Proven Lover won the first elimination in 1:56.3, and Carnivore recorded the fastest mile in the Maritimes this season - 1:55.1 - in the second elimination after fractions of 30.1, 1:01.3 and 1:30.2.
“My horse was a lot sharper (than he has been),” said Earl Smith, who drove Carnivore for the Lucky Seven Stable of North Wiltshire. “In his first start here, his system was all out of whack. He was dehydrated and his blood was messed up.
“Today, we shifted some head gear on him, and he was more the horse he should be.
“He went to the gate and he wanted to grab the reins and go.”
The top four finishers in each elimination qualified for the 42nd annual running of the $16,000 Governor’s Plate on Saturday night.
P H Bestman, driven by Mike Stevenson, finished second behind Carnivore; two-time defending champion Outlawpositivcharg and Terry Gallant were third, and the Danny Romo-driven Hilo earned the final Plate position in a race that featured an exciting stretch run.
“They’re bridle to bridle, toe to toe in here,” said track announcer Vance Cameron as the field headed for the final turn home.
“I was waiting for that (stretch run),” said Smith. “I knew Terry’s horse is perhaps one of the best ones in it, and I knew he’d take me most of the way.”
Carnivore, a four-year-old bay horse, and the six-year-old Outlawpositivcharg took turns exchanging the lead early in the race.
“There was no use of us killing each other running each other down making a race for someone else,” said Smith, who notched a driving double.
“If I had realized my horse was as sharp as he was, I think I could have been first off the gate.
“But Terry’s horse can leave good, too. I didn’t want to burn my fella, and I don’t imagine he wanted to burn his fella.”