Americans have two trial winners in tonight’s big race at Charlottetown oval
In most major races on North America soil in recent years, the Burke Brigade horses have been dominant as the team of father Mickey and sons Ron and Mickey Jr. from Pennsylvania have sent out many of the game’s best horses.
The list includes the richest money winning pacer of all-time, Foiled Again ($4.4 million) and the top four-year-old Sweet Lou among a long, long list, which also includes Burke favourite Maltese Artist.
In a nutshell, trainer Ron Burke has sent out more than 3,000 winners over the past five years with earnings in excess of $70 million. Tonight at the Charlottetown Driving Park, the powerful Burke Brigade sends out trial winners Hillbilly Hanover and Escape The News in looking to add the Gold Cup and Saucer trophy to their impressive collection of silverware.
Mickey Burke, now a young 77, and his wife Sylvia have never been here before, but they know all about the Gold Cup and Saucer. As I have said many times previously, Old Home Week and the Gold Cup and Saucer and the full week of racing day and night, rivals the Little Brown Jug week, the North American Cup, the Hambletonian and the Grand Circuit in Lexington, Ky., in terms of pure enjoyment for harness racing fans.
As post time draws near, let’s preview tonight’s Gold Cup and Saucer big race.
1. Up The Credit - The five-year-old has won this year in 1:48:3 and has the rail for veteran trainer-driver Carl Jamieson, who was inducted into the Canadian Harness Racing Hall of Fame earlier this week. Carl previously won the Gold Cup and Saucer in an upset with Banner Yankee. Up The Credit, should he prevail from the rail, will not be at upset odds this evening.
2. Machs Beach Boy - Machs Beach Boy won Monday’s Gold Cup and Saucer trial in 1:52:2 out of the six-hole in impressive fashion. The four-year-old has won four of his last six and appears to have the swagger of a winner. Betting against a horse that has set a lifetime mark over a half-mile in his last start is not a healthy financial proposition. Trainer Brad Shakes has called upon James MacDonald to catch-drive for Doug McNair, who is committed to racing at Mohawk. James was second last year with Mystician. He will need racing luck against a terrific field, but he can win.
3. Hillbilly Hanover -Hillbilly Hanover was super impressive in winning Sunday’s trial in 1:51:4 against what many thought was the softest of the three eliminations. Catch-driver Gilles Barrieau stays with Hillbilly Hanover. And why not, he is likely the best horse in the field. This race has the toughest field ever for the Gold Cup and Saucer, and drawing the three-hole with big speed on the inside and a trailer who leaves like a runner, makes for a tough task. He’s a Mickey Burke pupil, so is likely the favourite.
4. R Caan - R Caan was a great fast-closing third in Saturday’s trial for trainer Rene Allard, who is based out of New York. Young Jason Ryan, son of Dr. Maurice Coady, gets the catch-drive, and the Minnesota- based driver makes his first Gold Cup and Saucer appearance in front of his hometown fans tonight. He’s won this year in 1:49 and change, and with a good trip could surprise.
5. Lulu’s Boy - Here’s a horse with old Charlottetown connections. Co-owned by Alan and Brett MacDonald , trained by Ron MacDonald and handled by as capable a catch-driver as one would find in this region in Walter Cheverie, Lulu Boy has drawn a terrible post. The six-year- old Art Major shows trips in 1:52 and change over Yonkers’ half-mile track. With all that speed inside, Lulus Boy is an outsider in this field.
6. Proven Lover - The lone Maritime-based horse has his work cut out for him. He was parked every step of the way in finishing third in his rial, but for the final he drew Post 6 for owner Casey Gavin and trainer Thane Mann with big speed inside. The post gods have not been kind but, as they say, anything can happen in a horse race. Veteran John Holmes handles the reins.
7. Escape The News - Escape The News was extremely impressive in his trial win, coming out from the quarter-pole onwards and beating a horse of Up The Credit’s calibre. Any horse that can do that has to be given a long, long look. Marc Campbell had confidence enough to move him early in his Charlottetown debut, but can he do it again against trial winners? He’s trained by Mickey Burke, so beware.
8. Savannah Splendor - The Art Major four-year- old has been consistently pacing in 1:50 to 1:51 range and driver Jonathan Drury is very capable. The eight- hole is the kiss of death in this field, so Drury and trainer Randy Van Meer will need a miracle from way out there.
9. Smokin Bear - Smokin Bear has big time gate speed and leaves behind Up The Credit, who will be headed to the front. Driver Anthony MacDonald pulled a rabbit out of his hat in getting the deuce in his trial, but, as I said before, this is the greatest Gold Cup field ever assembled. Anything can happen in a horse race, and in the Gold Cup and Saucer anything is possible.
As always, let’s hope for a great race, a safe journey for all and good racing luck.
Here for the big week
Race fans in large numbers continue to pour into the Charlottetown track from all over the racing world for Old Home Week action.
Ken Warkentin, the voice of the Meadowlands and the Big M’s primary harness racing analyst, is here for the big race.
In fact, Ken called a few races and worked
as racing analyst for Thursday afternoon’s card.
Ciaran Dooley and brother Sean continue to win stake races on the Island. Thursday, their
filly, Absolutely Hot,
took the $10,200 two-year-old filly pace in 1:59:4 for driver Scott Hubbard.
And how about that eye-popping track record for two-year-old-pacing fillies by Lovineveryminute in another $10,200 Atlantic Sires Division. Lovineveryminute posted a sensational front-end 1:56:1 for driver Gilles Barrieau, and trainer Earl Watts.
The Western Paradise filly is co-owned by Earl Watts and Kent Dugan of River Valley Management in New Brunswick.
Prominent owner Bob Skinner has been coming to Old Home Week every year since 1967.
Bomber Garabb, Champ Gillis and Gord MacCallum, Cape Bretoners all, have been coming since Abe Lincoln was president and they’ve brought along former owner Ken MacDougall as well.
Sydney’s Gerald Gaum, one of the best handicappers, is here after an absence of two years.
Gerald’s brother, Bruce Gaum, produced the simulcast Gold Cup show 15 years ago. Great to see Gerald back.
Daryl Pierce, who campaigned a number of prominent horses in the late Francis McIsaac’s stable in the 1970s, has been here for the past two weeks.
Pierce also trained and trucked horses in Canada and the United States.
Also from the Port City, Old Home Week would not be complete without Brian Morrell and Bruce Miles who have been here ever since Saint John’s Scotch Gauman won in 1974.
It’s nice to see former fastball star Alan (Flake) Power back home from out west and looking great after some health issues.
Joey Garabb, Bomber’s son, is working the judge’s stand, and this guy should be a great official.
He’s so good the Cape Bretoners call him Judge Judy.
Wally Hennessey dropped up for a few days, but left Friday morning as he has driving assignments in Saratoga, which has a big card tonight with Bolt The Duer and Foiled Again among others.
There’s great simulcast cards from Mohawk, featuring the top two-year-olds, and Pocono, where the three- year-olds tangle with CaptainTreacherous.
See you at the track.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in
The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.