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Hanover and Alabar new sponsors for Ireland’s VDM

Two of the sports biggest breeding operations in all of harness racing, Hanover Shoe Farms in North America and Alabar Stud in Australia/New Zealand, have both signed on as new sponsors for the 6th annual Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend (VDM) in Ireland for 2017.

In addition, Diamond Creek Farm and Joe Bellino Racing Stable in the USA, PJI Engineering and Oakwood Stud in Ireland, have all "re-upped" their race sponsorships for the big race weekend.

2017+major+sponsors+VDM.jpg 2017 Major Sponsors VDM Weekend.

The Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend is the creation of Derek and James Delaney of Offlay, Ireland, who is 2012, a year after the tragic death of their younger brother Vincent, decided to have a memorial race in his honor.

Little did they know that their weekend honoring their lost brother would develop into the richest harness racing stakes event in all of Ireland and the UK.

"My brother James and I look back at what we've done with our brothers race in just four years," said Derek Delaney. "And it blows us away. We have a VDM Committee who is the backbone of our big weekend and now we hire some outside agency's to help us. It's amazing. We know that Vincent is very proud of what we have done in his memory."

Hanover Shoe Farms is the leading money earning breeding farm in racing and they are now the title sponsor of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Colt Pace for two-year-olds.

The icing on the cake for Hanover Shoe Farms management may have been after Tyrion Hanover, a son of Somebeachsomewhere, won the VDM colt division on August 14. He was purchased at Hanover's Harrisburg Sale at a yearling and flown back to the UK.

"Murray (Brown) came back with great enthusiasm about the weekend in Ireland." Jim Simpson, president of Hanover Shoe Farms. "He told me how they are in it for the love of Horse Racing...not the money. The sponsorship was available so we took it. We sponsor races in Lexington, Meadowlands, The Hambletonian, The Little Brown Jug, Chester, The Meadows, Pocono Downs, UK and Germany. So why not Ireland?"

Simpson said that he is already planning on coming to Ireland next year for the VDM Weekend.

The Diamond Creek Farm VDM filly division is being sponsored for the second straight year by Diamond Creek Farm and the Adam Bowden Family.

"It was an easy decision." Bowden said. "After going to Ireland for the 2016 edition of the VDM Memorial we were blown away by the hospitality of the Irish people as well as the Delaney family.

"Joining a grassroots movement is addicting, Bowden explained, "and being part of something great is what we are all about. Diamond Creek Farm wants to be involved in events that showcase the greatness of Standardbred racing both at home in the US as well as abroad. Derek Delaney, single-handedly has energized the sport in that region and we could not be more excited about the what the future will bring.

"How could you not be entirely blown away over there?" Bowden said. "You can see the event in pictures or follow Heather Vitale's live Facebook posts, but being there in person is an out of this world experience. My wife and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity and the generosity shown by everyone we came in contact with.

"I grew up going to the races in Maine (especially the Cumberland Fair in my hometown)," Bowden added, "and being at Portmarnock Raceway was like being transported back in time to 1985 when I was a little kid and reliving my first harness racing experiences where everything was novel and new. It was grassroots racing at its finest."

The VDM is the world's most rugged race for two-year-olds, requiring the young horses to race Saturday in elimination divisions and then return Sunday for their respective finals in the one-mile race.

"We even have sponsors now for the VDM elimination races," Derek Delaney added. "Clive and Anne Dalton from Australia have signed on and are guaranteeing that each elimination division for both the colts and fillies will race for €2,000 each."

Alabar Stud, the largest breeding operation down under with 28 stallions in Australia and New Zealand, is now co-sponsoring the Alabar-Oakwood Derby for three-year-old pacers. This race calls for the same format as the VDM, eliminations Saturday (if necessary) and the finals on Sunday. The race is also at a one-mile distance.

And, with the Alabar sponsorship, there will also be a filly division for the 3YO Derby in 2017.

Alan Galloway, owner and director of Alabar Stud, was in Ireland for the VDM Weekend this past August and was infatuated with everything he saw.

