Portmarnock Sunday

CHRISTY ‘Hopper’ Foran, now based near Ashbourne, won his first race of the season before following it up immediately in the next race to make it a quickfire double at Portmarnock last Sunday.

Hopper’s first win was a bloodless victory as the well-bred Sweet Rock (the latest in an army of Sweet Lous) won by eight lengths. The winner was no bigger than 4/6 in the ring.

Ha’ Penny Chance (5/1), a Trotteur Français reared in Ireland, raced better than ever before. She led out, making all for a win in a decent time of 3’06.5 for the mile and a half.

Hopper (63) is the true definition of a maverick. Through all the fads and changes in the sport he has stuck steadfastly to his own methods. His upright seat in the bike and tap-tap-tap action with the whip is unmistakable.

The two winners by a great horseman provide a popular start to the meeting but unfortunately, there was only a small crowd on hand to see Christy’s double. Long term ally Robert Armstrong came into the photo.

Overall this was a very flat meeting.The harness season is about to go into overdrive. A charity meeting at York, the Ballabuidhe festival (Cork), the Delaney (Wales) and the Red John (again Cork) are all current or upcoming. Some of the runners on Sunday were only going through the motions.

Best foot forward

Not so the runners from the Sean Kane yard who always put their best foot forward. As if to prove this point Sean’s second string Just Like Mam upstaged the one that Sean chose, Just In Time in the three-year-old trot.

Bernard Nicholson came in for the catch drive on Just Like Mam, and humorously said afterwards: “I’ll get the sack.”

Sean’s father Ger explained things to The Irish Field: “We genuinely don’t know which one is the better of the two. We work them together, but they are never fully pushed.”

Enghien or Vincennes could be on the schedule, which would be a huge fillip for Irish breeding should this come to pass.

Sean did drive a winner when the plucky little Feugeres Erem (5/4 to 4/6) ate up a 40-yard trail in the A to D trot. Dream Paradise rallied gamely for Bernard Nicholson, but the small mare was too good.

Owner Andy McTaggart is trotting’s version of the great Oliver Brady with his confident post-race comments.

“She’s not just the best mare in the country, she’s better than the geldings as well,” he said. “We’re coming for the English trotters too.”

John Richardson got his customary winner when another tiny mare, Meadowbranch Aurora, who took out the E to F pace from Newtown Alana. The latter always runs her race for Leah McNevin. 2’03 was the clock.

Leah’s father Wayne led out and made all to win the top-grade pace with IB Notorious. Walter Stewart on Ladyford Dollar would not go away and this resulted in a decent time of 1’58.3. The favourite, Transparency, made no inroads to his 30-yard trail.

Racing resumes at Annaghmore, Co Armagh tomorrow where a leg of the Apprentice Championship will be hard fought.

The track is off Junction 13 M1. Full results, cards and information can be seen at www.irisharnessracing.com

Record breaking Hanover

THE standardbred is so called because in the 19th century a horse had to trot or pace a mile in the standard of 2’30 to get into the stud book. As the two gaits have evolved over 150 years, so to does the word record keeps tumbling.

Steady Star (1’52 in 1972) and Niatross (1’49 in 1980) had fans agog at the time. Social media has been full of admiration in the past fortnight since Bulldog Hanover and the New Zealander Dexter Dunn raised the bar with a 1’45.4 at The Meadowlands, New Jersey on July 16th.

Dunn has raced at Portmarnock before, memorably driving IB Coyote to win the inaugural Delaney Memorial Fillies division.

Meanwhile at York, England the remarkable 10-year-old gelding Evenwood Son of A Gun broke the British record for a half-mile track with a 1’54.6 effort as he sluiced up in a Free For All (top grade pace) on July 31st.

The horse raced with success in Canada at six to nine years but was brought home to retire at the request of Alexis Laidler.

Alexis and husband Rocker intend to bring runners to the Red John Memorial in Lyre (August 20th and 21st). The thoroughbred namesake Evenwood Sonofagun remains a maiden in the yard of RJ O’ Brien.