Day Two

THE Park Hotel, Clonakilty was full of drivers on Saturday night, though not in the usual sense of the word. The talk around the place was that Northern Pride’s only chance on Sunday was if he drew post position one and Evenwood Son Of A Gun drew ‘the six hole’.

In the event, the British raider drew five and the home side’s favourite drew on his outside in six. The 2022 Red John Memorial Pace Final was a memorable race.

John Richardson made the pace honest with Cash All. With a lap to go Rocker Laidler pulled out to pass his wife Alexis who was on Merrington Moving Up.

Evenwood Son Of A Gun got to the front but Troy McAleer on Northern Pride came after them. A terrific scrap followed for most of the back straight before Evenwood Son Of A Gun asserted.

The runner-up lost nothing in defeat and the McAleers can be justly proud of horse and driver. They ran second to one of the all-time greats in these islands. The time of 2.37 is a new track record for a mile and a quarter.

Never in doubt

“Rocker was never in any doubt,” stated Alexis Laidler, “‘Gunner’ is just so good. Moving Up doesn’t love hard ground. We hope to bring ‘Gunner’ back again next year.”

The Maven trot looked a more open race than the pace, right from the point when the 16 runners were published. Once the visiting French drivers proved their worth they suddenly started getting offers of drives from the Irish trainers.

The presence of Franck Ouvrie in the final line up was a curve ball for both backers and layers accustomed to playing on the usual pool of top 12 drivers in Ireland. As it happened the Flanagans asked Franck to drive Colombia D’ Oysse while JR stuck with Epopee Du Layon as so often before.

Comete Des Landes (evs-4/6-5/4) was an uneasy favourite for owners Murphy, Madigan and O’ Mara. The talented mare got a difficult trip, boxed in on the rails while the speed was to the outside.

Tim Kelleher and Dan Carlin, both The Irish Field correspondents with sponsors representative Rosemary Minehane at the Red John Memorial meeting

The French are not afraid to go to the front even over 2,400 metres and Ouvrie made it a true test of stamina with Colombia D’Oysse.

The strong mare with her white face kept going to the line to take the 2022 Maven Trot. A similarly thick-set type of mare (Epopee Du Layon) stayed on well for second for John Richardson. The result was a training one-two for John.

Sense of bonhomie

All the Flanagan girls, flooded the winner’s enclosure, with some French supporters also present there was a sense of ‘bonhomie’.

“These guys are so professional; you wouldn’t hesitate to put them on a horse,” said John Richardson. “Franck gave ‘Besame’ a great drive as well.”

Elsewhere on the card, Timmy Moloney made it a double for the weekend when The Red Rebel took the Beehive Bar pace. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” Timmy said in the post-race interview.

Cork fared much better than in 2021. Porterstown Aled was another winner for the Rebel County on the weekend of the Michael Collins centenary. Derry McCarthy owns and trains. He was quick to acknowledge the Dunnes from Kill who sold the horse. The race was sponsored by the bookmakers.

Joe Sheridan rarely misses a big meeting in Ireland. Joe’s Boyardo won the M50 trot with yet another French driver, Stéphane Meunier. Joe and his wife Marion were absent as they were in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada for the Gold Cup and Saucer, one of the world’s great pacing races.

Jodie Sheridan O’ Rourke (17) was an able stand in for Joe on the day.

Iron Paddy won the four-year-old trot. He is a rugged, dependable type, well suited to a mile and a half on grass. Inspire Me and Mike Kelleher did all the donkey work only for the mare to gallop when she was needed. The classy Immaculata also fluffed her lines with John Richardson. That’s why it’s called ‘trotting’.

Iron Paddy is rare fully registered track racing horse for the county of Longford. Rachel Stewart owns, and Ronan Norton trains and drives.

‘Always back the outsider of three’ is an old saying, usually quoted once said outsider has won.

The Astra Construction four-year-old pace went to Jamie Hurley from Reenascreena with Foxfield Ranger who touched 5/2 on the straight betting.

Meadowbranch Aurora ran below her best in that three-runner race. However, driver Charlie Flanagan gained quick compensation when Biniou De Beuvron who seems to have been around forever, held off the younger pair of Devoir Math (6/4) and Cakinap (9/4) in the Bradfield Catering Trot. In effect, Charlie defeated her boyfriend as Oisin Quill was on the third-placed horse.

The PJI Engineering Trot saw the Meadowbranch/Collins-owned Besame Mucho (Franck Ouvrie) reverse the placings with his previous day’s opponent Helios De Larre (Erno Szirmay). Part owner Maxie Collins was unwell recently but bounced back with typical determination.

