On Tuesday evening, Anthony MacDonald was anxiously awaiting the draw for the $60,000 53rd edition of the Gold Cup and Saucer final.
Gold Cup and Saucer ambassador Katelyn Ostridge walked up to the microphone and announced her excitement to represent Stonebridge Terror from post position nine. Anthony was unconcerned with that post but there was another horse he was far more concerned about.
“I was waiting to see where Tyler (Moore) drew,’’ Anthony admits. “I thought Eighteen was the horse to beat, and I wasn’t happy to hear him draw the rail. I would have liked him to draw somewhere to the outside of the gate. But it’s a horse race so who knows. I try to run it through my head every which way and I think (Stonebridge Terror) is going to get a good chance to race on Saturday night.’’
Anthony considered his horse third or fourth best heading into last weekend’s trials, but his first up 1:52.2 victory over Mystician on a rain soaked track in trial 1 changed his mind.
“I watched him race compared to the other trials and, geez, he has got to be one of the best horses. If he’s as good as he was the other night I can’t imagine you not hearing tell of him before the end of the race. I can’t imagine the Gold Cup and Saucer, with the field that we have, won’t have a lot of action up front. It’s anybody’s race and I would not rule anyone out in that race, not one of them.’’
Trainer Dr. Ian Moore sends out Eighteen from the rail with son Tyler driving. The common theme heard throughout Old Home Week was whether Eighteen will run in the first turn off the rail. That issue is overblown, as he has only ran in the first turn once, Ian says.
“I think we found out the reason for that,’’ Ian said. “He’ll be fine in the first turn Saturday.’’
The trainer is happy with drawing the rail.
“I think that’s the place to be in this race. But as we know strange things can happen in this race. This is without question the best field we have ever had in the 53 years of this race. It is an incredibly balanced field. I wish everyone good luck and hope we have a big crowd out to see it.’’
Draconian drew Post 2, and has Islander John MacDonald in the bike as the first half of an entry by owner Harry Locke and trainer Randy Van Meer. They will also send out Post 4 entry Amazon Art.
Post 3 will see Scott Coulter drive second place trial finisher Pontiac Luck.
“It’s a tricky spot post three,’’ Coulter said Friday. “I’m torn on whether I should press the issue early with Eighteen on the rail and there are a couple horses that are iffy gaited in that race, too, so it makes sense to try and get away close to the front.’’
Coulter says Pontiac Luck, along with McApulco, are the most versatile in the field, but his eyes will be on what Mystician is doing. The Jeff Gillis trainee he arrived on P.E.I. just two days before his trial and was shouldered with Post 8, finishing second.
“I hear he’s bouncing around the farm right now, enjoying life so probably Mystician is the one you have to watch out for.’’
Coulter is from Ontario but he says he loves the fun surrounding Old Home Week.
“Everywhere else I race seems to have lost that fun factor but here it’s alive, and it’s so steeped in history. For me to win this race would be, as far as I’m concerned, the biggest race of my career and it would be an honour to win it.’’
Post four has Trial 2 second place finisher Amazon Art with Jonathan Drury driving.
“Draconian is definitely going to be smoking out of there,’’ Drury said of tonight’s final. “I don’t know how it’s going to set up. Amazon Art was a little off in his elimination. Usually when he makes front like that he generally wins.’’
Mystician and driver James MacDonald have Post 5.
“I think he has a big shot,’’ James said. “He is the class of the field. It’s going to be a game-time decision for me whether I’m going to leave out or take back. Obviously, Eighteen with the rail has a big shot and Anthony’s horse was huge in the trial. Being an Islander it would mean everything to win it. I’ll be nervous before the race for sure.’’
Post 6 belongs to McApulco, the lone Island owned or trained horse for owner Pat Morris of Charlottetown and trainer Jackie Matheson. Robert Shepherd will do the driving.
“He’s a good horse and if he gets the right trip he can go with them,’’ Shepherd said. “When they get struggling up front he’s so handy that you can race him from anywhere. That may play in his favour. I want to be on Pontiac Luck’s back. He raced huge in his elimination and I drove him last year and I know he can go. I think he would take me where I need to go.’’
Shepherd says winning tonight would mean everything to him.
“It’s the only race I want to win. It would be the cherry on top for this week because I just got married on Friday.’’
Aaron Byron has Post 7 with Hare Craft and admits it’s not the ideal post for him, after winning Trial 2 in 1:52.3.
“I’m going to need something to happen up front,’’ Byron said. “I think there will be some wicked fractions up front. I’m not real struck on leaving out there, so as long as I get Scott Young (driving Post 8 starter Piece Of The Rock) in behind me and I’m not sitting dead last I’ll be happy. Sitting six or seven would be ideal but maybe unrealistic because I don’t know who I can get in front of.’’
Last year, Byron came to P.E.I. to watch the Gold Cup and Saucer final.
After seeing the show, he was set on securing a drive in the 2012 edition and spending the week here, which he has with former Ontario roommate Jason Ryan.
“I stayed all week and it’s been awesome. You get recognized places you go and everyone is wishing you luck and they are so welcoming around here.’’
The Gold Cup and Saucer will go as Race 15 on tonight’s program, with a 6:45 post time.
Post positions for tonight’s 53rd running of the $60,000 Sobey’s Gold Cup and Saucer Race at the Charlottetown Driving Park (driver in brackets):
1. Eighteen (Tyler Moore)
2. Draconian (John MacDonald)
3. Pontiac Luck (Scott Coulter)
4. Amazon Art (Jonathan Drury)
5. Mystician (James MacDonald)
6. Mcapulco (Robert Shepherd)
7. Hare Craft (Aaron Byron)
8. Piece Of The Rock (Scott Young)
9. Stonebridge Terror (Anthony MacDonald)
Friday's results/Saturday's entries in Saturday's Guardian, Page B4