Day At The Track

Bill Donovan thoughts on Red John Weekend

01:57 AM 30 Aug 2017 NZST
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Harness racing Harness racing
Red John Memorial Weekend sponsor, Bill Donovan, with some lovely ladies presenting gifts from the Red John Committee
Nadina Ironia Photo
Bill Donovan (center in blue shirt) leads the cheers for the winning connections of the Maven Trotters Derby winner, BRUTENOR!
Nadina Ironia Photo

The following are the posts by USA’s title sponsor, Bill Donovan, on experiencing the Red John Memorial Weekend in West Cork, Ireland August 19 & 20.

Day 1 of the races in Cork has been absolutely delightful. A grand time was had by all. They race over the grass here, unlike the dirt tracks we have in America.

The two major races are the "'Red' John O'Donovan Memorial Pace" and "The Maven Trot". "Red" John was an enthusiastic young man who loved harness racing and was establishing himself as a very talented driver when he tragically died in his early 20's.

This race honors his memory and I am proud to sponsor it this year. Earlier in the day I stopped at the Skibbereen heritage center and talked to one of their genealogists so perhaps I will find out that I am related to Red John!

The Maven Trot is of course named in honor of my greatest trotter and I am pleased to also sponsor that race in partnership with the French Trotting association. Today were the eliminations and the Finals will be held tomorrow. Kudos to all involved in preparing for the racing as everything was incredibly well done.

Day 2 of the Red John O'Donovan Memorial racing weekend in West Cork started off with steady rains and a delay in post time until 3PM.

The rains stopped and by 4PM the sun was shining! The day's events were kicked off by a wonderful performance of pipes and drums. A ceremony was held and I was presented with a unique and beautiful sculpture designed specifically for this day!

The racing began and in the 2nd race "the Oakwood Stud" was won by none other than the great Rebel Rouser, owned by yours truly! "Rebel" had won last week in Dublin and is now 3 wins in 4 lifetime starts.

Rumors abounded that he might ship to America to challenge the great "Downbytheseaside", but those rumors are not yet confirmed! 

The feature races of the day were "The Maven Trot" and "The Red John O'Donovan" Memorial Pace. They were great races with well-deserved winners and I was privileged to present the trophies!

The weekend of racing in West Cork was great fun, or great "craic" as the Irish would say. I'm already looking forward to next year's racing!


And here are some final thoughts from the Red John Memorial Weekend organizer, Tim Kelleher.

The rain on Sunday morning around 11 am in Lyre was torrential.

Down on the track I could see Denis O Reilly and Timmy O Donovan moving the pegs on the track to fresh ground.  Are these boys mad to be out in this weather?

As a committee, we were faced with a decision to run or cancel. I knew in my heart that cancelling would be the last option.

I gathered my thoughts and looked west through the rain.

A tiny break of light in the sky. Is this the signal from our departed friend Red John … right lads we delay the start for an hour and hope for the best mentioned Ger Hegarty the owner of this beautiful venue.

Within ten minutes the rains had passed and the skies began to clear.

Rain jackets discarded we set about checking that all was well.

Another blip the race cards had not arrived. The printer Rob had worked until 5 am to get in the finals. Then like the break of light his van arrived “Sorry folks I slept it out.“ Panic over.

Slowly the horse trucks and trailers arrived and a steady stream of cars began to make their way to the car parks.

At 2:30 pm Gretta Cormican, who organized the stewards in military fashion, had a worry look on her face “Not a space left in the car park” (again a green field) “Open the wire to the next paddock” quipped her brother Ted.

Bang on 3 pm the show began.

For the amount of rain which fell the grass oval was still in good condition.

The day passed in an instant.

My personal highlight was the pre-race parade for the Maven Trotters Derby.

The Ballingeary Pipe Band paraded on the track everyone was out to see the pipers and drummers strut their stuff and were accorded the biggest cheer after they had finished.

This scribe had a funny moment which could have been serious.

I was having a quick word walking on the track next to Donal Murphy on IB A Magician before the Red John Consolation Final and suddenly his race cart broke at the bridge. His quick reaction ensured all was OK. New cart on horse and he goes out and wins the race.

Thanking people after events can lead to trouble but as one of the organizers I feel the following need special mention

Bill Donovan our main sponsor.

Caroline Collins out treasurer.

Ger Hegarty the land owner.

All at the IHRA office!

Members of the ITHRF.

2018 won’t be long coming around. BIGGER AND BETTER!

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