SUMMERSIDE — That age-old saying that anything can happen in a horse race was certainly the case in the first Governor’s Plate elimination at Red Shores at Summerside Raceway on Sunday afternoon.
Maritimer, who went off at 22-to-1 odds and paid $47 to win, shocked everyone with a late charge down the stretch to capture the $5,000 invitational pace in 1:56 over a fast-rated surface. It was the quickest mile of the 12-dash program.
“My plan was to get a three, just get into the final,” said Maritimer driver Kenny Arsenault. “But, like they say, you never know in a horse race. The trip worked out. He’s a gutty little horse.”
The top-three finishers advance to the 44th running of the $20,000 Governor’s Plate on Saturday night. The second and third eliminations go in Races 9 and 11 of Monday night’s 12-dash program.
Firethorn, who left from the rail and is owned by J P Stables of Winchester, Ont., finished second for Charlottetown native John MacDonald, and Island-owned Carnivore edged out Outlawpositivcharg in a photo finish for third. John Holmes drove Carnivore for the Lucky Seven Stable of North Wiltshire.
“It was quite a shocker to myself,” admitted Arsenault in a post-race interview. “I didn’t think he could beat John MacDonald’s horse (Firethorn) or Alex’s (Sobey) horse (Aled Hanover). The fractions were right for his type of race.”
Firethorn, who led at the top of the stretch, jumped out to the lead off the start, and carved out fractions of 27, 57.2 and 1:25.4. Maritimer, who left from Post 4, was fifth at the quarter- and half-mile marks. But Arsenault positioned himself to be right in the thick of things at the end.
“I was following I thought one of the best horses in the race (Aled Hanover), and I wasn’t coming off his helmet until the top of the stretch,” explained Arsenault. “That’s the way it worked out.
“Alex went three-wide at the half, and I said, ‘This is great, I’ll let him go and follow him.’
“The best two horses were one, two then (Firethorn and Aled Hanover), but this little horse knew how to win.”
Arsenault said Maritimer was second over as the field turned for home.
“I tipped him three-wide, and he just dug in,” said Arsenault.
Maritimer, a four-year-old bay horse by Full Scholarship-Country Chill-Chill Factor, is owned by Barbara Pearl of Hants County, N.S. William Turner does the training.
“I drove him (Maritimer) once last year, and won with him in a Sires Stakes,” said Arsenault. “Clare MacDonald mostly drives him, and I would imagine Clare may be over to drive him this Saturday night.
“He’s a dandy drive, and I think he’s a contender if they don’t go too fast.”
Arsenault admitted he was surprised it wasn’t a faster mile.
“With the wind conditions, I didn’t think the race went as fast I thought it would,” said Arsenault. “I thought it would be a new track record — I really did.”
That standard — 1:53.1 — was set by P H Bestman in the 2010 Governor’s Plate.
“Alex Sobey’s horse and John MacDonald’s horse, they are legitimate 1:53 horses,” said Arsenault, who drove Serious Damage to last year’s Governor’s Plate win in 1:54.3. “The track just didn’t have the speed today (Sunday), and the wind was a big factor.
“When they go 1:55, 1:56, this horse is in the game.”
Order of Finish
Governor’s Plate first elimination order of finish:
1. Maritimer (Kenny Arsenault)
2. Firethorn (John MacDonald)
3. Carnivore (John Holmes)
4. Outlawpositivcharg (Terry Gallant)
5. Aled Hanover (Alex Sobey)
6. Ultimate Success (Gary Chappell)
7. Every Day (Brian Andrew)
Note: Drivers are listed in parenthesis.