The inaugural Northern Ireland Standardbred Association (NISA) Turf Track Championships were held at Nutts Corner, Crumlin (Northern Ireland) last Sunday (Sep. 4) with Neil McDermott’s A Kind Of Magic victorious in the feature harness racing event on the seven-race program the Bell Mans Cup.
Four heats were staged on the day with the first two home in each qualifying for the grand final which was sponsored by Dublin’s Charlie Bennett of the Tarawood Stud. The half-mile track was laid out specifically for this once-off extravaganza and locals came from far and wide to see the spectacle of harness racing, some for the very first time.
In the opening heat the Michael Loughran Memorial Cup for Maiden and Novice classes father and son Kevin and Tiernan Grimes finished first and second with Fullthisclosure (Foreclosure N) and Camenna and bragging rights went to the young Tiernan who upstaged his father on the former with Elusive Ellen staying on for third spot.
Six handicappers went to post in Heat 2 comprised of 000/G1 class pacers which went the way of Martin Gallaghers True Matters (Soul Of The Matter) with Greg Dean in the sulky. Terry Henderson’s Jollys Alibi finished a close second in this ahead of Easy Tiger who performed with great credit on his Irish debut for owner/trainer/driver Joe Devlin.
Mainboard Hanover was all the rage in the betting ring to win the penultimate heat for Neil McFall but the six-year-old by Sportswriter couldn’t quite handle the going and finished down the field. Hes A Dream partnered by Tiernan Grimes was the one that took the red rosette, and the loins share of the prizemoney home ahead of Briwyns Vacation and Oakwood Maverick who fought out a courageous battle for the runner up spot, a battle that Briwyns Vacation dug deep to win out.
The remaining heat had a late scratching when former Horse Of The Year Porterstown Courage was declared a non-runner, but five top class pacers graded 2 & 3 still put on a cracking contest with Neil McDermotts A Kind Of Magic (Hasty Hall) springing somewhat of a surprise in beating local horse Monugs Boy and John Barley who was travelled all the way up from Baltimore in Country Cork by his owner Michael Goggin to compete.
Before the grand finale, in order to enable appropriate rest period for the qualifiers 2 other races were held, a square trot and a pinto pace, the former for Internationally bred trotters and the latter for coloured pacers (skewbald or piebald).
In the square trot, named in remembrance of one of the greatest Irish trotters of all time RB Grey Star, it was Greg Deans and Bocage De Fornet (Ouragan Celland) who got better of Ciaran Brickley and Socrates Du Noyer in an epic duel with Fortune De Ginai taking third sport.
Next up were the coloured pacers and these strikingly marked standardbreds in full flow always wow the crowds and Sunday’s event proved to be no different. Turning for home it looked as if William McFall’s Big Rick was going to pull off a massive shock in upstaging reigning champion pinto Big Pete but the Table The Nukes bred colt pulled it out of the fire and wrestled back victory back from the jaws of defeat.
Big Pete has remained unbeaten in these type of specialty contests for the past 2 seasons and owner Damian Mooney is rightly proud of his skewbald star.
Eight of Irelands best harness racers then faced the starter for the grand final of the Bell Mans Mile and bookmakers and punters alike struggled to determine whether one of the heat winners or unlucky losers would triumph and take home the sponsored cup and the prizemoney.
This was run at a frenetic pace with the lead exchanging many times over the opening circuit. Neil McDermott then produced A Kind Of Magic with an electric turn of foot that then put the race to bed in a matter of strides.
Well-wishers thronged the winner’s enclosure as sponsor Charlie Bennett presented connections of the first three home with their prizes sending racegoers home on a high.
The winner is by Hasty Hall (Jennas Beach Boy/Hundred Kisses) who has been one of the UKs most successful sires stretching back almost 2 decades. Imported by John & Grethe Wright of the Rhyds Stud in North Wales the stallion died just over a month ago and although he is a great loss to the sport of harness racing in the British Isles his legacy will live on for a long time to come through his impending dominance as broodmare sire.
The action switches back to the hard track at Racetime Raceway for the next meeting which will be on September 17th.
From Racetime Raceway