Sunday, 27 August 2017

2017 Season: Week 17 – Tir Prince & Bells Field vs Boughrood

Once again, eagle-eyed readers will notice that I have missed to cover a weekend in the racing calendar.  It wasn’t any ordinary weekend either, it was the Vincent Delaney Memorial at Portmarnock.  But I wasn’t there, because I was busy being an awesome bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding in Eastbourne.  Worse still, I missed the Oakwood Stud Mares Pacing Series Final at Corbiewood on Thursday 10th August, won by the Gilvear family’s Dontstoptheparty.  You can read a full review of the inaugural series here.  I already have plans for the 2018 running of the series – provided the club and its members agree to stage it.  I’ve convinced them once…


Fast forward to the weekend and Smarty and I found ourselves heading south on the M6 on another adventure.  I have to apologise to him for my behaviour in the car – I was (im)patiently waiting to hear whether or not I had won the ‘Best Social Media’ category at the International Media Awards at the World Trotting Conference with this very blog after having been shortlisted in the top three.  My contact on Prince Edward Island was sending live updates…most of which involved food breaks.  It wasn’t until nearly 18:30 that I was told ‘sorry, no win’.  I was able to view the category winners on the Standardbred Canada site almost immediately (nothing says professionalism like contemporaneous reporting *cough* my biggest flaw *cough cough*) and from there look up the category winner on Facebook.  How an amateur with a blog which lacks any direction could compete against someone who has such a professional looking social media page, I’ll never know.  For the first time I was a little ashamed of how amateur my blog is.  In my head I can think of a million different ways to improve it, to make it more professional…

Then I realised my blog simply reflects the sport in our country.  I’m covering an amateur sport.  I can think of a million different ways to improve it, to make it more professional…

The category winner’s professional coverage probably reflects well the professionalism of the sport in Australia; my amateur but passionate coverage hopefully reflects well the passion of the people of the United Kingdom when it comes to our beloved sport of harness racing.  If I’m achieving that goal, then I’ll never be ashamed of my little blog.

Anyway, once the disappointment had subsided I was able to enjoy the racing.  As I’ve touched upon previously, I’ve felt a bit lacklustre about Tir Prince this season.  That changed on Saturday night.  Even serial moaner, bookmaker Tim Brown, was forced to admit that the first race of the night was super competitive as three horses crossed the line almost together.  There was a good crowd and plenty of activity in the betting ring to keep us busy.

The first race saw a thrilling three-way finish between Coalford Earl, Triplicity and Finley Wells with the former coming out on top by a neck.  This was the horse's first start under the care of Alexis Laidler and he made it a winning one for owners Gary & Joseph Maw.  Finley Wells showed massive improvement to finish half a length down from Triplicity in third, and will surely go on to win in the near future for trainer/driver Michael O'Mahony.

We only witnessed two disqualifications in the two Le Trot 3YO races (one in each leg) which is a step in the right direction...Viccy & Marc Elvin's Eclair Du Torp finally got off the mark on the seventh time of asking with an all-the-way victory over Mike Evans and Eden Des Anges.  In the second of the two legs, Equilea Du Hauty notched up her third victory for Rhys Evans and the Mound family, beating the 'star so far', Ecume De Mer fair and square.

Equilea Du Hauty & Rhys Evans heading to victory in Leg 24 (Jamie Gilmore photo)
The Mounds recorded two winners on the night, with Lyons Aceofspades showing phenomenal improvement on its 2.14 performance at York only two weeks earlier to win in 2.06.8 from Coffee Mate and long-time leader, Sugar Cane Howard.

The NWHOA 4YO Championship became a walkover for Partyatthespa after his three competitors, Miraculous, Jessies Conquest and Rockin Mambo all withrew in the 48 hours leading up to the event.  It would have been good to see old foes 'Party' and Miraculous go head to head again after the latter's narrow defeat in the Senior Welsh Dragon at Tregaron at the beginning of the season; especially with that being his only defeat on British soil so far in 2017.  Alas, it was not meant to be and I hope we will see Miraculous again shortly for the Crock of Gold Final at Tir Prince.

The slightly bizarre Open Preferred Handicap for horses grade 1 to 7 was, rather expectedly, won by Rhyds Design who led from start to finish and did not look like being headed.  There was a large amount of support in the ring for Dreamfair I Say, however the chestnut found himself parked early and in the closing stages of the race looked in danger of being passed by his much lower handicapped competitors, although he did hold on for second.

