whilst Bocage De Fornet was victorious last time out for Thomas Bennett,  defeating Finbarr Brickley’s Socrates Du Noyer in an epic battle. The handicapper has subsequently had his say and Bocage De Fornet now gives Socrates Du Noyer a start and this may be the determining factor when they settle down to fight it out. On that basis Socrates is the most likely winner.   Before the Alex Patterson Senior Memorial Final all unplaced runners get a second bite at the cherry, in a consolation pace where it will be free entry for all participants.   With a total 6 races being staged on the afternoon, including pacers trotters and some “rising stars” childrens pony racing Racetime Raceway really is the place to be this Saturday, and with the requisite Covid-19 protocols in place all patrons are welcome to come to the venue and enjoy a family day out.   The action starts at 3 pm on Saturday and as stated earlier all patrons are welcome to come and support the sport   by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink  

On an afternoon which broke records for both attendance and horses racing, Greg Dean notched up a driving double at Racetime Raceway last Saturday aboard his own Monugs Boy and Thomas Bennett’s Bocage De Fornet.   In the highest graded handicap for Class 2/3/4 pacers Monugs Boy led them away and was never headed thereafter. Billy Bassett came with a late surge as did Michael Goggin with John Barley but Greg was able to repel all challengers to win going away in a respectable 2:02.4. Derrybeg held John Barley to claim second and the margins three quarters of a length and three lengths respectively.   Dean followed up later in the day when partnering Thomas Bennett’s latest acquisition Bocage De Fornet to a bloodless victory in the square trot. Finbarr Brickeys Socrates Du Noyer was all the rage in the betting market beforehand and although the favourite performed with great credit he simply could not get past the long time leader Bocage De Fornet who looks a useful recruit to the Racetime ranks. The time was 2:36.8 for the 1 ¼ miles and the distances 2 lengths and 20 lengths.   Frisco Hold Up who finished second on his last appearance at the track for owner-trainer-driver Darren Smith went one place better on Saturday landing the spoils in a respectable 2:05.3. The gallant Tom Wood tried in vain to catch Frisco Hold Up but try as he might Conall McGuigan couldn’t mount a serious challenge to the winner. Pandercrombie took third spot and the distances were eight lengths and a further two lengths.   Barry Reevey is a new driver to Racetime and he made his debut at the venue a winning one aboard his own Oakwood Maverick. Bred by Hasty Hall out of Catscam the three year old put in a very polished performance to triumph in 2:05.5 from the ultra-consistent Rhyds Premier. Rio Bravo ran on well to secure third place and this was an eye-catching run for Peter Lyttles mare who met trouble in running and will be winning soon.   A consolation pace was held for all non-winners on the day and this went to Francis Murphy with Ceiron JD in the fastest mile time of the day 2:02.3. Fold Mischief and On Top Blackshark filled the frame and the distances were three lengths and a further two lengths.   Next meeting at Racetime will be September 12th and entries for this are now being taken.   by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Harness racing racegoers who make the journey to Racetime Raceway in Lisburn, Belfast are in for a treat this coming Saturday with an additional six new pacers and two new trotters making their debuts at the Northern Irish venue. In the opening event seven pacers go to post with four newcomers line up. Rio Bravo the most interesting of these as she is out of legendary free-for-all performer and Musselburgh Final winner Klondyke Girl. Its been quite a while since owner Peter Lyttle donned his famed blue, white and red colours and he is guaranteed have plenty of well-wishers and supporters on the day. Miss Ayr was another top racemare in the 1990s for the Galway family and Kiki Express will be race fit having performed with credit at Annaghmore in recent weeks. Oakwood Maverick for Barry Reevey and William McClelland's Back In Time are the other 2 debutantes but all four will have their work cut out to defeat Racetime regulars Newmoors Jackie Dan, Rhyds Premier and Fold Mischief. Ladyford Jim has been campaigned regularly at York Raceway in the UK this season demonstrating consistent good form. A shrewd purchase by the McCullough family in recent days sees this five year old by Kikicolt out of Three Men Dreamin make his first racecourse performance and hopes are high he gets his career this side of the Irish sea off to a winner.The veteran Pandercrombie will be all out to take advantage of his pole position on the gate but The Governer is a renowned front runner and will be challenging Pandercrombiefor early supremacy. Frisco Hold Up finished like a train last time out and if the front runners set too fast a pace Darren Smith could mop them all up coming home aboard the 9 year old. Six go to post in the highest graded handicap of the day where Micheal Goggin's John Barley is the most likely winner. Goggin has regularly made the 5 hour journey up to participate at Racetime since the season began and although John Barley has been placed numerous times, he has yet to get his head in front. All this looks likely to change on Saturday however and he will be a popular and deserved winner amongst racegoers should he claim the red rosette. Of the dangers On Top Blackshark, Derrybeg and Cieron DJ have all shown winning form this season whilst Monugs Boy has been threatening to land the spoils in recent starts so it would be no great surprise should Greg Deans stable star oblige in this. Baltimore's Finbarr Brickley is another that will make the long journey from his West Cork base and his Socrates Du Noyer is likely to start a warm favourite in the afternoon's square trot. The striking chestnut is unlikely to get it all his own way however as Thomas Bennett's recent import Bocage De Fornet will be pushing him all the way. Throw last time out winner Evan Jive and the consistent Avetot into the mix and a thrilling contest looks on the cards. A couple of Rising Stars pony races will also be held on the day aswell as a consolation pace for all non-winners in their respective events. Post time is 3pm on Saturday and whilst Covid-19 protocols will be in place the general public are welcomed and encouraged to come an enjoy a family day out at Racetime Raceway. Tom Bennett

