Down the Backstretch: Island owners think horse good enough for Gold Cup & Saucer

Nicholas Oakes
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The Gold Cup and Saucer, with a purse of $60,000 is far from the richest horse race in Canada but every year tough Ontario competition comes to play. The last time an Island-owned horse won the East Coast classic was in 2008 when Ian Smith’s Pownal Bay Matt captured the event.

In 2011, the early indications have a horse owned by Jamie MacKinley of Cornwall and York Point native Jody Sanderson, along with his wife Larissa, by the name of Chasin Racin. MacKinley, 38, and Sanderson, 39, are longtime friends and have talked about getting a horse for the Gold Cup and Saucer the past few years, but the right one hadn’t surfaced. This past spring, Sanderson, who is a manager at a major international bank based in Doha, Qatar, in the Middle East, decided to ramp up efforts to find a fit for the race. He entrusted MacKinley with the task and after many late night phone calls and exchanges halfway around the world, they settled on this five-year-old son of The Panderosa.

Formerly a Grand Circuit stakes performer, the pacer had been racing in upper conditions across Pennsylvania and New York, showing miles in the 1:51 range.

“There are a lot of horses that can go in 1:51 but class means a lot,” MacKinley said of their purchase, who he intends to stand stud on Prince Edward Island sometime in the future. “He showed a lot of back class. I think he’ll get a lot of respect for the class of horse he was.”

The trio entrusted the horse in the care of Charlottetown native Andrew Moore in Ottawa. Chasin Racin won his first two starts for the connections at Rideau Carleton Raceway with Islander John MacDonald in the bike, including a preferred pace victory last week. 

“Andrew is a good friend of mine and spends a lot of time on his horses,” MacKinley said. “Hopefully we can give him a good shot to get noticed. It only takes one horse and Andrew does a great job with his horses.”

The horse was scheduled to race last night, Thursday, at Rideau Carleton in the $13,000 preferred pace. The plan is for that to be his final race before trucking to Prince Edward Island next week.

“I don’t think there is much to gain by squeezing another race out of him. We bought him for the Gold Cup, hoping he would be good enough, and indications so far are that he is. If he wasn’t good enough we wouldn’t be taking him here.”

Jody and Larissa Sanderson plan to go back to Qatar next week, with plans of returning to see him race in the Gold Cup and Saucer final or consolation. But why would they purchase a horse that they would only see race live once this year?

“I grew up watching it,” Sanderson said. “I never missed it growing up, and this isn’t going back two years. This goes back to sending two dollars with my parents to the track to get a win ticket on Sauls Pride (who raced in the 80s).”

“To be under the spotlight Gold Cup night would be my thrill in harness racing,” MacKinley said. “Each horse walking in front of the grandstand and Vance talking about who they are and where they’ve been. It really shows off the horse as the athlete.”

Plans for after the Gold Cup see the horse returning to Ottawa to rest for however long he needs before racing again.

“Things have been going good so far but I came into this knowing that anything could happen,” Sanderson said. “Hopefully he will be good enough to make the final, and if he wins it, will there ever be a party in York Point.”

P.E.I. scene

The Prince County Exhibition is this weekend, going from today until Sunday.

Live matinee harness racing is slated for 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon featuring the Harry O’Brien memorial, known as the most prestigious race in matinee racing. The winner receives a new set of harness, hopples included. Entries have to be in by today. Call Philip Desroches at 1-902-859-1515 to enter.

The fourth annual Stretch Drive golf tournament is set to be held Wednesday, Aug. 17, at 8 a.m., during Old Home Week. 

The tournament is limited to 36 teams of four at a cost of $75 a player. All of the proceeds go towards the fund, which provides support to families and individuals involved in harness racing who have fallen on hard times. So far the fund has distributed more than $22,000 to those in need. 

Interested golfers can enter by contacting the Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission, who administers the fund, at 1-902-836-5500.

My condolences to Wendell and Robbie Shaw on the loss of Louie Fernandez earlier this week. The son of Cole Muffler finished his career with 15 wins, $30,553 and a mark of 1:55.2 taken over Mohawk racetrack at age three. He was a tough racehorse.

Nicholas Oakes’ column appears each Friday in The Guardian. He can be reached at nicholasoakes@hotmail.com

Organizations: Prince County Exhibition, Maritime Provinces Harness Racing Commission

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Qatar, Ottawa York Point

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