It may have only been a small inconsequential race at Northfield Park in the USA last Saturday for a lowly purse of $7,800, but the eyes of the Irish nation were tuned into the RTN network on satellite to see Ireland’s newest heroine, Rainbow Writer, win her first race stateside.
By Sportswriter out of Hepburn Blue Chip (Bettors Delight) Rainbow Writer was a yearling purchase by Dubliner Christy Dunne at the 2017 Lexington sale and when he imported her back to Ireland, Bernard Grendon, who was stabled at Dunnes Porterstown Training facility, instantly fell in love with the diminutive bay filly and just had to have her.
He struck a deal with Dunne within days to acquire her but the association didn’t end there. Grendon takes up the story “Christy and I spent that winter breaking her in an right from the very first day the harness went on her we knew she was special.”
She was quickly staked up for all the top juvenile races in Ireland and the UK and as the weeks went by she just got better and better.
The biggest 2-year-old race in Ireland is the Vincent Delaney Memorial (VDM) and that was her primary target – being for the most purse money, but more importantly its the race that carries the most prestige in Ireland. On the day of the VDM final (held at Portmarnock Raceway’s half-mile oval in Dublin), the race was nearly over for her before it began after an uncharacteristic break in stride on the first bend brought her almost to a standstill.
But in true Hollywood fairytale fashion she slowly but surely began to build up a head of steam and had caught the field by the half mile before sailing past every one of her seven rivals to land the spoils in a breath-taking mile time of 2:01. The race will live long in the memory of every spectator who witnessed the impossible task the filly faced after just 1/8th of a mile in.
The VDM hallmarked her as the undisputed 2 year old champion of the UK and Ireland. Put away for the winter she came back at 3 to win the Irish Sire Stakes Final, but with only a limited program of events for her age and sex in Ireland owner Grendon was forced to look across the water at nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, where there were much more opportunities.
Her record when competing in the UK was no less stellar as a 3-year-old. In a brace of visits in 2020 she hit the target twice, both in classic races – in July when she won the North Wales Harness Owners Association Championship Filles Final when she tripped the time at 1:59.07 and then showed her staying abilities by winning the BHRC Oaks in 3:05.7 for the extended mile and a half (3 circuits of a half-mile track which incidentally was a new track record)
Both wins were at Wales’s premier venue Tir Prince, a happy hunting ground for Grendon in the past who drove winners there himself on a C Class license. Her exploits in the UK resulted in her being awarded the British Harness Racing Club Overseas Horse Of The Year 2020, an honour bestowed on the best pacer competing in a season from Ireland, regardless of sex or age.
She was driven by Ireland’s leading driver Patrick Kane in all of her races and Grendon credits Kane with doing a fantastic job with her, combining the tender handling of educating a young filly whilst still winning valuable classics without abusing her to get the job done. Such experiences on the track can only stand to her in later life as only the owners of precocious fillies know.
With nothing left to prove in either Ireland or the UK an audacious plan was hatched in the winter of 2020 for Rainbow Writer to be shipped to the US to resume her career as a four-year-old and in the spring of 2021 she was sent to trainer Brian Brown in Ohio.
As with a lot of relatively inexperienced fillies that have faced such an arduous journey and acclimatizing to a different country and a different training regime, she took a long while to settle to the American way of life and the hustle and bustle of a big barn.
“She was all at sea for the first few weeks” adds Grendon, who was in regular contact with Brown enquiring about her progress. “I told him to give her more time to come around and get used to how they do things over in the US. We probably spoiled her rotten in Ireland and understandably so, as she proved that she was the best around so we pampered her and treated her like a princess.”
True enough, the abundant talent she possesses started to come through in April through May to the extent that Brown decided to start entering her up and so beginning the next chapter of her story.
Fast forward to Northfield Park on a balmy summer evening last Saturday and Rainbow Writer lined up in a Fillies & Mares contest. Second choice in the betting behind hot favorite Racing Blue, Rainbow Writer tracked the odds-on the race favorite for most of the mile before being produced by driver Hunter Myers in the stretch to surge past – going on to win in 1:55.1.
RAINBOW WRITER REPLAY
Although Grendon couldn’t be there in person to accompany her into the winners enclosure for the all-important pic to capture the moment, he was watching the action live from his home in Dublin surrounded by family and friends – even though it was almost 3:00 am taking into account the time zone difference.
Whilst the bright lights of Yonkers Raceway and the Meadowlands is arguably where its at in both purses and prestige the plan was always for her to hone her skills on the US style of racing around Northfield Park and so far things are going according to plan. That’s not to say she won’t earn her right for a crack at the big time when she has learned enough racetrack craft to defend herself against the best there is in New Jersey. For the time being however, she will earn her stripes in Ohio, and hopefully improving week by week, performance by performance.
Long term plans for Rainbow Writer are for her to continue moving up the ranks in the fillies and mares open classes before eventually being put in foal to a top US stallion and shipped back to Ireland to spend her days as Grendon’s foundation broodmare.
There are still many more chapters in the Rainbow Writer story however as she attempts to emulate a long line of Irish owned fillies that have carved out successful careers stateside in recent years with Velvet Beauty, Wild Magic, Blackwell Ruby and more recently Robyn Camden to name but a few who have more than paid their way across the Atlantic and kept the Irish flag flying high stateside.
She has now proven herself more than worthy of carrying that torch and the hopes of a nation in the coming weeks and months who will be following every step of her career with interest, even if it means watching her run in the middle of the night.
by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink