The track might not be as sophisticated as Down Royal or Downpatrick, but the setting is ideal for this annual event. Aughnacloy Horse and Pony Races are now in their eleventh year, held on land owned by the Steele family at Ravella, close to the border with County Monaghan. But the tradition of horse racing in the town is much older: my great grandfather John McCann JP of Hilton House in Aughnacloy was Secretary of the original race committee around 1910-20 (I will have to check my records to get the exact date).
The races had originally been scheduled to take place on June 1st but were cancelled following one of the wettest springs on record. Work was undertaken to get the course ready for the races to be rescheduled a fortnight later, but again the weather defeated the organisers and the event had to be postponed a second time.
This afternoon jockeys and punters converged on Aughnacloy from all over Ireland, with the highlight of the day being the famous ‘Aughnacloy derby’, the fifth of the seven races on the card. Traditionally, the annual race meeting has been a breeding ground for up and coming jockeys, with the likes of Martin Harley, a previous winner at Aughnacloy, having taken the horseracing world by storm.
The committee secretary Martin McCarron was the announcer and when he spotted my presence, called me over to the microphone to do an interview, turning the tables on me! Earlier he had introduced the Mayor of Dungannon Councillor Sean McGuigan. He told him he had already attended sixty events since he assumed office in June. At the start of the month I welcomed him to Monaghan for the opening of the William Carleton summer school along with the Mayor of Monaghan Councillor Sean Conlon.
Committee & Field Management Team: Chairperson Donald Magee; Secretary Martin McCarron; Treasurer Brian McKenna; President Peter McConnell; Assistant PR Officer John Morrison; Vice Chairman Eric Stansfield; Vice Secretary Stephen Watson; Vice Treasurer Benny McKenna; Joint Field Manager Des Sherry; Joe McMeel; Manuel Martins.
Advertisement for Rossmore Bar, Main Street Aughnacloy beside Ravella Road. This premises used to be owned by my great grandfather, John McCann, a native of Cloonycoppoge, Clogher.