ALL roads will lead to Old Chapel in Bandon this Sunday for the 2016 All-Ireland road trotting final.
For many of the purists of the sport, the famous Old Chapel Road, on the western side of this bustling West Cork town, is the place to win this coveted crown. The half-mile tarmac is probably the best road on the circuit and, unlike most of the roads, spectators can see all the action first hand.
Old Chapel is a road that holds no prisoners and the run to the finish usually sorts out the men from the boys, as there is a slight rise to the line.
With €2,000 in purse money for the final, an entry of six is expected.
John Shanahan is no stranger to winning the All-Ireland. Dream Maker, Fidlin and Bodeen Hilos Pride have all won the crown for Shanahan, who trains from the Lakeview Stud in Leap. Shanahan is hoping to have two runners but injury doubts surround both.
Dream Maker, a son of Ambro Operative, is back to defend the title he won in Baltimore last year. Of his five starts this year his record reads three wins and a second but his stable companion, Maithi Buachaill, if fit, will start as race favourite. He is owned by Paddy Kane from County Meath and is unbeaten so far this season, winning three Grade B races. He stepped up to Grade A at Durrus and won with a bit in hand. A son of Cams Security – a stallion owned by Shanahan – this former top-class turf and track specialist has really taken to road racing. Jockey Deirdre Goggin will partner her own Conway Tiger and this decision must have been a tough one as she has won five on Rhyds Ponder, who will also take his chances in the final.
Conway Tiger has been a model of consistency all year and captured the win at the big memorial meeting in Skibbereen and will have a major say in the destination of the race. A veteran son of Camp Conway and Tiger Doll, Conway Tiger would be a popular winner.
Rhyds Ponder, unbeaten all year, won here last year in the Grade C and all his wins have been by a wide margin – Sunday will be his first tilt at the big boys.
Mountain Dew Lad, like Rhyds Ponder, is owned by the Forbes family from Drimoleague and this son of Best Sunshine and Fame Again will be one of the outsiders.
Lakeside Dragon produced his best run in Durrus and this son of Make A Deal and Coalford Scooter will have Maurice Ahern in the plate and a repeat of the Durrus form puts him firmly in the shake-up.
Rhyds Trixter, a son of Hasty Hall and Coalford Magic, is also expected to line up. Owned by Denis Deasy, Mick Hurley and Jerry Keohane, he will be another outsider but must be respected.
There are a total of six races on the day and the action gets underway at 2.30pm. Let’s hope all runners make it to the start on the day for another renewal of this classic event. Details of entries can be found on www.harnessracingcork.com.