Belfast, IE - Dominic Dwyer’s Valentine Camden broke his harness racing rivals hearts at Racetime Raceway  last Saturday winning both heat and grand final in the afternoons feature.  Three heats were held on the day with the first two home in each qualifying for the final with added prizemoney kindly sponsored Eamonn O’Connor. Six pacers went to post in a fiercely competitive opening heat and Streamside Skryne finally hit the target for driver Mickey Connors beating the pinto Newmoors Jackie Dan and Rhyds Premier by two lengths and five lengths in 2:04.6. Another six pacers went to post in the second heat where the ultra-consistent Derrybeg ran out a game winner for veteran reinsman Billy Bassett. The trip for Micheal Goggin to compete at the venue is 510 miles and although it looked as if a sweet victory was on the cards for the West Cork native his stable star John Barley came up short when it mattered and could only finish second with longtime leader Monugs Boy back in third. The winners time was the fastest so far at Racetime this season 2:01.4 and the distances were two lengths and a length respectively. The first three finishers in the remaining heat were all newcomers to the track - Valentine Camden, Frisco Hold Up and The Governer and they eventually filled the frame in that order. The winner was driven by Mickey Connors who notched up a driving double on the day in a time of 2:01.5 with the other duo partnered by Darren Smith and Keith Carlin. Before the final a European breds square trotting race was held over the extended distance of 1 mile and three furlongs. First season driver Colin Woods went on to land the spoils with his own Evan Jive in 2:41.2 and the French bred had eight lengths to spare over old rival Avetot. The favourite Diva Valentina made a couple of breaks in stride and although settled relatively quickly after each she could only manage third spot, a further three lengths adrift. The grand final looked a mouth-watering contest on paper beforehand and the event itself didn’t disappoint. Driver Mickey Connors had qualified 2 winning horses in the heats and opted to take the reins of Streamside Stream in preference to Valentine Camden, which was then partnered by able substitute Hugh Friel, who hails from Donegal. When the race got underway, the striking pinto pacer Newmoors Jackie Dan led them away but was tackled and passed by Valentine Camden at the ¼ pole. At the half the striking skewbald renewed its challenge but no matter how hard Gerald Maybin tried to get past with Newmoors Jackie Dan Hugh Friel would not surrender his hard-fought advantage. All the while, Derrybeg and John Barley were reducing their starting handicaps of 25 yards and 35 yards and bearing down fast on the leader but despite their best efforts in the home straight the post came in time for Valentine Camden who held on to triumph in 2:02.9. Valentine Camden is an eight year old gelding by Pro Bono Best (USA) out of Lets All Boogie (GB) and was only acquired a week ago by owner Dominic Dwyer from the York Raceway circuit in the UK where he was a regular runner. Racetime Raceway has been a great success since its re-opening and with every passing meeting there are more entries and more trainers/drivers supporting the venue and that can only be a positive for the sport in Northern Ireland which is governed by NISA. The next meeting will be held at on Saturday 29th August and entries are now being taken. by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

