Day At The Track

Wales review of the year: Harness racing

04:21 AM 30 Dec 2017 NZDT
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Greenhill Lillian, harness racing
The winner of the very first race of the season was Greenhill Lillian

Looking back on Mid Wales trotting during 2017 one inevitably thinks of the weather, which generally provided good conditions for racing, it was a little dry early on, but the showers in the latter part of the season helped the tracks provide some wonderfully competitive harness racing.

As usual the season began on the all weather track at Amman Valley with two meetings a fortnight apart, the prestigious Llangadog meeting has provided the opening meeting of the season for generations and still retains the atmosphere of anticipation for the start of racing.

The winner of the very first race of the season was Greenhill Lillian (Thomas, Rhymney) in the nursery when she clocked up an excellent time which that day was only beaten by the open horses. We should have taken notice then, that this was a mare to watch. After a few outings in May and June it was July before she got into her stride to win five races in three weeks including, Aberystwyth, Caersws, the STAGBI mares’ free for all and completing the series by winning Novice heat and final at Penybont along with two wins on her final appearance of the year she secured the Mathew Tromans cup for the most improved horse.

Also she had third place in the junior President’s cup and ninth in the prizewinners’ list winning over one thousand pounds in just 12 starts.

This homebred five year old looks all set to reach racing heights. The President’s cup for junior horses was dominated by five year old mares, Rhyds Panalulah (Gething, Ewyas Harold) was second while the hard working Turn the Paige (Miles, Merthyr) secured the trophy. The President’s cup for the open horses was won by the top money winner for the season Chinatown Kolt (Jones, Llanllwni) on his first season with Mid Wales racing, he claimed £2,230 from 30 starts, his first success came at Knighton races, the first grass meeting of the season, he kept up the Hitchcock stable tradition and took heat and final at Penybont this helped secure the title of people’s favourite for the year.

Second in the President’s cup was the stunning Ayr Ontario (Weigel, Llanddewi Velfrey) he won the Presteigne grade B final along with several others, and in third place was Lakeside Pan (Elder, New Quay) he was another horse winning at the first meeting in May, as well as the prestigious Talgarreg meeting, the Ammanford free for all in July as well as several heats, despite his handicap going back to fifty yards for this he was awarded the Terry Boxhall Memorial cup for outstanding performance. Pan was also third in the winners list with £2,030 to his credit.

Ithon Inmate (Price, Brecon) didn’t collect any silverware at the annual awards, but he was again in the list of the top prizewinners with over two thousand pounds and 8 wins to celebrate. Rebus (Thomas, Rhymney) a little horse who proved to have a big heart was fourth in the prizemoney stakes winning over £1,500 he had to play second fiddle to Chinatown Kolt at Penybont but at the Llandrindod meeting a couple of weeks later he took heat and final. He finished the season with 6 wins one of which was his first saddle with daughter Lucy in the plate.

Fold the Notes (Perks, Presteigne) is a well named horse, he took the Kington grade B heat & final as well as the Caersws B final with two saddle wins, one at Penybont and one at Almeley he and partner Rebecca Williams have shown great adaptability to clock up 6 wins and £1,225 and now transfers into the Grade A. George Gentle began the season in the Novice division and with four wins on the trot, he also won the Grade B final at Old Radnor races and finished the season with £1,045 in the pot.

No Mercy (Weigel, Llanddewi Velfrey) hung up his harness at the end of the season after another good year when he retained his title as saddle horse of the year partnered as always by Jayne Bevan from Llanddewi who retained the leading jockey title. Alongside his saddle success he claimed wins at Ammanford and the A final at Talsarn, his total prizemoney for the year was £1,030.

Chinatown Samuel (Moorhouse, Llandinam) was another horse who joined us this year, on only his second outing he won the Talgarreg Novice final this graduating him into open company. Although he enjoyed a couple of heat wins it wasn’t until the Llandrindod meeting on August Bank Holiday Monday that he secured his second final win, this making his season’s total £1,025.

The Bold Jack tenth in the list of winners of over one thousand pounds prize money changed hands in the closed season. His new owner young Jonny James from Dorstone rejuvenated the horse, winning the B finals at Ludlow and Aberystwyth as well as a heat at Penybont, unfortunately he picked up an injury and his season was cut short, otherwise what stats would he have lodged?

Second to Jayne Bevan in the saddle jockey championship was Rebecca Williams from Ludlow where she claimed saddle wins on Fold the Notes (Perks, Presteigne) and her own Nia Patrol. In the main drivers championship it was Mel Langford from Onibury who beat all comers winning 22 races and being placed 38 times. The horses which provided most of her wins were Chinatown Samuel (Moorhouse, Llandinam) Evenwood Thumps Up (Lewis, Llanbister) with a tally of 8 wins and Ayr Hero (Bevan, Llanddewi) who won the Aberystwyth A final.

Second in the lady drivers’ championship with 14 wins, was Rebecca Williams showing she is just as happy in the saddle or on the sulky, most of her driven wins were with Fold the Notes and Ithon Hannah both belonging to the Perks family from Presteigne, and in third place was Janet Thomas from Tregroes with 11 wins most of them coming from Turn the Paige (Miles, Merthyr) and her own Hyar Temptation.

The male drivers’ championship was won by Mathew Tromans with 22 wins and 15 places most of these wins came from Habberley Playboy (Johns & Gittins, Shrewsbury) Lakeview Meg (Atherton-Rees, Narberth) Made in Wales (Evans, Red Roses) and Meadowland Olympic (Evans, Newcastle Emlyn). Runner up in the drivers’ championship for the men was Derek Pritchard from Rhosgoch with 21 wins many with the iconic Ithon Inmate (Price, Brecon) while Rhyds Panalulah and Cool Ice both from the Gething stable at Ewyas Harold added to his total. Mark Evans from Brecon was third with 16 wins, his most successful drives coming with Greenhill Lillian and Rebus from the Thomas stable at Rhymney as well as his own Ook whos coming.

The junior driver/rider championship was keenly contested again this year with the title going to Ellie Tromans from Newcastle Emlyn several of her wins were on Habberley Playboy (Johns & Gittins, Shrewsbury) so father and daughter enjoyed a double celebration of their respective drivers’ championship. Second in the junior was Rachel Bevan-Thomas who enjoyed 4 wins while cousins, Josie Duggan (Howey) and Issy John (Llangunllo) shared third position with one win and one second each.

Time marches on, the horses have been turned out for a well-earned rest, while owners, trainers and drivers begin to plan their 2018 campaign. Reflections on 2017 turn into expectations for 2018. Soon it will be spring, horses will be brought back into training ready to start next season at the beginning of May, the sporting cycle continues as it has done for generations in this traditional equine activity of Mid Wales.

By Maureen Lloyd

Reprinted with permission of The Brecon and Rodnor Express

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