Lots of West Cork success in Red John festival

August 30th, 2023 1:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

Winner of race 11 at The Red John Memorial harness race meeting was Foxfield Kendall, driven by Rossmore-based Jamie Hurley. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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FOLLOWING heavy rain on Friday, the organising committee decided to hold all 20 races in the Red John Memorial Festival of Harness Racing in Lyre.

From humble beginnings in 2015, this event has grown into the biggest grass-racing meeting in Ireland and the UK. John O’Donovan from Leap tragically passed away in January 2015, but his memory lives on in this meet that has grown to an international event with competitors and spectators from Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, France, USA and Australia attending.

Features of the weekend were the Red John Memorial for pacers and The Maven Cup for trotters; two elimination heats were held in both.

First up in the pace there was a local win for Reenascreena-based Jamie Hurley with Oakwood Maestro. The second heat went the way of Cash All from Dublin. In the final, Newtown Major set a real good pace and led out the final circuit but John Richardson on Cash All was waiting in the wings, joined issue down the back and went on to win from Newtown Major.

In The Maven heats Humour De Cosse – owned by Pete Hill from Leap and driven by visiting French driver Frank Ouivre – were convincing winners. The second heat went the way of Longford-based Ronan Norton with Fairplay Briolais. In the final

Feline Des Noes led from the off and on the final lap still led. The chasing pack was all closing in and Fairplay Briolais hit the front in the final 200 yards to land the prize with stable companion Iron Paddy finishing second.

There was drama in The Red John Memorial Free For All Pace. Northern Pride had led everywhere after taking all challenges but was adjudged to have ‘gone inside’ the marking pegs and was disqualified. It meant Newtown Jody – trained in the UK by John Gill – was awarded the race in the stewards room.

In The Maven Free For All Trot there was local and European success in the shape of Duc D'Arry, who is owned by Denis O’Reilly from Drimoleague and driven by Frenchman Frank Ouivre. The pair hit the front on the second circuit and were never going to be caught, coming home ten lengths clear at the finish.

Frank Ouivre is one of the top drivers in France and finished up with four winning drives, taking two of the Ireland v France challenge races, on Brutenor for Pete Hill from Leap and Isora De Source from Dublin.

The Three-Year-Old Grass Championships saw the Limerick-owned Sweet Jeff really show his class, leading home his rivals in emphatic fashion. The Four-Year-Old Championships went to Down-trained Sweet Caroline who also won its graded race.

The Saturday programme opened with a win from the Murphy brothers from Baltimore with Streams of Whiskey breaking his maiden tag, retained driver Donal Murphy in the bike.

Devoir Math was strong in the betting ring and gave his supporters no worries with an all-the-way win, Billy Roche from Dublin the winning driver. Roche, dubbed ‘The Red Baron’, was also a winner with Jezabella Gregane in the four-year-old trot.

Mike Evans from Tregaron in Wales came to Lyre with the unexposed Hermoni D'Orient and the Welsh raider was too good for the locals with a five-length win.

Foxfield Kendal for Jamie Hurley and Crossmaglen owner Pa Carbery were easy winners in the maiden pace.

The Kanes from Meath rarely leave Lyre without a winner and this time they got two on the score-sheet – Ladyford Express with Mark Kane in the sulky won the Grade F pace, his brother Patrick then steered home the well-gambled Stateside Deuce in the Grade E Pace. Both brothers were great friends with the late ‘Red’ John O’Donovan.

Great credit must go to all for completing the marathon 20-race programme and the weather gods were a help despite the cancellation on Saturday. This was the ninth year of the festival in memory of ‘Red’ John O’Donovan and the committee are already planning for the tenth anniversary next year.

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