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Going for gold; S4C's Rasus is back with Tir Prince 21st birthday.

Byline: ANDREW STUART

THE Wild West comes to Abergele this weekend as the Tir Prince raceway gets ready to celebrate its 21st birthday with the Crock of Gold Final - and all the heats take place on the same day this year.

Tonight, Rasus commentator Wyn Gruffydd is joined by Ifan Jones Evans, Dot Davies, Megan Taff, Hywel Davies and Raymond Jenkins. They will host coverage of S4C's Champions' Night - which includes the Crock of Gold Final - live from the racetrack.

"Every racecourse has a unique atmosphere," explains Wyn, as he gives his reasons for loving the Crock of Gold so much. "But what differentiates Tir Prince from the rest is its picturesque location and stunning seaside views.

"There's no better place to watch exciting live harness racing and the culmination of the Crock of Gold competition than at Tir Prince under the floodlights with the fairground and sea in the background. Each of those factors adds to the magic.

"We're the only harness racing TV series in the country. It's been running now for over 20 years, and that in itself is some achievement."

Wyn says the track and history has its roots in racers and owners of harness racing horses of yesteryear. The late Billy Williams is one of the legends and pioneers of the sport, and he set up the racetrack more than 20 years ago.

Wyn said: "He (Billy) was a driver, and became interested in harness racing back in the late 1950s, whilst he was working at Pontin's in Prestatyn, where there was a track.

"He loved it so much. Apparently one day he went to the horses in his Ford Cortina, swapped it for a horse and walked home with the horse!" "He'd fallen in love with the sport and I think the viewing public in S4C have fallen in love with the sport over 20 years."

Tonight's programme focuses on a competition that was established in 2004. Drivers and horses would race over a series of heats, and then get ready for the finale.

"They would meet at Tir Prince for the final programme of the series each year for a pot where the winner would take all," explained Wyn.

"It was around pounds 10,000 initially. That certainly grabbed the imagination and the attention of trainers, owners, drivers, and the viewing public as well."

Wyn thinks that the first time a lot of people see the racing, they fall in love with the sport.

RASUS "Once they do go along to a live meeting, they become hooked. It's not expensive. We've got two hard tracks in Wales, at Ammanford and, of course, Tir Prince.

5.30pm English available. s4c.

"As you can imagine, with the weather we've been having of late, the hard tracks are certainly proving their worth.

s4c.co.

"Looking ahead to Saturday's racing, it's going to be one heck of a meeting because the horses haven't had a real chance to stretch their legs. This year's Crock of Gold is going to be one heck of a race!

"Even more so this year, because we've had the weather we haven't been able to hold the heats."

The night will work differently, says Wyn. "Two or three heats with 23-25 horses in the heats, and then the best eight will go through to the final itself.

"It's always going to be a good night, and can lead to some fantastic racing. The track record has been lowered on more than one occasion," recalls Wyn.

TIR PRINCES4C, today, & 7.30pm. subtitles ukWatch again:uk/clic "I love the camaraderie. I love the people that are involved with the sport. In west Wales it's an amateur sport and has been all over the years."

Despite being brought up with horses, Wyn is a rugby commentator normally. "I soon got the hang of the racing thanks to my cocommentators."

And viewers can get involved with an S4C competition S4C. "You are given a set of numbers, and you can win pounds 500 on the day," said Wynn.

"Once you get the bug, I think you'll be hooked."

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Rasus commentator Wyn Gruffydd
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 21, 2012
Words:689
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