EIGHTEEN-year-old Troy McAleer from St Margaret’s, near Dublin airport, was the toast of the 2023 Irish American harness festival over last Sunday and Monday.
The teenager drove four winners at the meeting, which made an unprecedented eight-in-a-row in the Irish sport. The McAleers always bring a good few visiting fans to any venue. Troy’s uncles were calling him ‘Frankie’ in deference to you-know-who.
If your long unbeaten streak must come to an end, then better that you fall to one of your own. Troy’s purple patch ended when his uncle and mentor Billy Roche beat Troy into second, in the feature event the Irish American Pace Final.
Billy won the final with Rhyds Rival (4/6 favourite). The horse was unluckily beaten in the same event in 2021. In a rough race, Rival was second under catch driver John Richardson.
The Red Baron was back in the bike on this occasion. The tall and laid-back master of the Roche barn will always be associated with this decent horse. Billy has nurtured ‘Rival’ from his days as a two-year-old.
Rival has been sparingly campaigned as owner Darren Joyce has tried to keep the horse in ‘the worst possible company’.
The win on Sunday probably blitzes that handicap mark. It would be good for the sport if Rival (now a nine-year-old) was to take on the best that Britain has to offer, or even the McAleers’ Northern Pride.
The final offered €1,500 to the winner. The prize fund for the weekend was €45,000 of which €12,600 was added money from the IHRA. Le TROT of France put up €13,600.
The weekend benefits from the ‘Invest In Ourselves’ project whereby several well-known American stallion owners have made services available at discounted rates.
Straws are available from Cattlewash p 1.46.6; Betting Line p 1.47.2, and Heston Blue Chip p1.48. The three stallions won $5.3 million between them.
Irish breeders have already some super foals on the ground. The breeders are happy, and the racing owners are chasing better purses. Over in America, Bill Donovan, Casie Coleman and Eric Cherry can sleep soundly, knowing that they have helped a minnow nation in harness racing develop into something. Everyone’s a winner.
Back to Troy’s run of success. He began the season on the beach at Harbour View on May 7th and was four from four when the circus pulled into Lyre.
Troy won the F grade pace on Sunday with Larry Camden. He also won a heat of the competition with the hardy little Newtown Major. “He’s like a car to drive,” said Troy. “He just does it so easily.”
On the Sunday, the young mechanic collected again with Kenosha Comet and won the free-for-all pace with Northern Pride.
Northern Pride lay-up with the great Merrington Moving Up in the Red John Final in 2022. He had no such competition here. Runner-up Cash All with John Richardson got going very late.
Northern Pride quickened up on the manner of a good horse. Merrington Moving Up was well beaten at Appleby on May 29th this year.
The McAleers will look forward to a rematch if Rocker and Alexis Laidler bring their grass specialist to Lyre in August.
Tremendous strike rate
Omeath man Martin Loughran has a tremendous strike rate in Lyre. He has won the big pot with his own Curly du Layon and also with a catch drive for Meadowbranch with Tamalou Perrine.
The Cooley Wizard looks to have unearthed another star in the shape of Elysium d’Ostal. The nine-year-old justified odds-on favouritism in both heat and final of the middle grade trot.
In the heat, young Adam Corey put up a spirited fight with Franchan de Roche. The Glengormley pairing led for most of the mile and came back at the winner once passed.
The story of the trotting final was of heart wrenching bad luck for local man Patrick Hill with Humour de Cosse. The 7/1 outsider outbattled Elysium d’Ostal and looked to have him taped.
At the top of the straight Humour de Cosse went into one of those inexplicable gallops that can happen. A break in the final 300 metres means instant disqualification. The prize went to the Cooley Peninsula.
Coraile de Belande (Tiernan Loughran) threw away all chance at the start by making a skip. The 12-year-old finished like a rocket to claim second prize. “He needs further than a mile,” said Simon Duggan.
The trot final mirrored the rest of the action in that it was a tough result for the layers. The punters had the better of exchanges over the two days.
One of the few upsets occurred in race one, day one, when 1/3 shot Just Like Mam (Sean Kane) galloped frequently in the four-year-old trot.
Just Like Mam’s faux pas allowed Cyril Gammell’s Jezzabella Greggane to lose her maiden tag to hearty cheers from Billy’s followers.
Jamie Hurley from Reenascreena led out, and made all with Dedicace de Rhuys (5/1) to win the E to F trot.
Bibi Dairpet was the only winner of the weekend for the Murphys from Baltimore. Eoin Murphy was in the sulky for a heat win. The usually dependable gelding galloped at the start in the final.
John Richardson seemed delighted to win the three-year-old pace with Sweet Jeff for long-time friend Jack Manning of Limerick.
“My father trained horses for Jack’s father,” John told The Irish Field, “we broke this fellow at two and then turned him out to mature.”
Biggins gained his second win on Irish soil for Chris O’ Reilly in the four-year-old pace.
“He came up in a tough crop in England,” said Chris in a post-race interview, “but we’re having fun with him now.”
Rachael Stewart and Chelsie O’Driscoll brought up back-to-back wins for lady drivers in races two and three on Sunday. Iron Paddy and GDs Honey were the winners.
Rachael told interviewer Dan Carlin: “I didn’t go looking to get into driving, it just kind of happened.” The win shortened the trip back to Killashee, Longford, for Rachael and partner Ronan Norton.
Chelsie won ‘Drive Of The Year’ in Britain in 2023 with the same mare, GD’s Honey. She worked for Johnny Gill in York and is currently with the progressive Oakwood Stud in Offaly.
Oisin Quill from Kenmare took the free-for-all trot with Fina Mix (7/2) who upstaged Donal Murphy on 4/5 favourite Comete des Landes.
The Coreys, Duggan and Cowdens were sporting enough to make the long trek from the North. The best that the Ulster men could muster was a few placed runs.
Northern Ireland appears to be full of horses still to race this season. The owners should remember the old saying ‘use it or lose it’.
Skibbereen’s own David Sheehy called the races on Sunday while James Griffin was back on the rostrum for Monday.
Racing is to take place at Lyre today and Annaghmore, Co Armagh, tomorrow. Full results, racecards and news can be seen at www.irishharnessracing.com