With Covid-19 restrictions now relaxed in Northern Ireland, Racetime Raceway, located in Lisburn (Belfast), is now fully open for punters to attend and anybody who makes the journey to the venue this Saturday will be treated to a record entry of runners in action. Three heats will be held with the first 2 home qualifying for a grand final at the end of the program. In the opening heat six pacers are set to go to post with the strikingly coloured pinto Newmoors Jackie Dan, Despicable Me and Rainstorm sharing the starting gate with Fold Mischief, Rhyds Premier and Streamside Skryne in the second line trailing 10 yards. This looks like a very tricky contest with the only filly in the line-up most likely to emerge as the winner. The penultimate heat also features six pacers with three of these – Derrybeg, Vyrnwy Saddlepan and On Top Blackshark having won last time out at Racetime. West Cork raider John Barley travels almost 400 miles to compete and should be a lot closer this time around having looked in badly need of the race on his seasonal debut. The veteran Monugs Boy and welsh bred Cerion JD have been knocking on the door recently and are also expected by connections to be fighting out the finish. All in all, this is race is worth the admission fee alone and the winner of this heat is then likely to start a warm favorite in the afternoons final. The remaining heat features 3 newcomers to Racetime - Valentine Camden, The Governer and Frisco Hold-Up with 3 new drivers also making their debuts at the venue. All three however will have to be at their very best to defeat the ultra-consistent Tom Wood who won here last time out and driver Conall McGuigan will be anxious to make it 2 in a row aboard the eight year old. Before the grand final a European square trot will be held and the Swedish bred Diva Valentina will take a world of beating in this if she manages to put in a clear round. Avetot and Evan Jive are also very talented but both can make breaks so the horse that manages to trot an error-free mile will be one that captures the red rosette on this occasion A “Rising Stars” pony trotting race will also be staged on the day and this represents an opportunity for the young drivers of the future to gain valuable experience at the track. The action starts at 3pm on Saturday and as stated earlier all patrons are welcome to come and support the sport by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

The Nortern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA), the officially recognised governing body for the sport of harness racing in Northern Ireland staged their second meeting of the 2020 season at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn last Saturday when Eamonn O’Connors OnTop Black Shark struck again in the meetings finale the consolation final. Six went to post in this hotly contested affair and just when it looked that Ceiron DJ had the race at his mercy OnTop Blackshark dug deep to emerge victorious by ½ length in 2.03.4  Conall McGuigan is a new driver to the ranks at Racetime Raceway yet he drove Tom Wood like an old pro to win the Maiden & Novice contest. Rainstorm II with Eamon O’Connor aboard led them a merry dance in this before tiring late on. Rhyds Premier then took it up before Fold Mischief came with its customary late run but all the while Tom Wood was gradually creeping into contention. When asked for his effort by McGuigan the eight year old gelding sprinted from the pack to land the spoils by a length in 2.06.7 from Fold Mischief with Rhyds Premier another half-length back in third spot. From a new driver to somebody a little more seasoned and the veteran reinsman on duty Billy Bassett showed the younger drivers a clean pair of heels with Derrybeg in the 5 runner Grade 1&2 handicap. Owned by brother John, Derrybeg took up the running going down the back straight for the last time from the favourite Lakeview PanAm and IB Cymru to triumph in convincing fashion in 2.02.5 just a tenth of a second outside the fastest time of the day.  West Cork raider John Barley was all the rage on the bookies board before the start of the preferred free-for-all but the partisan locals then ploughed into Monugs Boy and both of these runners started joint favourites. The race didn’t go according to plan however as outsider of the 4 runners, Vyrnwy Saddlepan, swept past Monugs Boy and John Barley on the second circuit to win going away by 6 lengths in 2.02.4. Monugs Boy fended of the late challenge of Ceiron DJ to claim second a further 2 lengths adrift with the luckless John Barley appearing to have been in need of the run. In the afternoons square trot, Adrian Grahams Avetot exacted sweet revenge on Diva Valentina who beat him narrowly last time they locked horns. This time around Avetots driver employed different front running tactics and despite making ground on the straights the favourite Diva Valentina struggled on the beds and lost valuable ground. Evan Jive had a tardy start and never recovered leaving Avetot a facile winner in 2.14.8 with the distances ten lengths and the same. With Covid-19 restrictions easing somewhat in Northern Ireland a healthy attendance turned up at the venue on the day with local punters joined by visitors from Dublin and from West Cork with track promoter Greg Dean thrilled at the support that the track has built up since its re-opening back in early July. A qualifier was also held before racing and 2 horses managed to better qualifying time, Newmoors Jackie Dan and Blue Top Gun.  by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

