The biggest horse race on P.E.I. lived up to its hype once again this year.
A successful Old Home Week was capped off Saturday night with 55th running of the $75,000 Sobey's Gold Cup and Saucer, a race that didn't disappoint any spectators at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
Lee Drake, marketing and sales manager for Red Shores Racetrack and Casino, said that numbers from the event, both wagers and attendance, would not be fully known until later this week.
However, he said Saturday night's crowd was "probably the biggest" officials had ever seen.
"It started early, people getting to their seats, and it never stopped," said Drake. "It certainly lived up to all the hype of the big race."
The race went down to the wire, with a two-horse breakaway at the end between Bigtown Hero and Wazzup Wazzup.
Bigtown Hero, driven by Brad Forward, ultimately won the race and, with a time of 1:50:04, equaled a track and Canadian record.
"We had the best field ever assembled for the cup and came down to an exciting finish," said Drake. "We couldn't have asked for anything better."
Apart from the sheer speed, Drake said the race was also engaging for a behind-the-scenes storyline.
The horse's trainer Renee Allard had been trying to win the Gold Cup and Saucer since 2009.
Drake also said that Forward had been sitting on his couch in Newfoundland just a week ago when he first got the call asking him to race this weekend.
Both of Forward's parents were also there to see the win, with his father arriving at the Charlottetown airport just 15 minutes before the race began.
"Stories like that, nights like that... it's quite memorable," said Drake.
While the harness racing programs held during the week have long been staples of the celebration, the provincial exhibition offers much, much more.
A range of activities, including live music, buskers, agricultural competitions and livestock shows, as well as the smorgasbord of exhibition rides and family fun, kept Islanders and tourists alike busy for the 10 days of the festival.
While the rainier-than-usual week led to some downtime throughout the exhibition, that was one of the few snags of the week.
Even during a downpour Friday morning, crowds gathered along Charlottetown's streets to watch the approximately 100 entries participating in the Gold Cup Parade.
"Apart from the rain, all-in-all it was a successful Old Home Week," said Drake. "We were very pleased with the week, especially Gold Cup night."