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Biggest, Best Delaney Memorial Weekend

Published: August 5, 2015 8:57 am ET

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This Saturday and Sunday the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial harness racing weekend at Portmarnock Raceway has developed into the biggest and richest race weekend in all of the Ireland and the U.K.

A record 169 horses were entered in the box for the two-day meet. Last year it was 136, a 22 per cent increase. Purses are at an all-time high at over €80,000 ($87,000 US), a 48 per cent increase over prior year and the final of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial is racing for a record €18,500 this year ($20,000 US), plus a €$4,000 ($4,350US) consolation race. Last year there was just a final for €12,000.

“It's just amazing how this race has grown,” said Derek Delaney, who with his brother James, had developed this race weekend in memory of their younger brother Vincent, who tragically died in 2011.

“This is just the fourth edition of the Delaney Memorial,” Delaney said. “And this Saturday we will have three elimination divisions. It’s just wonderful how big this weekend has grown in such a short time.”

The Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial is for two-year-old pacers. Of the three elimination divisions, one is for fillies and two are for colts. The top two finishers from each heat, plus the two fastest third place finishers, return for the final on Sunday. Fillies will draw for inside post positions on the half-mile oval.

In addition to the Delaney Memorial elims on Saturday there will be two elimination divisions of the Oakwood Stud Three-Year-Old Open and on Sunday will be the finals of each of the series.

Also Sunday, the inaugural Red John Memorial FFA Junior Pace that drew two full fields, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial, the Inner-Dominion Trot and Irish-American FFA take place. A total of 24 races will be conducted over the two-day meet.

“There is also more to this weekend than just racing,” Delaney added, “We will have special guests from around the world. Drivers George Brennan from the U.S. and Dexter Dunn from New Zealand will be competing, trainers John McDermott from the U.S. and Cran Dalgety from New Zealand are coming.

“So is the great [Hall of Fame announcer] Roger Huston coming back again to call the races,” Delaney added. “And other trainers and horse people from Canada, England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Belgium and Sweden are all coming over for my brother’s race weekend. It’s just too much for words.”

Derek Delaney heads everything concerning the race weekend. He, along with his brother James, other volunteers and friends, make this weekend extra special for visiting guests.

“We will be going on a carriage ride through Dublin on Thursday,” Delaney explained, “then a Viking Splash Tour ride of the city, followed by lunch at the worldly renowned Temple Bar. On Friday we have a tour bus taking everyone out to the country to Oakwood Stud Farm and training facility followed by lunch at a local pub.

“Then Friday night, Delaney said, “We have a gala dinner to kick-off the weekend for more than 200 people. On Saturday and Sunday it’s all harness racing at Portmarnock.”

And there is more, of course, as the entire weekend also features fund raising for the Saving Dylan Fund, which raises money to fight Multiple Sulfatase Deficiency (MSD), a genetic disease in children that is rapidly degenerative and fatal. Dylan and his family will be part of the festivities throughout the weekend. So far more than €15,000 has been raised.

There will be exhibitions of Irish Dancing and music at the races, a ladies' dress and hat competition, plenty of bookies to take bets on the races and this year -- due to matching grant funds -- a permanent judges' stand and announcer booth, a built-in electronic teletimer, new covered grandstand and a new playground area for the children.

Considering harness racing was very stagnant for years in Ireland and the U.K., the work that Derek Delaney and his crew have done over the past few years is astonishing. They have helped immensely in the revitalization of harness racing for the British Isles. Every year yearling prices have increased, more owners getting into the sport, top of the line pacers from North America and trotters from France are being imported for racing and breeding.

With estimated crowds to be in the thousands this weekend, little Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin, Ireland has been transposed into a Little Brown Jug / Elitloppet / Gold Cup & Saucer weekend of its very own.

(Steven Wolf for the Ladbrokes Delaney Memorial)

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