The Northern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA), the officially recognised governing body for the sport of harness racing in Northern Ireland, is staging their second harness racing meeting of the 2020 season at Racetime Raceway in Lisburn Saturday and top West Cork trainer Mick Goggin is making the long journey from his base at Goleen to participate. Stable star John Barley will be all the rage in the preferred free-for-all, but Goggin will have to be at his very best in the bike to outfox the wily Hugh Friel and Vyrnwy Saddlepan a proven sub 2 minute performer. Young guns Cieran JD and Monugs Boy will be all out to upset the applecart in what could end up a very tactical affair. Rainstorm II, a £7200 purchase as a yearling in the annual York sale, makes his eagerly awaited debut for Eamonn O'Connor in the afternoon's Maiden & Novice mile. He will have to be at the top of his game however to fend off Tom Wood, Rhyds Premier and recent winner Fold Mischief. All eyes will be on the Mickey Connors owned Streamside Skryne in the Grades 1 & 2 Handicap. By Kikicolt out of the 1:57 racemare Artcastic, the gelding has displayed an abundance of talent in previous runs but he will have his work cut out for him if he is to lower the colours of On Top Blackshark, who landed the spoils in the grand final at the opening meeting and is in the form of his life at present. Throw IB Cymru, Lakeview Pan-Am and Derrybeg into the mix and we have the makings of a really cracking contest. The Swedish bred Diva Valentina is likely to start favourite in the mixed European square trot following her victory last time out, but having been penalised for the win she will be sharing the gate with French breds Avetot and Evan Jive. The former could upstage Diva on this occasion as he was challenging strongly last time out before a break in stride put paid to his chances. "Rising Stars" races will also be held throughout the afternoon and these pony trotting races have proved to be immensely popular at Racetime. Parents and the children are cheered on and applauded by friends and relations as they glide around the track and its hoped that the harness racing bug bites these juniors who will then become our pro drivers of the future. A consolation race will conclude proceedings and this will be free entry for all non winning pacers on the day. If there are more than 6 entries a draw will be held for those consolation spots. As ever Racetime pay out prizemoney on the day in cash. With Covid restrictions now relaxed on public events in Northern Ireland, spectators are welcomed provided they exercise social distancing, so get yourself down to Racetime Raceway on Saturday 1st August where a great days harness racing awaits allcomers. Post time 3pm. by Thomas Bennett, for the NISA

The Northern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA), the recognised body for harness racing in Northern Ireland, staged its opening race meeting of the 2020 season on Saturday 18th July with national broadcaster the BBC on hand to cover the event which was held at Racetime Raceway, just outside Belfast. Three heats of pacers and a concluding grand final provided the main entertainment with a European bred trotters race also held on the day. In the opening heat, William McClelland drove Niall Loughrans Fold Mischief to a narrow victory over Conall McGuigan’s Tom Wood and John Murdy’s Rhyds Premier in 2:04.6 with the distances a short-head and 10 lengths. The penultimate heat was an equally tight affair with Cathal Donnellys Ceiron DJ just prevailing by a half length from longtime leader Derrybeg in 2:02.1 with the favourite Monugs Boy unable to land a blow a further four lengths adrift back in third sport. The remaining heat went to Barry Dean aboard Lucky Cam who outclassed the opposition to score comfortably in 2:03.2 with Ontop Blackshark staying on well for the runner-up spot ahead of Lakeview PanAm with the distances four lengths and two lengths. In the 6 runner final for £1000, an incident on the opening bend resulted in driver Barry Dean being decanted from favourite Lucky Cam. Under a NISA ruling this horse was precluded from taking part in the re-run.  When they finally got underway second time of asking Fold Mischief and Tom Wood engaged in an early battle with the latter getting the better of the exchange and leading them throughout the first circuit. As they got the bell with a lap to go Billy Bassett and Derrybeg surged forward from the chasing pack to take up the lead before readily going five lengths clear. Cerion DJ the favourite was then asked to improve from the tail of the field but Cathal Donnellys charge couldn’t make any inroads despite his urgings. All the while Ontop Blackjack was quietly building up a head of steam and in the final 50 yards when it looked as if Derybeg had the race in safe keeping, the seven-year-old gelding by The Preacher Pan came with a storming late charge to land the spoils for owner/trainer/driver Eamonn O’Connor. The winning time was 2:02.3 with Tom Wood Fold Mischief filling the frame.  A trotters race was also held with mixed Euopean breds and this was won by the Swedish bred seven-year-old Diva Valentina from the French bred Evan Jive with the other French bred Avetot getting disqualified by the stewards for galloping across the line when in contention. The time was 2:14 and winner won by a comfortable six lengths. The afternoon was complemented by a brace of pony trotting races where parents of young boys and girls partnered with their children on the track in some mini races covering the length of the home straight. A round of applause and a trophy was given to each child who participated and such encouragement was to be commended as these kids will be the star drivers of the future in Ireland. A carriage driving exhibition was held on the afternoon and this added to the family friendly atmosphere that was present throughout the day. Interviewed post-racing, Chairman of the NISA, Greg Dean, conveyed his satisfaction with how the opening meeting went, adding that having governed the sport in the province for the past 70 years harness racing under NISA was in safe hands for another 70. Entries are now being taken for all grades of pacer and trotter for the next meeting which will take place at the venue on August 1st.    by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Freehold Raceway in New Jersey held their annual St Paddys Day harness race last weekend and fittingly two Irish born drivers finished first and second in the ever popular event. Jack Killeen from the suburb of Tallaght just outside Dublin, driving 3/1 chance Major Humor outgunned Joe Hanney from Blanchardstown aboard Black Hammer, a 10/1 shot, to claim victory in a mile time of 1:59.1 Driver of the winner, Jack Killeen, has recently taken up a five year visa to forge a career in harness racing and cited Mike and Heather Wilder as a source of inspiration and the primary catalyst for the helping to make things happen for the eighteen year old who has a handful of winners already racked up at the Meadows. Being so young he still doesn’t have his American driving licence and such was his sheer determination to participate that Jack Killeen embarked on an eight hour round trip by bus from Pittsburgh, PA, to take his place in the line-up. This trek was duly rewarded however and the victory will live long in the memory of the Dubliner. Hanney, the luckless runner up, and a previous winner of this event was ever gracious in defeat, shaking hands with the winner before posing for some pics which are almost certain to be framed and up on the walls of their family homes back in the emerald isle. Hanney undoubtedly must have felt some affinity to Killeen as he himself left Ireland as a raw teenager with an unquenchable spirit and a dream to make it stateside as a trainer and driver in harness racing. The race itself lived up to its billing and from the outset as Hanney and great rival George Brennan took each other on in a no-holds-barred early speed duel. Just as Hanneys Black Hammer started to get the better of Brennan's mount Dalton Did It and was starting to draw away from the field when along came Jack Killeen with Major Humour with a bold three-wide move at the three-quarter mile marker and despite Hanneys all-out stretch drive the fresh impetus of Killeens charge carried him past a battle-weary Black Hammer in the shadows of the post to win by three-quarters of a length. The race was well supported on the day by other drivers of Irish descent including Ron Burke and Bob Bresnahan and it’s a fantastic tribute to their Irish ancestry that these big names make the effort year after year to celebrate St Patricks Day at Freehold Raceway by taking part in the race. The Irish have earned a reputation for working hard and are recognised as accomplished harnessmen in the US and Canada amongst their peers with Stephen Loughran, Anthony Haughan, Ciaran Morrison and Robert Cleary amongst those who have successfully carved careers in the sport across the atlantic in recent years alongside Joe Hanney and yesterdays winning driver Jack Killeen. To view the St Patrick's Day race at Freehold Raceway click here. by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

