Portmarnock Sunday -
PORTMARNOCK Raceway staged the annual Ladies’ Day last Sunday.
As with so many events this year, the horsemen and the spectators are only too glad to be rid of the shackles of Covid, and ‘let’s do it better than ever’ was the order of the day.
Ten lady drivers in total filed in behind the car, the largest entry ever. English driver Claire Bousfield from Appleby had four drives in Dublin but could only manage a third on Joe Sheridan’s Boyardo.
The ladies trot and pace were the two feature races but the headline must go to Cash All and John Richardson who bounced back following three beaten runs. John came from an impossible position with a lap to go. The winner drifted from 3/1 to 6/1.
The pacesetters IB A Magician (Wayne McNevin) and Rhyds Rival (Eoin Joyce) went to the half mile in 57 seconds and change whereas the wily JR sensed that the field would come back to him.
The inside line is the most valuable piece of real estate on a trotting track and very few winners get to come up the shortest route. However, as horses tire and the field fans out sometimes the gap will open and that is exactly what happened.
The fast opening half meant that Cash All equalled the track record for one and a quarter mile. The race went in 2’28.5. The winner is owned by Meadowbranch and Brian Redmond who has invested heavily in the sport.
“He had a difficult draw so I drove him for a bit of luck,” explained John Richardson. “He’s a handy horse to be around.”
The ladies races provided a real cross section from drivers who compete most weeks to some wives and girlfriends who only race once a year, to girls who normally exercise these horses.
The trot went to Ronan Norton’s partner Rachel Stewart who looked at home in the sulky and had a lovely hold of her horse. The manner of her win would suggest she has driven some fast work.
Emma Kane always drives like her life depends on the outcome. A plucky driver and a plucky pacer is a good combination and Emma got a great run out of the tough Mooreside Captain (5/1).
It was a head bobber of a finish with a nose and a neck the official distances as Charlie Flanagan (Meadowbranch Aurora) and Gail Nicholson (Ladyford Dollar) filled the pace places.
In the enclosure Jacintha O’Toole and Nikki Gilligan were adjudged best dressed ladies. Nikki had previous course form – but no bookies were brave enough to price the contest!
The male drivers may not have been as immaculately turned out as the ladies but there were some fine performances nonetheless.
Patrick Kane is really breathing down John Richardson’s neck in the battle for The Irish Field silver salver for leading driver.
His treble on the day as opposed to John’s double reduced the deficit to three as we enter the tough autumn campaign.
Harry Knows (2/1 to 6/4) has been cleverly placed by the Kanes, bearing in mind that the Trotteur Français matures later than his American cousin.
A win from the dreaded ‘nine hole’ over the useful yardsticks Fleche Extreme (Billy Roche) and Ha’penny Chance (Hopper Foran) will please the connections.
Patrick brought up his treble with two pacing winners for Bobby Barry. Ladyford Buck (evs to 4/5) and Rhyds Eclipse (1/2 and shorter) both led all the way.
JR’s other win came aboard Dusty Jiel, the busy-gaited black gelding who has been costly to follow on occasions.
John took no chances once he got Dusty rolling and let him stride on early. Kenmare runner Destin de Larre went off in pursuit but the quarry had gone. Favourite Extrem Ryld did not look comfortable.
Sean Kane continues to re-coup his investment in the younger French Trotters. He trained first and second in this division, Just in Time and Just Like Mam, while cousin Patrick came in for the catch drive.
The late breeder Hugh O’Neil senior of Ayr would have been proud to see Ayr Balmoral, Ayr Corleone and Ayr Harbour contest the two-year-old pace. Gavin Murdock caused a minor upset when ‘Balmoral’ beat ‘Corleone’.
Punters who like coincidental names should have backed ‘Balmoral’ with the weekend that was in it.
Gavin made it a double when Oakwood Cowboy (4/6 to 1/3) skated up in the F to D pace.
Joe Caffrey has loads of patience with a horse. Finale Jihaime has done nothing to contradict all the tales about chesnut mares. She has galloped at the start time and time again.
On this day, Finale Jihaime rewarded Joe’s perseverance and did not put a foot wrong. Joe kept her in the shade of Billy Roche’s considerable back and only produced her at the bar to win snugly. Billy was on the dependable Vaillant de Gueham.
Meadowbranch Duke (6/4 to 2/1) has been knocking on the door for the Mc Aleers and got his turn in the grade F pace. A 1’59.9 is a lifetime best for the son of English Derby winner Meadowbranch Gigolo.
Duc D’Arry kept the flag flying for Cork when he won a division of the All-Ireland trot for Baltimore-based Donal Murphy.
Andy McTaggart’s Feugeres Erem was a quarter length away in second, another fine run.
The race went 2’34.0, a full three seconds faster than the other division which went to Kenmare-born farrier Oisin Quill aboard Cakinap (3/1).
The grade G pace saw the pupil outdo the master as young Eoin Joyce on Rhyds Salsa scuppered Billy Roche who had the recent English import Coalford Danceman in the race.
Hopper Foran was second on the little stallion Sweet Rock while Danceman could only manage third.
Scoundrel robs a big prize in Wales
ONE of the happier aspects of this column is to report Irish success in the UK where Tir Prince (North Wales) and York are the main harness tracks.
The former venue hosted the British Harness Racing Derby, instigated in 1965, on Saturday night.
Brexit, travelling costs and a levelling off in prize money have all conspired to ensure that only owners with a point to prove, or stables with a big chance, are willing to travel.
Paddy Kane from Trim selected Rhyds Scoundrel at the York sale in 2020 and the gelded son of See And Ski has turned out to be exceptional.
On the night, Patrick Kane jnr employed the old cliché ‘go to the lead and keep improving your position’.
Patrick went three wide into the first turn and simply had to ‘rate’* Rhyds Scoundrel, slowly turning up the tempo.
The combination ran out a seven-length winner in a new track record for a three-year-old over a mile and a half of 3’03.3.
The win gives Patrick his third English Derby following Cams Best in 2003 and Miraculous in 2016.
* To ‘rate’ – American term for setting even fractions/controlling a horses’ speed. Most of the leading drivers actually carry a stop watch in their non-whip hand.