Day At The Track

Racetime Raceway to be reopened in United Kingdom

04:14 AM 27 Jan 2019 NZDT
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Harness racing
Crowds like this at the Vincent Delaney Memorial could be happening this year at Racetime Raceway outside of Belfast.
Steve Wolf photo

Lisburn, UK - In an era where track closures have become all too commonplace, the opening of a new venue to stage harness racing is set to give the sport a welcoming boost in the United Kingdom, with the opening of Racetime Raceway this coming March.

Located just outside Belfast in the United Kingdom, the track actually held regular meetings in the late 1980s before owner Greg Dean decided to turn it into a private training centre and livery yard.

Stuck for somewhere for local horsemen to race, representatives from NISA the Northern Irish Standardbred Association approached Dean at the back end of last season with a view to re-opening the track for racing in 2019 and beyond and plans are in place to stage 14 meetings at the track from May through to September.

A fund has been made available to resurface the track, renovate the public areas and a fresh layer of tarmac over the car park has just been completed meaning the promoters are on schedule for their opening date of March 2019 for qualifiers. NISA are hoping that race dates are ratified from the governing body in that jurisdiction the British Harness Racing Club and hopes are high that the track could stage its first race meeting as early as May 11th.

And what brought about the change of heart with the tracks owner Dean to allow the re-opening of Racetime Raceway after such a long hiatus?

Dean, a lifelong supporter of the sport acknowledge that over 60 local horsemen had no venue to race at and as currently these men faced a 4 hour round trip to race at Portmarnock in County Dublin or a trip overseas on the ferry to race on the mainland in the UK. Annaghmore on County Armagh would be their nearest track and although this is an option, the fact that this venue stages just a handful of meetings every year and cater for 90% French trotters only this simply isn’t enough to accommodate those pacing referred trainers and owners who want regular weekly meetings to compete at.  

Uncertainty over “Brexit” was also a major factor. With the United Kingdom due to exit the European Union at the end of March, the likelihood of a hard border, with lengthy customs and immigration checkpoints for those travelling from Northern Ireland into Southern Ireland and vice-versa competing by crossing this proposed border will make it very onerous on horsemen and patrons to undertake this journey on a weekly basis. Racetime will be the ultimate panacea to this problem as it will provide weekly meetings for local horsemen without the necessity to travel and endure the complicated arduous trek down South.

With the other tracks in the island of Ireland also primarily concentrating on Le trotteur francais and the French initiative, Racetime’s main aim is to become the true home of the standardbred pacer in Ireland with races held predominantly for pacers and if there are French bred trotters entered by trainers they will be accommodated and mixed in with Irish, UK, Swedish and Dutch breds in International open trots.

NISA have confirmed that they’ve been inundated with offers to sponsor races and financially contribute to the new venture ensuring that success is virtually guaranteed from the outset. Another unique appeal for horseowners participating at Racetime will be the payment of prizemoney/purses instantly on the day in cash, after each meeting and such an initiative is bound to prove immensely popular.

So its onwards and upwards for the re-birth of Racetime Raceway over the coming months giving a much needed boost to Northern Irish harness enthusiasts and making it 5 hard tracks in existence in the UK with Racetime joining Corbie Wood in Scotland, York in England and Tir Prince and Amman Valley in Wales.

by Thomas Bennent, for Harnesslink

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