CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The Gold Cup & Saucer is back where it started.
One of North America’s most prestigious harness races is reaching into its past to rekindle an old partnership for The Guardian.
The media outlet and Red Shores have reached a deal that will see The Guardian be the title sponsor for the Gold Cup & Saucer for the next three years. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
“The relationship between the Guardian and the Gold Cup & Saucer goes right back to the very start – the genesis of the whole event,” said David MacKenzie, regional president for Prince Edward Island for the SaltWire Network, which owns The Guardian. “. . . We are thrilled to re-unite two longstanding community traditions on P.E.I.”
On Friday, Aug. 19, 1960, Dee’s Boy with Lloyd MacAuley at the reins won the first ever Evening Patriot Gold Cup & Saucer in 2:06.Bill Hancox, publisher of The Guardian and The Evening Patriot, approached Charlottetown Driving Park race secretary Frank (Duck) Acorn in the summer of 1960 with the idea of sponsoring an invitational race during Old Home Week.
A few different companies have been the title sponsor through the past 58 years and when the opportunity arose to get back involved MacKenzie and his team on Prince Edward Island made their pitch to the parent company’s executive team. Gaining the support of president and CEO Mark Lever and the executive, discussions began with Red Shores, leading to Friday’s announcement.
“The Guardian is Prince Edward Island’s newspaper. Harness racing is the sport of kings here on P.E.I.,” said MacKenzie. “Both are institutions that go way back and both have a great future.”
Lee Drake, marketing manager, brands and Playwise for Red Shores, said it is a renewal of a great partnership.
“It’s almost like coming home in a sense,” Drake said. “It started there in 1960 and here we are leading up to the 60th running next year and The Guardian is back in it. It’s pretty neat.”
Charlottetown native Wally Hennessey won the event twice and two of his sisters work at The Guardian.
“I think that’s great that it’s going back to its roots,” he said.
The Gold Cup & Saucer was voted No. 2 behind the Little Brown Jug as the race most people want to see in a Standardbred Canada poll a couple of years ago.
So, what’s the attraction?
“It’s about the presentation and the history of this race,” Drake explained. “Nobody does anything like it. Nobody uses spotlights. Nobody uses the Island Hymn. Nobody parades the horses the way we do.”
The night also sees the ambassadors driven by car onto the half mile track prior to the two minutes of exciting racing.
Red Shores race manager Adam Walsh said visitors appreciate the warm welcome they receive when visiting during Old Home Week, which culminates with the big race just before midnight.
“People just can’t get over the camaraderie that exists here,” he said.
“When you come here, you know the people have a charm and a passion for harness racing and they let that show,” Drake added.
Race officials have used technology for years to help spread the word of the race. It is now readily available and Walsh said pretty much any track in North America would be showing the Gold Cup on race night.
“We do an exceptional job of doing the presentation,” Drake said. “We don't change what the race has always been, but we bring it to new shores.”
And, he added, once those people see the race, many want to experience it in person.
The company also sponsored The Guardian's Frosty Night during the Jack Frost Winterfest in February.
MacKenzie said the company supports numerous non-profit organizations throughout the year, but wanted to find a couple of events it could put its name to.
With the weather always being a big part of the big race, has Red Shores put a request in with SaltWire for the assistance of chief meteorologist Cindy Day?
“The one thing that we talk about for the entire week is the weather,” Drake acknowledged. “So, if we can get her here and walk us through the weather maps, so Adam can sleep and I can sleep and the rest of us can sleep, we’d like to have Cindy Day here. A Day at the track.”