The top two races of the night, for me at least, were the last of the Crock of Gold heats and the STAGBI Future Broodmares race.  The COG heat went as expected, with superstar Evenwood Sonofagun making best use of his pole position draw to lead the field from start to finish, coming home in 1.59.3.  This was his 13th consecutive victory, which is a new British record.  WELL DONE GUNNER AND CONNECTIONS!!

Evenwood Sonofagun winning the Crock of Gold heat (Jamie Gilmore photo)
Delighted connections including owner, trainer, driver & breeder (Jamie Gilmore photo)
Mare of the moment, Rhyds Passion, stormed to victory in the final race of the night from Meldoon in second and Greentree Serenity in third.  Dontstoptheparty was also in the shake up, finishing fourth.  The race seemed to build in suspense as it progressed, with four solid mares all sitting with a live chance in the final quarter of the race.  Meldoon (Michael O'Mahony) came with a very strong late run to challenge the leader, but as evidenced at Musselburgh when winning the Hurricane Pace Final, Rhyds Passion just keeps going.  She is an out-and-out stayer and connections appear to be having the time of their lives with a mare that they 'couldn't give away for free during the winter, nobody wanted her'.  The saying 'what's for you won't go by you' springs into my mind when I think of Rhyds Passion and her owners.

Connections of STAGBI Future Broodmare winner, Rhyds Passion (Jamie Gilmore photo)
The event had been billed as ‘Ladies Night’ and attracted a few fancy outfits...myself included.  I have an annual 'effort' quota and I used it all up on Saturday night, but it paid off (that, and knowing the 'judge') as I won Best Dressed Lady and a spa day for two at The Kinspa, Kinmel Hotel close to the track.  Lovely!


Ahh, the age old conundrum - stay in Wales or head back to Scotland?  Well, it's not really 'age old', it's only the second year we've been faced with the problem.  Back when Bells Field used to run at the end of July, there wasn't a clash between Scotland's second biggest fixture and Boughrood, one of the fairest tracks in the country and a place which essentially guarantees good racing for this very reason.

Long before Smarty and I met, he was making the 12-hour round trip to booky at Boughrood, but with Bells Field moving its date a couple of years ago, he would be mad to choose an 'away tie' over a 'home tie' which is less than 45 minutes down the road.  I, on the other hand, have found it harder to turn my back on Boughrood, perhaps because for me it still feels like my 'home tie'.  Nevertheless, I gave Bells Field a go last year...and didn't really enjoy it.  In hindsight, I decided it was due to the fact my dog, who had come along for a day out, decided that every single man, woman, child and other dog was a deadly threat to me and therefore had to bark constantly throughout the day.  That was fairly tiring to deal with.  So this year she stayed at home and I went in with an open mind and relative enthusiasm following an enjoyable night at Tir Prince.

Big Burd & Boots on tour at Bells Field

I hate to be a 'negative Nancy', but I still didn't really enjoy it.  I landed a free lunch in the sponsors tent with my partner in crime, Michael 'Boots' O'Neil which admittedly started the day off well, but my enthusiasm waned as the day progressed.  I'm not sure what the cause of this is, but I have tried now for two consecutive years and on both occasions I have found myself texting friends attending Boughrood to find out who's winning and how the racing is going.  I wished I had been in Wales instead.  I am sure everyone else at Bells Field enjoyed themselves and I'm the odd one out.  I'm just being honest.

Regarding the racing itself, Mikey Camden was an impressive winner of the £5000 final when coming off 70 yards to beat Tommy Camden (Mick Welling of Camden Stud will be pleased!).  Rhyds Rockstar won the 3YO race absolutely unchallenged, with the filly Fools Delight surprising connections to finish second.  Ayr Majesty notched up his first win since moving to the Laidler stable when taking the Battle of the Big Guns FFA which only saw four horses face the starter.  Unfortunately I can't really comment on any of the other races as I couldn't remember who had won them without looking at the official results on the BHRC website, so the best I can do is point you in that direction.

Before I bow out on this one (and don the armour and protective headgear for when the promoter reads this), you'll note from the results that Ladyford Lad finished third in his heat and then third in the final.  This is off the back of finishing second in his heat at Musselburgh and fourth in the final (Hurricane Pace), and winning a heat of the William Keith Memorial at Corbiewood, in recent weeks.  'Yeah, so the horse is in form', I hear you say.  Well, he is.  But he's also 14.  This is his final season of racing due to compulsory age restrictions and boy is he giving his all for connections.  Good on ya, Gilbert!

Due to the lateness of this post being published, I can't say 'onwards to Tregaron', because I'm already home from Tregaron.  Awkward.

I'll write about Tregaron imminently.

Over and out,

#1 Groom

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