EVENWOOD Son Of A Gun, driven by Rocker Laidler from Durham, took the €10,000 Red John Memorial Pace at Lyre last Sunday.
Meadowbranch Stud of Oldtown, Dublin won the €12,000 Maven Trot with Colombia d’Oysse.
Colombia D’Oysse was a catch drive, nothing unusual in that; but she becomes the first Irish classic winner driven by a Frenchman as the owners asked Franck Ouvrie to take the reins. Ouvrie was also leading driver at the meeting with three wins and a second.
Landowner Ger Heggarty and his team had the track in superb shape for the eighth renewal of the Red John Memorial meeting.
The grass was cut to the lowest setting on the mower a few days beforehand and was about as hard as any turf track can get. Pacers and trotters can tolerate much harder going than their thoroughbred cousins.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the drivers have a crazy gene at times, as well. So the sport went ahead, fast, furious, no holds barred.
The top drivers talk a lot about respect for each other, the horses and the equipment.
The net result was that after 26 races of paint scraping closeness, there was not one real incident or collision, a happy statistic to report.
Another positive statistic was a great spread of winners especially when three or four local or smaller yards ended up in the winner’s circle with compere Timmy Kelleher. Results over the weekend generally favoured the bookmakers.
Day one began with the race for baby trotters (three-year-olds). The country’s leading exponent in that genre, Sean Kane, sent out three of the four.
Just In Time trotted with a metronome like rhythm but Just Like Mam (Patrick Kane) did not handle the grass surface and they were spread out like competitors in the egg and spoon race.
Suffice to say, the winner looks useful, the second will be better on a hard track and the other two are both a ‘work in progress’.
I’m Great Hanover with Patrick Kane jnr led out and made all to take the next event, the Village Inn pace. Stateside Cody (Jonny Cowden for Gareth Galway) came with a rattle but began a weekend theme of speedy types making the odd break on grass.
The winner was bred at the world renowned Hanover Shoe Farms, Pennsylvania. The breeders are probably oblivious to the fact that she was 6/4 in places and finished up 1/2.
The Equine Tendon Products two-year-old pace lost some of its lustre when the morning favourite, Vinny Camden, was scratched.
Main sponsor Bill Donovan was watching the live stream and he got to cheer on some friends when IB Sweet Candy Girl from the Murphy barn, beat his own IB Lily.
Donal Murphy stayed with Lily while they put Kenmare-born farrier Oisin Quill on Sweet Candy Girl. Trotting punters don’t kick many wides and 6/4 to 4/5 tells you that ‘somebody knew’.
Two races of an Ireland v France driving competition then followed. The first leg produced an upset when Eddie Marceaux, from a difficult draw, came around the rest for the accomplished Franck Ouvrie. Pa Manning of Limerick owns the winner
In the second leg, Helios De Larre (5/2 to 5/1) with the almost unpronounceable Erno Szirmay saw off Besame Mucho (3/1 to 4/5 fav) with Ouvrie once more in a tight finish. The Meadowbranch team train both horses.
There was money in the morning for Oakwood Maestro and local trainer/driver Jamie Hurley in the Drinagh Co-op Pace. Newtown Alana (Leah McNevin), Ayr Trooper (Thomas Kiely) and Ayr Majesty (Tim Moloney) all got involved but Jamie had them covered. The original ‘jolly’ Imperial Attitude, showed a dubious attitude.
The warm order favourite Rhyds Rival (Eoin Joyce) was a comfortable winner of the Red Mills pace while Miss Pantastic (Patrick Kane jnr) kept ‘betting without’ punters happy. Rhyds Rival likes to lead but he showed here that he is no one trick pony.
Eoin took cover on the pegs while Pan Cam Income (Derek Jennings) and Getmeoutofere (Matthew O’Reilly) traded blows. Rhyds Rival went on in the straight. Cue the usual Joyce pitch invasion.
Drop in class
‘Dour stayer’ is a phrase that could have been coined for the chesnut Brutenor. The former winner of the feature trot here took advantage of a drop in class to collect €2,013 for winning the Quills of Kenmare Trot. Bibi Dairpet (3/1 to 5/4) was well-backed but made uncharacteristic breaks for young Eoin Murphy. Patrick Hill from Leap was in the bike as usual. Patrick was a close friend of the late John O’Donovan.
Timmy Moloney from Timoleague was narrowly denied on Ayr Majesty however he gained compensation when Share A Smile (touched 8/1) won the Mervue Equine pace. Meadowbranch Duke was a gallant second for Troy McAleer. The favourite Check On Dancer did not fire for Patrick Kane jnr.
The last four races on the card were the heats for the Maven Trot and the Red John Pace. The crowd were at fever pitch and were staring at the bookie’s boards as the first prices went up.
Comete Des Landes took heat one of the trot for multiple Cork champion driver Donal Murphy.
The race was marred a bit when four of the runners were disqualified for galloping, unusual at this high level.
The other heat was a closer run thing. In the end, Epopee Du Layon, a Murphy cast-off, won out for John Richardson. Interestingly, almost every time JR has had a choice in a race involving ‘Poppy’ he has driven her, a massive tip in itself.
The two pacing heats had a sense of inevitability about them. Rocker Laidler won heat one with the best horse in England at the moment, Evenwood Son Of A Gun. Runner-up Northern Pride was not hard-driven by Troy McAleer when they went after the Durham raider. “We’ll have another go in the final,” was the thinking. Alas, in the final ‘Gunner’ drew the inside of Northern Pride, but more of this anon.
The second heat saw many people’s idea of the second best horse in England, Merrington Moving Up, win unextended for Rocker.
The fans left the field for an evening meal, some drinks and endless speculation about all the possible permutations of the draw for positions in the Sunday finals, both trot and pace.