The Red John Memorial was set up in 2015 following the tragic death of “Red” John O Donovan in January 2015. John was only 27 when he passed away but was a life long supporter of Harness racing in his native Cork and far beyond.
The 2015 Memorial was a one day event but in 2016 the Red John Memorial became a two day event with the main race of the weekend The Red John Memorial Handicap carried a total purse of €5000.
In 2017 all records will be broken with prize money in excess of €90,000 .
This year Lyre approx 2 miles from the bustling town of Clonakilty will be the venue for what promises to be the biggest ever harness meeting staged in the West Cork region .The venue is owned by Ger Hegarty who has long being involved in the sport and boasts a natural grand stand which gives race goers a panoramic view of this half mile all grass oval.
Clonakilty is around an hours drive from Cork International Airport and is on the gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way in West Cork.
The Red John Memorial Handicap is for pacers born in 2013 or before is the feature of the weekend
The final which will be made up of eight qualifiers from elimination heats and will have a total purse of €20,000 with a winners prize of €10,000 making it the richest handicap in Ireland and The UK.
The committee are indebted to Bill Donovan from Florida who has generously agreed to sponsor the event for the next three years .Donovan is president of a large trucking business based in Boston and has links to several more transport companies. His passion for standardbreds both trotters and pacers has put him in a position of one of the leading owners on the USA harness racing circuit.
Bill has ancestoral links in Skibbereen and has forged strong links with the Murphy family from Baltimore through IB Coyote a mare jointly owned by Bill and the Murphy brothers Tadhg and Donal who won the prestigious Vincent Delaney Memorial two year old championship in 2016 and this was the catalyst for him getting involved in sponsoring the weekend
Bill has also sent a few of his own horses over from the USA to be trained and raced here in Ireland.
Bill has also stepped in to sponsor “The Maven Derby” another handicap event this time for trotters born in 2014 or before.
Maven was one of the greatest trotting mares ever to race in the USA and actually raced for a time in Etilop in Sweden. In 70 lifetime starts, Maven earned $2,005,369. With 31 wins, 14 second place finishes and 4 thirds. Her lifetime record is her world record performance over the Delaware track when she scorched that surface in 1:51.4h. In 2013, she was honored to receive the USTA’s Dan Patch Award and Canada’s Joe O’Brien Award as the sport’s top older trotting mare.
This will be ran on the same lines as The Red John Handicap with eliminations and the grand final also for a total purse of €20,000
Bill says himself “Maven was a dream come true for me a mare of a lifetime but I have been blessed to have owned some great horses besides Maven Ashleys Husband p,1.49.1 $250,736, Band Of Angels p,3 1.50 $487,150 , Bettor B Lucky p,3 1.50 $750,936 , Holier Than Thou p,3 1.50.1 $152,778 (World Champion) , Im On Cloud Nine p,3 1.54.2 $214,374 , Jolene Jolene p,2 1.52 $239,637 (World Champion) Lauderdale p,1.53.2 $386,189 , Medusa p,1.49 $432,012 Mistery Woman p,4 1.51 (World Champion) and Shared Past p,3 1.53 $416,606 have all given me so much success in harness racing and coming here to Cork to support the Red John Weekend gives me a chance to give something back to racing here where my fore fathers emigrated from many years ago “
With the success of The Vincent Delaney Memorial in Portmarnock The Red John Memorial weekend takes place on Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th August which is the week after The Delaney weekend and it gives harness racing followers a week long of top class racing both in Dublin and here In Cork and The overseas visitors will be guaranteed a great time .
Both The Red John and Maven Derby will see owners paying three sustaining fees of €100 per horse
The organisation of such a big event could not happen without the help of so many people and the harness racoing community here in West Cork are really pulling out all the stops to ensure this weekend will grow from humble beginings and become “The One” all owners and trainers want to win .
“No matter what we ask of people putting up the track , sourcing stables for the visiting horses and garning sponsorship there is always a positive outcome and without all this help such a weekend would not happen “said Micheal O Donovan (brother of the Late Red John)
“What can we say only Bill Donovan has put us in a great position with his generous sponsorship and Im sure Red John will be looking down on us smiling on how big the weekend has become”added Caroline Collins of the Red John Committee
Following on from last year Oakwood Stud will again sponsor the Three Year Old Grass Pacing Championship which was a huge success in its first year. “Derek Delaney rang me last year and said why not try a three year old series which he and his brother James would sponsor so we did and hopefully that grows just the way the VDM has ” said Tim Kelleher of the committee “This year Derek rang and said they were again coming on board and to be honest we must mention all the rest of our sponsors from near and far who have been so generous ” added Kelleher ” We are always looking for new sponsors and The Clonakilty Chamber Of Commerce have been most helpful ”
The programme of events reads as follows
THE RED JOHN MEMORIAL HANDICAP 1 ¼ MILES
Heats €1600 (Estimated)
Consolation Final €5000
THE MAVEN TROTTING DERBY 1 ½ MILES
Consolation Final €8000
THE OAKWOOD STUD IRISH THREE YEAR OLD GRASS PACING CHAMPIONSHIP
Estimated prize fund €5000
THE PJI ENGINEERING FREE FOR ALL
Estimated prize fund €3000
There will be a full supporting programme on both days with bumper prize money for all races .
The on line entry system will be available shortly as will details of Stabling and hotels .