Bellino, Bowden To Head Overseas

Published: July 28, 2016 01:16 pm EDT

After Hambletonian Week is over, a large number of owners, breeders, trainers, drivers, caretakers, journalists and race fans from the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe will all be boarding planes and heading to Ireland.

They will be going to Dublin to take in the Ladbrokes Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend, which will take place on the weekend of August 13.

But two very prominent owners and breeders in the industry, Joe Bellino – of Rocknroll Heaven, Pet Rock and Bellino Racing stardom – and Adam Bowden – of Diamond Creek Farm, Pure Country, Creatine and Divine Caroline fame – will head to Dublin for more than just a great vacation. They will be sponsoring races that weekend at Portmarnock Raceway, and are excited to feel the passion for harness racing that the Irish and UK horsemen and women have for the sport.

The reason that both of these men are not just coming over on holiday, but sponsoring races, came about because of their Facebook friendship with Derek Delaney, the chairman of the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend (VDM).

Derek, along with his brother James, run Oakwood Stud, a prominent breeding and training facility in Ireland and where they stand the former top racehorse, Foreclosure N.

Back in 2011, Derek and James lost their younger brother, Vincent, age 27, after a massive heart attack. Young Vincent was helping run the farm, working with the yearlings and showing great promise in the sport. To honour their late brother, they developed a race in his memory that has grown to become the richest and biggest stakes weekend in all of Ireland and the UK.

To Joe Bellino, his Facebook friendship with Derek Delaney has grown to the point where barely a day goes by that they are not in contact with each other via FB messenger.

“I have become great friends with Derek through Facebook,” Bellino explained. “We have a lot in common, we both lost our brothers, and I think that has some special meaning to me.

“I am always looking to help (sponsor) groups that help promote harness racing,” Bellino explained when asked what prompted him to sponsor the Rocknroll Heaven/Pet Rock Irish-American FFA Pace at Portmarnock Raceway that weekend.

“Derek has a lot of the same love that I do for harness racing,” Bellino said, “We speak almost every day about racing. I have never met the guy face-to-face, but we are like best friends. It will be so great to finally meet him.”

“I have never been to Ireland,” Bellino said. “My mother is from the Dublin area. Maybe I will meet someone who knew her family.

“We are so excited about this trip,” Bellino explained, “That my wife and I are bringing her mom and most of our team over with us. Maybe eight to ten of us are coming to Ireland."

What does Bellino look forward to most on this trip?

“Meeting Derek and his family and then the two race days,” Bellino said. “I’m ecstatic about all of this. I don’t go much to the races here in America. Even for the big races as we feel it is taboo, but I can’t wait to come to Portmarnock Raceway for Derek’s big weekend.”

“I’ve never been to Ireland and am really excited about going,” Bowden said. “My wife, Lindsay, and I are looking forward to this trip and we are even leaving the kids are home.

“It was Heather Vitale who first came to me to consider sponsoring a race in Ireland at the Vincent Delaney Memorial Weekend,” Bowden said. “I wanted to make sure if I was sponsoring a race that I would be to come over and attend. I could not do it last year, but made it a priority for this year and it’s all come together nicely.”

Adam and Diamond Creek Farm are the name sponsors of the inaugural filly final of the VDM.

“The story that Heather told us about the VDM weekend was really intriguing,” Adam explained, “Then I started reading about it online and then got a hold of Derek. He and others from Ireland and the UK have purchased horses from us over the years and this is a great way to give back and what Derek and his brother James are doing is inspiring in memory of his brother.

“Derek has developed this race and made it really big,” Bowden said. “They are promoting our sport and Derek has pretty much accomplished all the goals he has put to his committee. Their ability to get this race weekend so popular it is attracting people from all over the world is pretty neat and I wanted to be part of it.”

Is there any Irish blood in the Bowden family?

“Probably,” Bowden laughed. “I would have to say ‘yes’ figuring if you go back far enough we would find some Irish blood.

“Everyone I have ever talked to about this race weekend has said what a wonderful place it is,” Bowden said, “We’re really excited to experience whatever comes our way. Hopefully I will love it so much I will want to come back again next year. It’s really shaping up that way.”

Joining Bellino and Bowden on this special adventure to Ireland will be Hall of Fame announcer Roger Huston and harness racing personality Heather Vitale, each of whom will make their third straight trip for the VDM.

Newcomers this year include North America’s leading driver in 2015, Aaron Merriman, Heather Wilder from the Meadows, Hanover’s Murray Brown, Heather Vitale’s mom (Joanne Looney-King) and sister Susan and Canada’s darling owner, breeder and journalist, Sydney Weaver and her family.

Returning for his second year at the VDM is Dexter Dunn, the reigning world driving champion along with an entire tour group from down under. Other prominent breeders, owners and horsemen from down under include Alan Galloway, John McDermott, Bill Hutchison, Clive Dalton, Peter Ferguson, Peter Larkin and Steve Phillips.

“It is just so grand that Joe and Adam and everyone is coming to Ireland for the VDM,” Derek Delaney said. “My brother James and I and the VDM committee are so thankful to Joe and Adam for their sponsorships and for their friendship. And for sure we will be showing everyone a great time, great racing and hopefully everyone will go home and tell their friends how they must come over to Ireland next year. That’s the impression we love to leave with our guests.”