Team Meadowbranch, winners of the Maven Trot Final Red John Meeting \ Sarah Thomas

“He’d have been closer on Saturday only that the cord broke on the ear plugs,” explained John Richardson. (Harness drivers often pop the plugs on a horse by use of their foot and a long cord). The winner is a former Trotter of the Year although he lost his dash in 2020 and 2021.

Richard Kingston from Timoleague kept up the good weekend for smaller stables when Bywins Starship picked up the Dublin Plant Hire Pace. Newtown Major was a game second off a tough draw for Troy McAleer.


The Consolation Trot saw Blanchardstown farrier Anthony Malone collect the Liam Carlin MemorIal Cup with Eliano Love.

The pacing consolation went to the evergreen Fairdays Western with young Adam Corey, a popular result. Surprisingly the winner drifted in the betting.

Churchview Camelot justified favouritism in the three-year-old pace for driver Alan Wallace jnr in the three-year-old pace. Both the gelding and his full-brother Churchview Frankel are due to run at Tir Prince Raceway, North Wales at the Breeders’ Crown meeting.

Full results, footage and other information can be seen at and on the Red John Memorial facebook page.

More ordinary fare is on the menu tomorrow at both Annaghmore, Co Armagh and Lyre where they race once more.

Range of winners is welcomed

THE likes of Jim Mc Carthy, James Jennings and the late Youen Jacob did much to promote harness racing in West Cork in the 70s and 80s. If you had suggested to them that someday Cork would host a €117,000 meeting, with the British record holder present and a team of French drivers they would say you had spent too long in Sheehy’s bar.

And yet these remarkable things did occur, and more. As detailed in the race reports, several pacers trained by what some might term ‘soft’ farmers on the beaches and boreens of West Cork put it up to the Dublin outfits like the Kanes and Roches.

The wins by Timmy Moloney, Richard Kingston and Derry McCarthy will sit well with the founding fathers. Just as on the football field, there is fierce rivalry between the Jacks and the Rebels.

The followers of trotting in Ireland are harsh critics of any big-name driver that arrives in this country. Any previous wins are at once cancelled out and the newcomer must prove himself from scratch in the local pecking order before they get any praise.

“He sat too long/he went too soon/I don’t like where he holds his reins”, etc. The trotting followers don’t like a bad drive.

Therefore it’s great to report that the Irish fans were impressed with the skills of Franck Ouvrie, Erno Szirmay, Charley Mottier, Stéphene Meunier and Nicholas Delaroche.

The visitors had obviously driven round a field before even though French hippodromes are flat with a surface you could till with your fingers.

Enjoying French flavour

Le TROT party were wined and dined by the IHRA and they even gate crashed a wedding in Bantry. Charley Mottier has a high knee action on the dancefloor.

“Franck Ouvrie is world class,” commented Sidney McKnight from the Meadowbranch barn, and Sid has seen all the big Irish and British drivers come and go.

Sponsors too numerous to mention contributed to the prize fund. Volunteers such as Greta Cormican cleaned up the field while Eilis Murphy catered for the French delegation.

Landowner Ger Heggarty had the field in perfect order, although in a rare turn of events, the weather was nearly too dry, a phrase we don’t hear too often in Ireland. Thanks go to all involved without trying to list every single person.

Local jack of all trades Timmy Kelleher was anchor man on the mic and did a good job making sure the races were running on time. Timmy’s questions to the winners were pertinent and his interviews avoided the common mistake of being too long.

Race caller James Griffin described accurately which horse was travelling and who wasn’t acting on the going. “The leader is running on fumes,” was one memorable line as a pacer tied up near the line.

“This is a fine meeting, and a great track,” Franck Ouvrie told The Irish Field. “Perhaps they could move the markers out one metre for the second day?”

Retired barrister and author Rosemary Minehane of Massachusetts represented principal sponsor Bill Donovan of the USA. Rosemary was impressed by the event and hopes to travel with Bill in 2023.

‘Red’ John is now a sporting spectacle

AMONGST the attendance were: Frank Husckha and Willie Forrester of Cumbria, a party from Talavary Stud from Wales, UK harness racing pundit Sarah Thomas, Limerick hurler Kyle Hayes and Munster road bowling champion David Heggarty.

Clonakilty is a booming tourist area. There were positive reports about the Clonakilty Black Pudding factory tour, the historic references to Michael Collins and of course breath-taking Inchydoney strand.

One source from the RJM committee explained that two new goals are firstly to obtain more sponsors and secondly to attract more tourists and locals to the meeting, possibly by booking a pop group with pulling power.

The sad passing of ‘Red’ John O’Donovan in 2015 has given birth to a sporting spectacle that has brought pleasure to thousands and ensures that his beloved harness racing lives on in West Cork.