Day At The Track

Grand finale held at Annaghmore Raceway

04:40 AM 20 Oct 2017 NZDT
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Harness racing
The McSparron family getting presented with the Kyle Mcsparron Memorial Cup
Carmel Stewart photo

 Annaghmore, IE - The curtain fell on the 2017 season at Annaghmore Raceway last Saturday afternoon where every contest was a memorial cup race in posthumous honour of legendary Northern Irish harness racing figures down through the decades.

The programme opened with the Anto Russell Memorial and Gabriel McDonaghs Chinatown Jess prevailed in this over Shane Gallaghers Derrybeg and Damien Holians Endoftheline in 2:05.7.

It was a welcome return to form for the filly and her proud owner vowed that it wouldn’t be the last we hear of Jess promising a lot more to come from this Welsh bred juvenile. Bobby Hanson was a legendary OTD on the harness racing scene in Ireland best known for horses such as Dorney Reveller, Worth Seeing, Stoneriggs Lady, Spice Girl, Fair Kitty, Stormy Reveller, Frisco Titan and too many more to mention.

His Memorial Cup race on Saturday was a close run affair that was won by New London Hanover and beaming driver John Richardson was visibly thrilled to have won this prestigious race in 2:02 from IB Cymru and Amy Camden.

If it wasn’t for Patsy Dean we wouldn’t have son Greg or daughter Brenda involved in the sport and both have proved pivotal in the success of harness racing in Ireland over the past 4 decades. His memorial cup race was won by the son of another living legend in Lawrence Stewart son of living legend Walter.

Driving Porterstown Courage the combination defeated Lucky Cam, denying Greg Deans the pleasure of winning his fathers cup but that’s racing and the unlucky loser congratulated Lawrence in the winners enclosure in the ultimate act of sportsmanship.

The time was a respectable 2:02 and Mystical Carbs took third The Nixon family reached the pinnacle of the sport in the 1980s when The Lucky One triumphed in the Famous Musselburgh Pace but it is with trotters that George Nixon will be most associated with.

His memorial cup race on Saturday was a French imported trotters event and ended in the closest finish of the day between Bravoure De Mai and Umbratica. The latter hit the front with a circuit to run and just as it seemed that John Richardson had did enough to win with the chestnut mare, along came Martin Loughran to swoop late and land the spoils with the former in 2:06.

The recently acquired Blanpain Le Fol claimed third place for Gabrial McDonagh.

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house in the seasons finale when Martin McSparron won the Kyle McSparron Memorial Cup with stable star Astounding. The partnership had the final say on the final day, a fitting tribute to son Kyle who died in tragic circumstances in 2016.

Kyle drove Astounding all last season and Martin took over the training and driving in 2017 in honour of his son, and keeping the spirit alive of the young man who loved harness racing and loved Annaghmore raceway just as much.

Taking up the running just after the off, Astounding never seen another rival and despite Rhyds Boots and Im Impartial Toos efforts in the home straight the Scottish bred gelding held on to win in an electric 2:00.6. All the McSparron family were on hand for the presentation of the cup, a fitting end to a great season at Annaghmore.

2017 was arguably the best season for harness racing in many years in Northern Ireland with a classic race staged at Annaghmore virtually every week throughout the summer and NISA would like to thank all sponsors, owners, trainers, drivers, stewards, bookmakers and punters alike for their unwavering support all season in what were often challenging times. Its truly appreciated by all those determined to keep the sport alive and thriving in Northern Ireland. 

by Thomas Bennett, for  Annaghmore Raceway

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