Work continues unabated in order to get Racetime Raceway in Lisburn, United Kingdom ready for harness racing in 2019.   Although the recent inclement weather delayed progress on the resurfacing of the track, management are adamant that the scheduled opening of Saturday June 1st will go ahead as planned. The feature on the day will be the Anto Russell Memorial and a further 13 heavily sponsored race meetings will then take place throughout the summer and on into the autumn. The venue, leased by the Northern Irish Standardbred Association (NISA) is set to provide a welcome boost for the sport in Northern Ireland. The NISA collective committee wish to see harness racing in the region return back to its family orientated roots, encouraging younger enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the sport through a youth programme being established Racetime's Headquarters and 18 stable training facility as its base. The sport needs to attract a new audience in the area and NISA welcome the local youth to become hands-on in developing all the skills necessary to become a successful harness racing driver from basic animal welfare, through to jogging, workouts, training practices and eventually participating in actual races. Costs to become involved as an owner, trainer or driver of a harness horse in Ireland have sky-rocketed in recent years and NISA intend on making the sport more accessible and cheaper to become involved. Moderate membership fees, cheap entry fees to participate and all prizemoney won paid on the day in cash are just some of initiatives being implemented by NISA. A number of other innovative concepts are also in the pipeline including a prizemoney bonus every time the track record is broken and a season-long points series with a substantial cash prize awarded at the end of the year for the horse with the most appearances at the venue. Visiting horses from Southern Ireland and the UK will be accommodated with free stabling on the track being made available for all visiting horses. Racetime Raceway originally opened for business back in the late 1980s and although current track record holder Saunders Rebound has long since passed on, his time of 2:00 is in danger of falling at the opening meeting on June 1st. The track will be open for qualifiers, driving tests and work-outs from the middle of March and Racetime promoters NISA are also now seeking licensed bookmakers to stand at the track with generous terms, and for those interested please contact the NISA Facebook messenger page. by Thomas Bennett, for the NISA

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  

1 to 16 of 28