It was a day of firsts at Racetime Raceway (Belfast, UK) on Saturday when drivers Darren Smith and Blake McCullough got their first ever winners under rules and the first ever sub 2 minute mile was recorded at the venue when Michael Goggins John Barley claimed the scalps of 3 rivals in the top class handicap on the programme.
Named after an old English folk song John Barley, a nine year old by Doonbeg out of Briwyns Melody sprinted out gate from the 3 hole to take up the running at the off in this grade 3 & 4 handicap pace adopting a new change of tactics.
Normally content to sit mid-pack in his races the new front running style seemed to suit John Barley and he soon had all 3 rivals off the bridle and struggling to stay in contention.
By the ¾ pole Vrynwy Saddlepan his nearest pursuer had been burned off and John Barley sailed down the home straight in splendid isolation. Clocking 1:59.7 driver Michael Goggins raised his whip in a victory salute to the crowd in attendance who spontaneously erupted in a round of applause when the commentator announced a new track record had been set.
Derrybeg, another nine year old by Doonbeg, ran on well to snatch second from a tired Vyrnwy Saddlepan with the margins five lengths and a further six lengths.
Darren Smith and stable stalwart Frisco Hold Up have rarely missed a meeting at Racetime since it opened back in July 2020, but the combination had yet to get their heads in front when it truly mattered. This all changed on Saturday however when Frisco Hold Up finally broke his duck at the venue in the afternoons finale the consolation pace for non-winners.
Fending off the favourite Hilltop North Art by 3 lengths Frisco Hold Up paced the mile in 2:03.5 with Waverly Jane finishing a distance away back in third spot. It may be the first time that Frisco Hold Up has won but judging on this performance it certainly wont be the last The remaining runner Phils Dragon became errant in the home stretch veering violently into the infield and was subsequently disqualified post-race by the stewards present.
Blake McCullough is one of the youngest and newest drivers to Racetime’s colony and having finished a close runner-up on his debut start the talented teenager got off the mark the second time of asking when his IB A Warrior ran out a game winner of the grades 1 & 2 handicap from the fast finishing Lucky Cam and Camden Pro in 2:04.3 with the margins of victory two lengths and a further half length.
The winner is a very classy campaigner and is sure to do plenty of damage in the coming weeks and months at the venue. McCullough in particular was very shrewd in the bike and showed driving prowess beyond his youthful years
Not to be outdone by his younger brother Blake, Keith McCullough was also on the scoresheet when Veelas Imprint won the afternoons maiden and novices contest. Castlewood Glensman was the favourite on the bookmakers board in this event and Andrea Lockharts gelding got into a protracted duel with Veelas Imprint right from the outset. McCullough however wouldn’t surrender the advantageous rail position and being parked out for most of the mile eventually took its toll on the gallant Castlewood Glensman who finally succumbed in the shadows of the post. The time was a respectable 2:06.5 with the distances a neck and three lengths.
A square trot was also held on the day and this was won by Finbarr Brickleys Scorates Du Noyer in 3:13.5 for the extended mile and a half journey.
This become a tactical cat-and-mouse affair between the winner and arch-rival Bocage De Fornet who yet again came off second best with both finishing a distance clear of the four year old Hurricane Star and Everest Turgot.
It’s the second win in succession for the veteran chestnut who hails from Baltimore in West Cork and the 500 mile trip is no deterrent for the Brickley family who are great supporters of Racetime and NISA.
by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink