The official website of Irish Harness Racing Association

Red John Memorial Weekend

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. 

Red John

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

The Le Trot organisation  from France are joint sponsors with Mr Donovan for this race which honours Maven a horse owned by Bill Donovan.  

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  

Heats €1600 (Estimated)
Final €20,000
Consolation Final €5000

Heats €2800
Final €20,000
Consolation Final €8000


Estimated prize fund €5000

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 .




The Irish Harness Racing Association as part of their overall plan to establish the industry within Ireland are inviting expression of interests from interested parties who wish to improve Training Facilities.


The Equine Industry are now eligible to apply for grant aid under €225m LEADER Programme
Grant aid of up to €150,000 maximum or 50% of approved costs, is available to auxillary services to the Equine industry under the LEADER programme following recent changes to the programmes operating rules.
Projects must involve investment that are primarily for public use. Private equine facilities not open to the public are ineligible for aid. The local LEADER companies administer the programme in each county and the application is a 2 stage process this time around. The eligibility of your project can in the first instance be checked by completing an expression of interest from available from your local LEADER group. If eligible you will provided with a full application pack for completion.

Examples of projects potential eligible: Equestrian Centre/ Riding school/ Livery yard capital projects, Measures that further promote rural tourism such as agricultural shows and other events and measures that enhance access to bridle ways on public and private lands.

The IHRA want to coordinate all applications and to make sure that they maximise the benefit to the industry from the Leader Program.

If you require anymore information please call
Mark Flanagan (086) 269 8399
James Levis  (086) 161 0051

IHRA Update March

During these past months the IHRA Board of Directors has been busy in a number of development and operational areas.

The most important item has been the work being carried for the Economic Study into the Harness Racing Industry in Ireland and the potential impact this sector can have on the Irish Economy. This work is being undertaken by the independent Economic Group ‘Indecon’ and was commissioned by the Department of Agriculture on behalf of the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine. The study is due to be completed during the coming days and it is anticipated the Report will be presented to the Department of Agriculture by the end of next week. The IHRA Board believe this Report will have a profound effect on the future of our sport.

During this past week the Board finalised our submission for funding under the ‘Equine Technical Support & Equine Breeding’ program. This is our second year applying for funding under this scheme. Last year the IHRA received approximately €21.000 for various projects from this initiative.

This year the IHRA has again applied for a range of projects to be funded with a big emphasis on integrity. The following is a list of funding projects which applications have been submitted for:

  • Blood Gas Analysers
  • Photo Finish
  • Testing Stables
  • New Entrants Training Course
  • WTO Conference
  • RDS Exhibitors Stand

 This funding is available as a direct result of the IHRA becoming a ‘Passport Issuing Authority’.

With in excess of 140 passport applications submitted to date and the transfer of approximately 450 standardbred mares, stallions and race horses from STAGBI to IHRA Stud Book it is now estimated that there is somewhere in the region of a 90% compliance rate in this regard.

Friday 3rd of March will see the first ever training program undertaken by the IHRA for Stewarding. Six members of the IHRA will fly to France to under go ‘Race Day Training’ and will return on the Monday evening. The six representatives include James O’Sullivan, James Levis, Jonathon Nixon, Peter Clarke, David Sheehy and TJ O’Farrell.

All aspects of Stewarding will be covered and it’s envisaged a second training program will be organised. Anyone who would like to become involved in Stewarding should contact James Levis.

An eight day training program for Amateur Drivers to be held at Le-Trot’s training centre at Grobois south of Paris. Course details have been agreed to with the French Authorities. Curriculum subjects will include:

  • Mobile Starts
  • Daily Horse Training
  • Breaking and Ethological Approach
  • Cardio Training Usage
  • Physical Effort When Training
  • Horse Shoeing
  • Training Methods

together with visits to a Veterinary Clinic and Vincennes.

More information will be available shortly.

On the racing front IHRA will offer in 2017 record prizemoney’s amounting to approximately €700k. This will be distributed across all tracks.

I’m sure you will agree that this truly remarkable.

Sixty-Five French Trotters have recently been purchased to compete in the lucrative ‘LeTrot’ series of races which will be worth over €420k in 2017.

There has also been plenty of  activity in the sales rings in both the UK and USA for two year olds to compete in the 2017 VDM to be held in Portmarnock on the 12th & 13th of August.

The IHRA Integrity Committee is working closely with Horse Sport Ireland to ensure that our processes and the effectiveness of our Integrity testing is maximised and an update on all integrity matters will be made by this Committee before the commencement of the 2017 racing season.


A further update on all the above will be made before the end of March.

TF Mares Sale

IHRA are pleased to announce a French Trotter Broodmares in Foal Sale

The IHRA and LeTrot have compiled a list of over 150 quality mares that are in foal and due to foal in 2017 to choose from.

These selected Mares will travel back to Ireland in the next two weeks to foal in Ireland and can then be covered with our stallions standing in Ireland.

The Mares being offered are of a very high breeding quality and are in foal to quality French Stallions.

There is also a high number of premium mares on the list which carry a €700 subsidy from LeTrot when the mares are scanned back in foal and this continues until the mare is finished breeding.

You also have the 20% covering subsidy and the 10% breeders bonus which means the breeder of any French breed foal born in Ireland will receive 10% of all prize money the resulting foal earns during its racing career, this is a separate fund to the prize money that the horse earns.

Also in 2020 when our Irish breed trotters are three, the opportunity to buy young three year olds out of France will be dramatically curtailed to favour horses bred in Ireland and this will also be reflected in the increased prize money that Irish bred horses will race for from 2020.

This is a great opportunity to get into the breeding of French Trotters and avail of the many incentives on offer.

The cost of the mare landed in Ireland and covering fee paid is projected to be €4,700, normal selecting criteria will apply.

Please contact:
Mark Flanagan
+353 (86) 269 8399

James Sullivan
+353 (87) 257 1330

IHRA Breeding Initiatives

As you might be aware the IHRA have embarked on an ambitious breeding plan over the next ten years as part of their strategy to grow the industry. This plan started last year with the breeding of 40 Trotting Mares in France and resulting foals due over the next couple of months.

As part of the initial breeding initiative we advised breeders that there will be a breeding premium of 10% paid on these foals earning from 2020 onwards. This is payable to the breeder throughout the horses racing career.
This means if a horse wins €1,000 the registered breeder at the time of foaling will receive €100 and continues until the horse retires from racing.

Further on from that the IHRA want to introduce a covering subsidy for covering a French Mare to an Irish based French stallion.
A grant/subsidy of 20% of the cost of stallion fee is being introduced and applies to 2017 coverings, to be paid within 30 days of live foal or 30 days after notification of live foal. Available to all owners of French Mares who cover to French Stallions standing in Ireland.

Due to recent enquiries the IHRA in conjunction with Letrot are organising a sale for broodmares who are in foal and are due to foal in 2017 which will also help increase our Irish bred horses available to race in 2020. The cost of these Mares will be approx €4,700 and include the 2016 stallion fee, vat, transport and associated costs while the Mare is in France. We envisage these Mares arriving back in Ireland in late February.
The IHRA plan to introduce a more extensive plan for the Breeding Industry in Ireland that will take into account all breeding activity being carried out in middle of 2017.
Again the Board of the IHRA wish to thank all its members for their enthusiasm and engagement in our pursuit in growing our industry.

IHRA Premium meetings 2017

★ ☆
Eleven Fabulous Days of Racing with close to Half a Million in Purses

June 4th | Dundalk
Harness Racing Returns to Dundalk with Ireland first PMU meeting

  • 5 premium PMU races for Ireland’s top trotters with a purse of €7,000 per race.
  • Also  3 heats of the €120,000 series for our three year old trotters.

June 10th & 11th | Portmarnock
Robert & Peter Grendon Memorial Weekend
€45,000 in total purses

  • Trot Heats & Final with Final winner receiving  first prize of €8,000 
  • Pace Heats & Final with Final winner receiving  first prize of €8,000

July 9th | Portmarnock
Sire Stakes Ireland 
Ireland’s premier race meeting for Irish and British bred horses by nominated stallions

  • Two Year Old Colts and Fillies Divisions
  • Three Year Old Colts and Fillies Divisions

July 15th & 16th | Portmarnock
The Barney Joyce Memorial Weekend

  • Three Year Olds Colts Division. Total Purse €15,000 & Final winner receiving €10,000
  • Three Year Olds Fillies Division. Total Purse €8,000 & Final winner receiving €5,000
  • M50 Skip Hire Heats & Finals
  • Pace Total Purse €5,000
  • Trot Total Purse€8,500

August 12th & 13th | Portmarnock
Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend

Ireland’s Premier weekend with Total Purses of €100,000

  • VDM Hanover Shoe Farm 2 year-old colt division Purse €25,000
  • VDM Diamonds Creek Farms 2 year-old fillies division  Purse €25,000
  • Alabar/Oakwood 3 year-old colt division Purse €10,000
  • Alabar/Oakwood 3 year-old fillies division Purse €10,000
  • Paul Murtagh Snr 4 year-old horse division Purse €3,500
  • Paul Murtagh Snr 4 year-old new mares division Purse €3,500
  • Rocknroll Heaven / Pet Rock Irish American FFA pace  Purse €5,000
  • Elvin / Delaney FFA trot  Purse €5,000
  • PJI Engineering JFFA pace  Purse €2,000

August 19th & 20th | Manch Cork
Red John O’Donovan Memorial Weekend
Total Weekend Purses of €100,000

  • Red John Memorial Pace
  • Heats & Final, Total Final Purse of €20,000 with winner receiving €10,000
  • Consolation Final Purse €5,000 Heats €1,600
  • Maven Cup Trot
  • Heats & Final, Total Final Purse of €20,000 with winner receiving €10,000
  • Consolation Final Purse €8,000 / Heats €2,800
  • Oakwood Three Year Old Grass Pacing Championship

September 24th | Portmarnock
Ireland’s First €100,000 Purse Day for Trotters

  • Gold Division
  • Three Year Old  Trotters
  • Silver Division
  • Three Year Old Trotters
  • Bronze Division
  • Three Year Old Trotters
  • Premium Trot Races For All Grades

NOTICE re Stud Book Transfer

This is a FINAL reminder to the owners of Standardbred Race Horses, Broodmares and Stallions currently owned and resident in Ireland that are registered in the STAGBI Stud Book which have not yet been transferred to the IHRA Stud Book……….you now have a short window of opportunity until Tuesday 14th of February to complete this transaction at the reduced STAGBI fee of £25Stg (€30).

After this date the STAGBI fee will revert to £50Stg and any horses that remain non compliant after this date will be required to deal directly with STAGBI to have this transaction completed prior to race clearance for race horses, prior to registration of the progeny of Broodmares and prior to the issuing of Covering Certificates for registered Stallions.

The STAGBI Stud Book transfer form is available to download on the home page of the IHRA Website

ONLY applications received in the IHRA Office by midday on 14th February complete with the appropriate fees will be eligible to be processed at the reduced rate.

Please note Trotteur Francais Horses are exempt from this process.