by Lauren Wilder
My name is Lauren Wilder and I love harness racing and singing.
On several occasions, I’ve had the pleasure of singing the national anthem before stakes races and Grand Circuit events. It is a combination of my two loves and I enjoy it more than just about anything else.
Recently, when I was asked to sing the national anthem at the Vincent Delaney Memorial in Ireland, I was so excited. This was my chance to learn a new language and perform overseas. What an opportunity!
I was so excited to see what Ireland was like. This was my first time leaving the country, so not only was I experiencing harness racing in another country for the first time, but I was also experiencing another country for the first time.
In Ireland I got to see harness racing from a different point of view, which was very exciting.
The passion and love for the sport were apparent in every race.
Although I grew up around harness racing, my passion is singing. The Delaney family gave me the life-changing opportunity to sing the Irish national anthem in Gaelic right before the final race on Sunday. It was such an honor singing for the harness racing fans of Ireland, especially when they sang along during the chorus.
Another great part of this trip was watching Aaron Merriman drive in this special weekend of races. Aaron is an every-day driver at The Meadows in Washington, Pa., where I have grown up watching my dad, Mike Wilder, drive. This trip was a great opportunity to experience a new culture and learn more about harness racing in a different atmosphere. I am so grateful for such an out-of-this-world opportunity.
As soon as we landed in Ireland, we went straight to the hotel before going on a carriage ride through the city of Dublin. It was amazing to see all the sights from the comfort of a horse and carriage. Being jet-lagged was well worth it as I was going through the streets of Dublin with close friends and family that share my love of harness racing.
The next day we went to the Delaney’s farm, Oakwood Stud, and it was fabulous! We got to see the horse Foreclosure N, whose babies my dad has driven in Ohio. We also saw a foal with a very protective mother. I guess I never realized before that horses are like that with their babies. While we were at the farm we also saw the Vincent Delaney Memorial tree. It was planted in a big field where Vincent Delaney (who the race is named after) used to spend a lot of time.
That night we went to a charity gala that benefitted the homeless community in Dublin. It was so much fun to meet people from all around the world who also love harness racing. They also had an auction and my mom and I bid on driver Montrell Teague’s colors. We won and I was so happy because he was racing in the Dan Patch Invitational with Wiggle It Jiggleit that night and I wanted to support him from a different country. It was great to see so many people offering to support this cause and the beautiful city of Dublin.
On Saturday, we went to Portmarnock Raceway, which was about 10 minutes from our hotel. The races were exciting, but I noticed a few differences from the races I’m used to. The numbers for the horses’ post-positions were sticking out of the back pad and not on the saddle pads like in America. Also, the racetrack did not have tellers to place bets. Instead, they had bookies, which was pretty cool to watch as they yelled out bets after calculating them in their head.
When we got to the racetrack on Sunday, it was packed with people, eager for a big day of races! We got to enjoy a meal in the VIP tent before I sang the Irish national anthem. When it was time to sing I was so excited, and I thought to myself, “Just give it all you got right now.” And at the end of the song, the crowd joined in. I felt so honored to be singing their national anthem in their country.
After I finished singing, there was a moment of silence for Vincent Delaney, who was being honored that weekend. He was Derek and James Delaney’s brother, who tragically died from a heart attack in 2011.
Very rarely does a horse race in Ireland compete for a purse of $25,000, so the Vincent Delaney Memorial was quite a big deal. This race featured elite horses from all over. The crowd cheered loudly as they post-paraded and approached the starting gate.
When the race started, Roger Huston’s voice echoed through the grandstand, making it feel just like home. We were all rooting for Aaron Merriman, but he got locked in, so we cheered along with the crowd for the horse making a huge move. When Tyrion Hanover won, the crowd roared. It was a great victory for him, his connections and for the whole Delaney family.
I loved every bit of my time in Ireland. I’m hoping that I can go back next year and sing again, or at least go and watch the race with my family. I will never forget my first time in Ireland and the Vincent Delaney Memorial.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of Youth Beats. All photos courtesy of Heather Wilder.