"It was my first time in Ireland for the VDM," said Galloway, "And what a show they put on. Just a fantastic race weekend. So much excitement. So much passion for the sport that I knew Alabar had to get involved again.

"We actually were sponsors when the first Breeders Crown UK & Ireland came about over ten years ago." Galloway said. "We were invited to come over and help them and the Ireland improve racing. I met and worked with its president, David Wilson, when he first developed the Breeders Crown series.

We bred over 100 mares back then," Galloway said. "We sent over Village Jasper, Armbro Operative and Safely Kept. It was very difficult getting all the approvals from the government but we got it done. Many of the horses racing there now are from their offspring's.

"I was really taken back this year," Galloway said. "The Irish are such lovely people. Everything that Derek Delaney and his brother have done to promote this weekend is fantastic. Their story is very moving, so emotional, it's what we at Alabar want to be part of."

Another major sponsor, smitten by coming to the VDM this year, was Joe Bellino and his family, all eight of them. The Bellino Racing Stable in the USA had agreed to sponsor the Rocknroll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace this year and was so enthralled with the entire Ireland experience, Joe re-upped for 2017 even before he came home.

"It was the way the people in racing there embraced my family," Joe Bellino said. "And their deep love for the sport that convinced me to want to sponsor the race again. The way they celebrated a win with cheering and excitement. It's just the same way I am whether racing for $100 purse or $500,000. It was also great to see and feel it firsthand.

"In some way in North America we have lost our way with that sort of enthusiasm." Bellino explained. "It's almost like the people who win are used to winning and have come to expect it. That's why I really appreciated the Hambo this year as it was great to see and feel the passion for our sport just as they do in Ireland."

PJI Engineering of England, one of the largest metal fabricators in all of the UK and Ireland, has come back on board as the sponsor of the Junior FFA Pace.

"I first met Derek and James in 2015," explained Paul Johnson, owner of PJI Engineering in England, "and he was telling me the story on Vincent and the passion the two of them have for the sport is unbelievable.

"These two are trying there utmost to take this sport to the next level," Johnson said, "and the VDM has done so. This is an event that everyone looks forward to every year now, and it gets better every year. Let's not forget the charity's they give to as well. We look forward to be a part of the VDM for many years to come!"

With new and renewed sponsorship support coming from around the world, Derek and James Delaney are putting the money right back into their big race weekend.

"Because of the great growth of sponsors for the VDM Weekend," Derek Delaney said, "we will be able in 2017 to also expand the Paul Murtagh, Sr. Memorial for four-year-olds to both a horse and mare divisions with Yirribee Stud in Australia taking on as sponsor of the mare division and there will be an increase in purse for the Elvin-Delaney Invitation Le Trot race. This is all so grand!

"We now have many of the world's leading harness racing breeders, owners, trainer, drivers, announcers and journalists coming to Ireland for the VDM." Delaney added, "It's hard to imagine that just five years ago we raced for €20,000 ($25,000US) in total purses that first year and now in 2017 the weekend will feature more than €100,000 ($127,000US) in purses.

"The VDM has become a major success story to have the biggest breeding farms in the world sponsoring our brothers memorial weekend" Delaney added, "and it's also a major step in the right direction for our breeders, owners, trainers and drivers that they can now breed and sell, train or own horses that has real earning potential in juvenile racing and more!

"When you have Alan Galloway and Alabar Farms, Joe Bellino and his Bellino Racing Stables, Jim Simpson & Murray Brown of Hanover shoe Farms, Adam Bowden and Diamond Creek Farms, Rod Woodhouse of Yirribee Stud Australia, all willing to advise and sponsor us and help improve the breeding in Ireland and the UK." Said Delaney.

"We all know this can only mean a very strong future for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend and a very bright future for our Oakwood Stud." Delaney added, "We have been a major factor in the racing and breeding in Ireland and the UK and I believe our Standardbreds will become world class in the future. Ireland has a history for producing the best gallopers in the world, so why can't we in Ireland and UK not be the best producers of Standardbreds in the world or at least one of the best!

"We are also working with Sire Stakes Ireland and the Breeders Crown UK and Ireland, bricking and building stronger with devoted people like my brother James Delaney, Bernie Kelly, Dave Wilson, Jackie Mann, Thomas Bennett and others. It's all going to complement our events and others stakes. It's going to be something special how our racing will be growing in the next two to three years' time, getting stronger year on year.

"Maybe most important about all of this," Delaney said, "is the great new friends we have made over the years that will last a lifetime."

The dates for the 2017 Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend are Saturday and Sunday, August 12 and 13.

By Steve Wolf, for the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend

It’s more than just a race

The setting is Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin, Ireland. The time is 1:00 PM. The scene is fairground-like with people everywhere placing bets and horses warming up around the track. The smells are grass and fresh air. The sounds are bookies yelling deadlines to bet, the starting gate buzzing by, and the crowd roaring with excitement. And the feeling is almost unexplainable. In my five years of attending horse races, I have never experienced so much passion and love for the sport at one small racetrack.

vdm-carriage-ride-300x169.jpg 2016 Vincent Delaney Memorial honorees and attendees riding on horse carriages through Dublin.

This year was the 5th edition of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend and it was the biggest yet. The weekend full of races was started in honor of Vincent Delaney who passed away in 2011 due to a sudden heart attack. He was survived by brothers James and Derek. Growing up, the three brothers bonded over their love for horses, so what better way to honor him than with a horse race.

Over the memorial weekend, the Delaney family hosted the guests to a carriage ride through the streets of Dublin, a day visit to their farm in Offaly, Ireland, and VIP treatment at the racetrack. They brought several countries, drivers, and people together for one reason. That one reason was for the love of harness racing.

Taking a carriage ride throughout Dublin was quite the memory to experience. We were taken around the streets of the Irish city by elders and teenagers as young as 13-years-old who have grown to live and breathe horses. Some popular names in the industry who were also venturing throughout the city were Roger Huston also known as "the voice of harness racing”, Murray Brown from Hanover Shoe Farms, Heather Wilder from the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association, Adam and Lindsey Bowden from Diamond Creek Farms, and Joe Bellino and family from the Bellino Racing Stables. No matter how involved you were with the industry of harness racing, everyone's breath was taken away from the sights of Dublin from their horse carriage.

IMG_2942-300x225.jpg Memorial for late Vincent Delaney.

The Delaney's breeding farm, Oakwood Stud, was so quaint and beautiful on the countryside of Ireland, just an hour and a half away from the city of Dublin. Derek's brother, James, was there to greet us with hugs and horses to start the tour. The environment of the stables exuded with passion and love for the horses throughout the whole facility. Even the horses were friendly and welcoming, as a bunch of strangers walked around petting and admiring them.

Right outside of their stable was a big field of grass where they placed a memorial for their brother Vincent. The memorial was placed in this field because of the large amount of time their brother spent in that certain area of the farm with their horses. Every year a new plaque is made and placed in the memorial that is inscribed with the representatives that came to support the Vincent Delaney Memorial. This year the plaque included the names of Aaron Merriman, Adam Bowden, Joe Bellino, Heather Wilder, Jo Ann Looney King, and Murray Brown, as well as other trainers from Australia.

IMG_2947-300x225.jpg Mare and foal at the Delaney farm in Offaly, Ireland.

The next area we visited was about a mile away that was the home of broodmares and soon to be home of Derek Delaney and his family. As the broodmares were accompanied with some of their foals, the connection they had with each other was incredible. There was a certain colt who would not leave the mare's side, like a newborn baby could not leave it's mother. The most beautiful part of this moment was the peaceful atmosphere these horses lived in. No other sounds were heard other than the horses eating their lunch or their hooves galloping through the field. Surrounded by countless mares and their foals in the countryside of Ireland is a memory that will always be a part of me.

That night was the Vincent Delaney Charity Gala full of charity auctions and "grand” memories, as the Irish would say. Items from Foiled Again, Dave Palone, Montrell Teague, Aaron Merriman, Ron Burke, and Brian Sears were auctioned off that would benefit Inner City Helping Homeless in the city of Dublin. Not only did the gala honor the late Vincent Delaney and a nearby charity, but it also showed that the passion of harness racing across the pond can bring everyone together.

