THE Red John O’Donovan Memorial Harness Racing Festival drew record crowds to the splendid Lyre raceway over the weekend.
Elimination heats were held on the Saturday for both the Red John Memorial Handicap for pacers and the Maven Derby for trotters. Brywins Starship took the opening heat of the Red John Pace leading home Fairdays Western.
Heat two went to On Top Big C, who saw off The Govenor in a pulsating contest. Rhyds Panache ran his rivals ragged in heat three, leading home Meadowbranch Roman by 11 lengths.
Streamside Star was most impressive, taking heat four with Maitha Buachaill grabbing the second qualifying spot. Rhyds Destiny got up in the shadow of the post to deny Kickass Katie in the fifth and final heat.
In the Maven Trotting Derby Heats, Urbano Des Selles made all to lead home Cilando De Temps in the first heat. Brutenor and Silvano Bello made it a one-two for the locals in heat two. Balarou Des Iles just held on from Ariane Des Tithais in the third heat. The top grade heat went to Donal Murphy and Alineka Darche, who was too good for Uldiem Alfa by two lengths. Sprinhill Doyle an Luke Kelleher upset the odds in the Grade E, D & B Pace. El Tejar despite two breaks confirmed his status as leading three-year-old trotter, getting back to beat Epice De La Goutte. Sunday was finals day and the organisers delayed the start of racing due to heavy morning rain.
The feature of an action-packed weekend was The Red John Memorial Pace, which saw a Rhyds Destiny come off a 40-yard trail to land the €10,000 top prize. On Top Big C and Steamside Star finished second and third. Brutenor with Patrick Hill took The Maven trotting Derby with Alineka Darche a distance back in second and there were emotional scenes in the presentation area where Hill, a best friend of the late Red John, was presented with the Maven Cup by the main sponsor Bill Donovan. Hill also took the Maven Consolation, with Aubade A Helene, who came off an 80-yard trail to win by four lengths from Tarnao Josselyn.
The Red John Handicap Consolation produced an epic finish with IB A Magician just touching off Brywins Picasso and Sunnyside Kildare. The Oakwood Stud Irish Three-Year-Old Grass Pacing Championship went to Rebel Rouser, who is owned By Bill Donovan and his entourage packed the presentation area after the race. Wellfield Ghost was a most impressive winner of the PJI Engineering Miracle Mile for driver John Manning Jnr, who also steered home Hurry Up Abi in the G & G1 Pace. Tenor Meslos took the Anto Russell Memorial Free for All Trot beating his old foe Ultimo D’Ouville. The weekend concluded with a win for Ringo Lady in the Grade F Pace.
RESULTS Red John Memorial Final (1¼ miles): 1. Rhyds Destiny (T O’Leary), 2. On Top Big C (P Kane Jnr), 3. Streamside Star (E Joyce); dist 3½l, 1¾l, time 2:44.5, ten ran. Maven Trotters Derby Final (1½ miles): 1. Brutenor (P Hill), 2. Alineka Darche (D Murphy), 3. Balarou Des Iles (A Wallace); dist 30l, 1¾ l, time 3:21, eight ran. Red John Consolation Final (1¼ miles): 1. IB A Magician (D Murphy), 2. Brywins Picasso (L Kelleher), 3. Sunnyside Kildare (S Quill); dist ½l, ¾l, time 2:50.6, nine ran. Maven Consolation Final (1½ miles): 1. Aubade a Helene (P Hill), 2. Tarnao Josselyn (S Quill), 3. Saxo de Maroncourt (S Kane); dist 4l, 1l, time 3:29.1, eight ran. Oakwood Stud Three-Year-Old Grass Pacing Championship (1 mile): 1. Rebel Rouser (D Murphy), 2. Rhyds Rival (B Roche), 3. Earnies Umpire (M O’Reilly), dist 2¼l, 3½l, time 2:09.7, seven ran. PJI Engineering Miracle Mile: 1. Wellfield Ghost (J Manning Jnr); 2. Camden Cassanova (J Richardson); 3. Rhyds Boots (S Duggan); dist 8l, ½l, no time available, eight ran. Anto Russell Memorial FFA Trot (1½ miles): 1. Tenor Meslois (D Murphy), 2. Ultimo d’Ouville (A Wallace), 3. Best of Burious (J Richardson); dist 2¼l, 4½l, time 3:21.9, four ran. Grade F (1 mile): 1. Ringo Lady (T O’Reilly), 2. Mr Security (M O’Donovan), 3. I Told You So (M Goggin Jnr); dist 6¾l, 6l, time 2:17.3, five ran. Grade G & G1 (1 mile): 1. Hurry Up Abi (J Manning Jnr), 2. Hillside Mustang (K Sheehy), 3. Meadowbranch Matt (M Kelleher); dist 4¾l, 18½l, time 2:15.9, six ran.