Looney Family Heading To Ireland

Published: May 4, 2016 10:20 am EDT

They may only be a little crazy by name, but the Looney Family from Delaware -- Joann Looney-King, Susan Looney and Heather Looney Vitale -- are all set to invade Ireland this August.

The baby of the Looney family, Heather, has spearheaded this adventure to the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend at Portmarnock Raceway. This marks Heather's third straight year of going to Ireland for the Vincent Delaney (August 13th and 14th), and this year she's bringing her mom and her sister to share the adventure.

"When I tell people how incredible the Delaney Memorial weekend is, I just have a hard time explaining it,” explained Heather Vitale. “I tell everyone about how much fun the atmosphere is and how friendly and enthusiastic the Irish are, but words don't give it justice.

“You have to be there to really be able to understand how truly special it is!” Vitale said, “I talked about the weekend so much and how much fun it was and my mom and sister knew they had to experience it for themselves."

Over the past four years, brothers Derek and James Delaney have developed the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend (named after their younger brother who tragically died of a massive heart attack in 2011), the biggest racing weekend in all of Ireland and the UK.

The Delaney Memorial is for two-year-old pacers and is the richest stakes race in Ireland and the UK. This year, for the first time, there is a filly division sponsored by Adam Bowden and Diamond Creek Farm. Eliminations take place Saturday and the final is on Sunday.

In addition to the Delaney Memorial, there are other major stakes events including the Oakwood Stud Derby for three-year-olds, the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial Championship for four-year-olds, the Rock N Roll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace, sponsored by the Bellino Stable and LeTrot Series events.

"I'm so happy we are taking this girls' road trip,” Vitale said. “The last time the three of us went on a trip together, it was 15 years ago! We are long overdue for some quality time like this and this race weekend is perfect. The Delaney brothers are so welcoming and the horsemen and women are so passionate and the fans are so much fun."

“We love having Heather here the past two years,” Derek Delaney said with a grin and a smile. “But I don’t know if Ireland is ready for the whole family. It will be our pleasure to have Heather’s mom and sister with us too. They are great horse people and we will show them a super time.”

Joann Looney-King is no stranger to harness racing. She was the first woman driver ever to win a race at the Meadowlands and this past year was the 2015 Billy Haughton Good Guy Award winner at the USHWA Dan Patch Dinner. This past year she trained the top three-year-old pacer, Wakizashi Hanover and currently has the undefeated trotter Maestro Blue Chip in perfect form.

"After hearing Heather talk about her trips to Ireland,” Looney-King said, “I knew I had to get over there and see it for myself. I've never been to Ireland before so this is going to be fantastic. I'm really looking forward to the racing over there and meeting the horsemen and women who love this sport. The entire adventure should be wonderful from the trip to Oakwood Farm to walking around Dublin.

"I'll be 70 this month (May 14),” Looney-King admits, “and I can't think of a better way to celebrate a milestone year than enjoying Ireland with my daughters."

And older daughter Susan Looney is no stranger to harness racing. She was the youngster driver ever to win a race at the Meadowlands at age 16 in 1983 and then went on to become the first woman driver ever to win at Garden State Park. She now has her Doctorate in law and education and is presently the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at the Reading Area Community College.

"I am so excited about joining my sister and my mother in Ireland.” Susan Looney said. “After watching the videos my sister took while she was there the past two years, I couldn't resist joining her this summer. I am so looking forward to seeing the beautiful country and the inspiring harness racing in Ireland."

It will not be all play and little work for Heather Vitale while in Ireland. She will be doing live Facebook broadcasts from Portmarnock Raceway during the week along with added features from her trip for her show, Post Time, in the USA.

Vitale, in addition to producing her Post Time show in the USA, also has co-hosted the CBS Sportsnet Little Brown Jug broadcast in 2014 and 2015.

(with files from the Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee)