World record RUS attempt in Ireland

by Tom Bennett

All eyes will be on Portmarnock Raceway in Dublin, Ireland, this weekend when a world record attempt will take place on the final day of the 2013 harness racing season. The mile record for pacers under saddle of 2:00.2 has stood since 1998 when Darla Conklin rode Highly Rated to victory at Northfield Park in the United States.

Five pacers will go to post in an attempt to lower this record which was sparked by Meadowbranch Romeo’s 2:01.5 effort back in September. But on that occasion the race was a handicap with Meadowbranch Romeo having given his field 50 yards of a handicap start.

Off level free-for-all terms this coming Sunday, the 15-year-old record must now be in serious jeopardy of falling provided the weather stays kind on the day.

It’s not surprising that Meadowbranch Romeo is all set to go to post as a warm favorite for the contest, having built up a strong rapport with first-season rider Sean Watson over the past few months.

Meadowbranch Romeo will have to beat Doonbeg and his rider Shanice Gallagher, who has has been working out with the diminutive Canadian bred in stellar mile times at Portmarnock in recent weeks. Doonbeg is currently a world record holder himself (over tracks less than a half-mile) in 1:53.7 and there won’t be a dry eye in the stands if he can sign off the end to his career with yet another record in the bag.

The striking grey Oakwood Outlaw is also a strong contender and having won its last start under saddle, rider Mary Kane will be all out to upstage both Doonbeg and Meadowbranch Romeo and hopefully secure the record for the fairer sex.

Adding to the line-up is Scottish lass Lauren Moran, who flies in to partner Total Secrecy and with a win under her belt at the Corbie Wood venue last Sunday with Ayr Pandemic, the multiple saddle race winner in 2013 has vowed to take the prestigious bronze trophy, and the record, back to the highlands.

Mary Kate Foran completes the line-up with Riverside Hall and although she’s the only mare in the line-up the U.S. bred is not just there to make up the numbers, boasting sub-2:00 form at the venue over the past two seasons.

The event has captured the imagination of harness racing enthusiasts worldwide in recent weeks with interest from the U.S., Canada and Australia all anxious to see if the Irish can rewrite the history books in a “David versus Goliath” triumph over the bigger nations in the sport.

Darla Conkin (now Frakes), the current record holder, has been in touch to wish all the participants well and will be online from the states to see if her record is still standing by 5 p.m. this coming Sunday.

The Guinness Book of World Records has been contacted in relation to the event and have been invited to oversee the attempt which has been sanctioned by the governing body for the sport in Ireland, the Irish Harness Racing Club.

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