The first championship card of the Atlantic Canadian harness racing season kicks off Saturday night at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
The $22,100 Maritime Breeder’s three-year-old pacing filly final lines up in race 8 with Lovineveryminute the early favourite after a dominating 1:55.4 victory in her elimination Saturday night in Charlottetown. That victory is just three-fifths of a second off the 1:55.1 three-year-old pacing filly track record jointly held by Princess Julia, Southview Special and Honey Do Jigtime.
Lovineveryminute has drawn the rail for driver Todd Trites and trainer Earl Watts, while Elm Grove Inarush has post 2 for driver Mark Bradley and trainer Ed Doucette. Elm Grove Inarush was runner-up in Saturday’s 1:55.4 mile and will likely be right there with Lovineveryminute again this week, especially considering the favourable post draws. The 2013 champion, Saulsbrook Alana, made a break in her elimination, finishing fifth and failing to make the final. Other entries in the filly final are Briannas Angel from post 3 (Kenny Arsenault), Outrageous Spirit (Walter Cheverie), post 4; Sail Through (Gilles Barrieau), post 5; Fleurje (Jason Hughes), post 6; JJ Mistress (Marc Campbell), post 7; and Pictonian Sareta (Mike Stevenson), post 8.
The $18,900 Maritime Breeder’s three-year-old pacing colt final goes to post in race 11 with division-leader Dumas Walker drawing post 5 for trainer-driver Myles Heffernan Sr. The Cape Breton reinsman has driven the Western Success colt to a perfect season, including a 1:57.3 victory in his elimination. He will face off with J Ps Warrior (Brodie MacPhee), post 1; Arties Magic (Trites), post 2; Settlement Request (Barrieau), post 3; Wine To Go (Arsenault), post 4; Rancousy (Darren Crowe), post 6; JJ Laser (Campbell), post 7; and Tobins Fusion (Stevenson), post 8.
The $8,200 Cecil Ladner memorial final goes in race 12 and it’s lining up to be an interesting one. In Saturday’s eliminations, Art Of Illusion used one of the hardest brushes off the gate in the history of Island racing to make front from post 8 en route to a 1:54.1 victory.
Island native David MacDonald, now of Halifax, owns the horse and entrusted him in the care of trainer Bo Sowers. The eight-year-old son of Real Artist won the Invitational in Scarborough, Me., in 1:53.2 two weeks ago. He has post 8 and will face some pressure from the likes of Machinthesand (Campbell), with post 2, Astor (Hughes), post 5 and All Turain (Brodie MacPhee), post 7. Other entries include Narragansett (Arsenault), post 1; Schooner (Brian MacPhee), post 3; Coral Snake (Ryan Ellis), post 4 and Perfect Escape (Barrieau), post 6.
Longtime horse owner Donnie Gillis passed away Sunday night in Summerside. The 80-year-old Miscouche resident raced a number of horses with the Lonestar moniker. My condolences to the Gillis family.
Across the continent
Saturday at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, Kingston native Mark MacDonald scored a driving triple, winning with Abelard Hanover in 1:50.3 in a $21,000 conditioned class, Bridge Jumper in 1:51.2 in a $12,500 claimer for a $10,000 purse and Bolt The Duer in 1:48.2 in the $25,000 preferred pace.
Also on Saturday, Solid Performance was a winner in 1:56.1 at Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont., for trainer Patrick Shepherd and driver Robert Shepherd, both originally from Stratford. Now five, Solid Performance was broke and trained in Charlottetown by Earl Smith before recently being sold to Ivan Petersheim of Pennsylvania. Smith also sold Petersheim a Major In Art filly that had trained in the 2:10 range on the trot over the capital oval.
Wednesday at Harrah’s Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, Island-bred Waiting On A Woman was a winner in 1:53.1 for a $13,000 purse for driver Yannick Gingras and new trainer Ron Burke. The week previous, the trotter won his qualifier in 1:53 at The Meadowlands in New Jersey, with those two trips being the fastest ever wins by a Maritime-bred trotter. Mitchell and David Tierney of New Haven bred the six-year-old son of Northern Bailey.
Say It Again Sam has been on a roll since relocating to the East Coast in May. The three-year-old Well Said gelding is owned by Foxyhall Racing of Wallace, N.S., and trained and driven by Jason Hughes. He has been perfect in his four Island starts, including a 1:56.1 victory Saturday night.
Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Charlottetown Driving Park
Race 1 – Gwinning Gwen
Race 2 – Ulster Hanover
Race 3 – Incredible Mike
Race 4 – Kellys Cross
Race 5 – Woodmere Rondevous
Race 6 – Panacotta
Race 7 – Blue Star Outlaw
Race 8 – Lovineveryminute
Race 9 – Blissfull Bro
Race 10 – Astronomical Union
Race 11 – Dumas Walker
Race 12 – Astor
Race 13 – Say It Again Sam