The next day was the first race day of the weekend that consisted of eliminations for the final races on Sunday. This racetrack was nothing like I have ever experienced. Although it was small and more of a fairground feel, the passion emanating from the atmosphere made me feel right at home. Something extremely new to me was the bookies placing the bets for you. As I watched them, I could see them calculating the bets in their head. I give credit to them since back here in the United States, we have machines to do that for us.

IMG_3109-300x225.jpg Aaron Merriman and son Kristopher join connections of Sepia Sands for photo in winner’s circle at Portmarnock Raceway.

As the day went on, I walked around the grandstand talking with other harness racing "connoisseurs”. From New Zealand, Australia, London, and obviously Ireland, I got quite the broad outlook of the sport from all over. I found out that most drivers from these countries work other jobs because it does not support families enough financially. Coming from the United States, it is the complete opposite since drivers like Tim Tetrick, Yannick Gingras, and Brian Sears revolve everything around harness racing.

Throughout the races, the only drivers I knew were Dexter Dunn and Aaron Merriman. Dexter had two wins and Aaron had one win in the final race, which was quite the tearjerker. Not only did I get to watch one of my close friends in the industry dominate by four lengths down the final stretch, but I also got to see a victory celebrated Irish-style. Every connection possible to the horse, trainer, and driver joined the winner's circle with some people even in tears. And the best thing was, they were not worried one bit about how much money they had just made. The joyous celebration ended with a photo of everyone raising their hands and shouting with happiness for the win in the final race of the day.

vdm-winners-circle-300x169.jpg Winner’s circle for the 2016 Vincent Delaney Memorial Filly Pace Final won by Dexter Dunn.

On Sunday, it was final race day! The post positions were drawn live at 11 AM with the help of Aaron Merriman and Dexter Dunn. Post time was 1 PM and the races were off. The day consisted not only of races, but fashion contests and Irish traditions as well. Dexter Dunn upset the crowd in the Vincent Delaney Memorial Filly Pace Final with IB Coyote. That winner's circle was also quite the celebration with 80 people joining Dexter to end the day of racing and the memorial weekend. Everything combined for a great day to honor Vincent Delaney.

The Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend began in 2012 and gets bigger every year with more drivers, horses, and special guests joining the Delaney family. It has now become the biggest and richest race weekend in all of the UK and Ireland.

Inner City Helping Homeless is charity for VDM


James and Derek Delaney, the owners of Oakwood Stud and the founders of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Series, the richest harness horse race in all of Ireland and the UK, announced today that this year's charity for the race weekend, August 12th, 13th and 14th, will be Inner City Helping Homeless (ICHH) of Dublin, Ireland.

The ICHH was formed in November 2013 to combat the ever growing homeless crisis that was clearly evident across the city of Dublin.

The organization, which is comprised 100% of all volunteers, operates a seven-day outreach service across the city, coinciding with their mobile outreach unit. ICHH’s outreach support service operates nightly providing access to beds, sleeping bags, food or case management referrals. ICHH works a 16-hour mobile outreach service, responding to rough sleeper reports within 15 minutes of getting a call. The service also operates seven days a week.

The website is at http://www.innercityhelpinghomeless.ie/.,

"The homeless situation is a major crisis in Ireland right now," said Derek Delaney, head of the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Committee, "and we thought it be grand to give something to the less fortunate. We take things for granted and when you see the problem on the streets it breaks your heart. It could be any one of us and it's not only down and out drunks that's homeless, it's a real problem as today's housing problems seems to be a real factor in family's ending up on the street.

"We believe there are as many as 10,000 family's waiting to be housed in temporary accommodation, hotels, hostels etc," Delaney added, "My wife Lillian's friend Bernie Kelly is a volunteer for ICHH and she always helps out with shoeboxes full of sanitary and toiletries items, food, clothing and such. So it was an easy charity to our committee to choose this year.
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