Guardian sports columnist Fred MacDonald offers some insight into Old Home Week racing
The Gold Cup and Saucer trials, each with the six-horse fields, are now history and chances are with warm, sunny weather, we could have a new track record when the dust clears at the Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park on Saturday night.
Aracache Hanoverâs impressive 1:51:4 victory under less-than-ideal conditions over Big Time Hero and Shock It To Em in Trial 1 last Saturday night suggested a Burke Stable repeat Gold Cup victory was a certainty.
It may still happen, but the certainly went out the window Monday night when Rene Allardâs Mickey Hanover, handled also by Marc Campbell, equalled the track record with a stunning 1:50:4 victory in Trial 2.
Race favourite Take It Back Terry, also from the Burke Stable, was a solid second with Scott Rocks and Wazzup Wazzup finishing third and fourth, respectively.
Wazzup Wazzup made a break at the start of the backstretch and looked out of it, but he responded with a huge rally, suggesting with a perfect trip he could get the job done in the final.
Regardless of where the horses drew, a track record or a sub-1:50 mile is a real possibility.
Conflicting major races
I have always been a supporter of having a harness racing czar looking after racing in Canada, a position similar to the commissionerâs role in Major League Baseball, but it may never happen.
If there were such a position, he/she could control the race schedules of each track, ensuring there are no conflicts in dates, especially regarding the major races.
I am not talking about horses that race at places like The Meadows or other Pennsylvania tracks or in Ohio, for example, but right here in our own country.
Mohawk Raceway in Ontario has a heavy schedule of stake races Saturday night and that puts restraints on drivers and horses that would want to compete here. It should not happen!
A similar situation occurred two years ago when new Meadowlands owner Jeff Gural faced a shortage of horses of all types on the same evening of his track opening.
Pocono staged a major card that night and it didnât take long for Gural to call the various tracks and straighten out any further conflicts.
Itâs just good business and good for our industry.
Old Home Week visitors
At this time of the year, itâs interesting to walk through the CDPâgrandstand, listen to the comments of newcomers to Old Home Week and, of course, chat with the familiar faces that have been coming for years.
One chap told me he drove 30 hours straight with his group to be here and that, folks, is a long, long way off.
A number of first time visitors to the track âfrom awayâ told me they donât have this type of entertainment at their home city and they didnât see anything about Gold Cup or Old Home Week mentioned anywhere on the tourism literature.
They couldnât understand what all the fuss was about until some of the locals explained to them what this big week was all about.
Horsemen in this province donât have to apologize for anything, Old Home Week is one of the major draws for the province.
Come to think of it, I havenât noticed anything in any tourism literature either, but Iâll check it out with minister Rob Henderson, who is not just an horse owner but heâs a supporter of our industry.
The list of those home from away included former sports star Dave MacLeod from British Columbia, Norm Kennedy from Alberta and the Taylor boys, Paul and Kevin, from Winnipeg.
Paul was a sharpshooter in city youth basketball in the late 1950s and the first legitimate soccer star in the province.
He travels, as usual, with his old pal Ebbie MacInnis of pole vaulting and long-distance running fame.
Eddy Hartinger, who grew up across from Joe Hennessey and the Ev Toombs family on Euston St., is here from Fort Erie, Ont.
Billy Fisher, who was one of the first Potato Bowl MVPs when he starred at Colonel Gray High School, is her with his wife from Hamilton, Ont. He and Shane Dowling were swapping a few tall tales in the beer tent.
Former owner Walter MacLean is here from Moncton, as is Don Gaudet, who was one of the best hockey referees ever in this region. Some say Donnie was a better on-ice official than Jamie Kennedy, but I canât go along with that.
Also here from Moncton is longtime trainer Rheal (Coco) Cormier, who worked for many years with Hall-of-Famer Stanley Dancer.
Thereâs been many familiar faces from the hockey world, past and present, visiting the track. Halifax Junior Canadiens standout Bobby Sheehan was here from Boston, as were teammates Paul MacWilliams and Bill Dickieson. The latter two traveled with former Columbus Blue Jackets management member Jim Rankin. NHLers John Tavares and Matt Duchene, both gold-medal winners with Team Canada were here with training guru Andy OâBrien
The mainlanders arrived early this year, including Phonse MacEachern, former Standardbred Canada director, and his wife Francis, as well as Morah Kerr and Tom Hollis.
Cape Breton trainer Heather Hawkins, who has 12 head in her barn is here and so is owner/writer Anne Copley, who has been to the winnerâs circle twice already.
The port city of Saint John is well represented. Brian Morell, aka Pilot, and Bruce Maxwell have been coming to Old Home Week continuously since the days of Andys Son (1964) and their close buddy Jim MacDevitt will be joining them today.
Cirian Dooley, the brains behind the highly successful Dooley Racing Stable, is looking after trainer Sean Dooley, who has a better winning percentage than Sugar Ray Leonard.
Other visitors from the glory days of EPR are Charlie Price and Daryl Pierce, who was a major player in the harness racing game in the 1970s. Daryl always had five or six head with Francis McIsaac and others with various trainers.
Good luck to all.
Fred MacDonaldâs regular Fiddlerâs Facts
column will appear in The Guardian on Saturday. He can be reached at email@example.com.