The top drivers in Atlantic Canadian harness racing will go head-to-head in Summerside.
The Atlantic Regional Driving Championship will be held at Red Shores at the Summerside Raceway for a special Saturday evening card on June 28. That week, racing will be held Sunday afternoon at the Charlottetown Driving Park, a switch from the regular schedule.
The competition usually features three drivers from P.E.I., three from Nova Scotia, two from New Brunswick and one from Newfoundland. Drivers are yet to be officially announced, but the leading drivers by wins in New Brunswick are Gilles Barrieau and Todd Trites, while the top dash winners in Nova Scotia are Ryan Ellis, Redmond Doucet and Ryan Campbell. In P.E.I., Marc Campbell, Brodie MacPhee and Jason Hughes are the leading reinsmen, with Shane Forward leading the pack in Newfoundland.
The top two drivers in that competition will meet in Charlottetown on Aug. 26 for the National Driving Championship, along with the top two from the other regional competitions. The Western regional is set for April 26 at Fraser Downs in British Columbia, with the Ontario competition May 9 at Western Fair Raceway in London, and the Quebec regional June 17 at Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres.
The winner of the National Driving Championship will represent Canada in the World Driving Championship, slated to be held in Australia in February and March of 2015.
Hall of Fame
Charlottetown native Wally Hennessey is again on the ballot for the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame. The 56-year-old has 8,200 driving wins and $55 million in purse earnings during his career.
The reinsman has a number of prestigious stakes wins to his credit, including wins in the Breeders Crown, the Nat Ray, The Matron, the Woodrow Wilson, the Classic Oaks and the Hambletonian Oaks. He has also sat behind a number of New York and Florida Sires Stakes champions. His greatest recognition came driving the great trot mare Moni Maker, who scored wins in nearly every aged trot race in North America along with European wins with Hennessey in the bike in the Elitlopp in Sweden, races in Naples and Milan in Italy, and Copenhagen, Denmark.
This is Hennesey’s fourth time on the ballot and will be up against Yves Filion of Quebec and William Gale of Ontario.
The Prince County Horsemans Club awards banquet is set for tonight at the Credit Union Place Convention Centre in Summerside with a social at 6 p.m. and meal and awards getting underway at 7 p.m.
Fred Gillis will be the guest speaker for the evening. The accomplished Alberta horseman boasts more than 1,500 driving wins and $8 million in purse earnings.
The P.E.I. Standardbred Horse Owners Association banquet and awards night will be held Saturday, April 5, at the Howard Johnson Dutch Inn with a social at 6 p.m. and the main event starting at 7 p.m. The voice of Island racing, Vance Cameron, will be the guest speaker on the night.
Tickets are $30 each and are available from the Red Shores courtesy desk, the Charlottetown vet clinic and any association director.
Wishing swift recoveries for two stalwarts in Island harness racing, Rollie Larkin and Len (Barney) McGuigan. The veteran horsemen are battling some health issues but I’m sure they know everyone that races horses is pulling for them. Get better soon gentlemen.
Across the continent
Island native Mark MacDonald is changing focus with his driving commitments.
The former two-time Canadian dash winning champion will be driving fulltime at Pocono Downs in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. MacDonald had 11 drives on opening day at Pocono, scoring a driving hat trick. The 35-year-old driver had wins with Eighteen in 1:49.3 and UF Rockin Dragon in 1:51.3 for trainer Mark Ford, and Jacobs Jackpot in 1:53 for trainer Chris Oakes.
MacDonald will drive at Pocono Downs four days a week, along with driving commitments at Yonkers Raceway in New York and Harrah’s Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.
Seventy horses have made the final payment to stay eligible to Canada’s richest harness race. The $1 million Pepsi North America Cup for three-year-old colt pacers will have eliminations on June 7 at Mohawk Raceway in Campbellville, Ont., with the final June 14. Arthur Blue Chip is among those eligible for trainer Dr. Ian Moore, formerly of Summerside. The O’Brien Award-winning colt had six wins from 11 starts in 2013, along with $400,120 in earnings, making him the richest two-year-old colt pacer of the season.
Also eligible for the race is Silverhill Shadow for Casey Gavin’s Silverhill of Tignish. The Shadow Play colt electrified Island racing with his 1:58.2 victory in his career debut last July in Summerside with Paul MacKenzie in the bike for trainer Thane Mann. The colt then moved to Ontario where he raced two more times, including a sixth-place finish timed in 1:54.3 over Mohawk, and a 1:56.4 victory over Grand River Raceway in
Nicholas Oakes' column normally appears in The Guardian each
Friday but was moved to today for this week. He can be reached at email@example.com.