The Gold Cup and Saucer Trials get underway tonight and Monday at the city track and they will attract harness racing fans from across this region.
For next Saturday’s $75,000 Gold Cup and Saucer you can expect fans from Ontario, Quebec and the west. They’ll be here from New England and Ohio and all other hot spots of harness racing in North America.
Prince Edward Island is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1864 meetings here in Charlottetown that led to the formation of Canada as we know it today. Regardless of what is on the 1864 calendar of events, they all will take a back seat to the Gold Cup and Saucer, that’s a certainty.
During the next two weeks, Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park is hosting one of the great events in the harness racing world. That’s right folks one of the great events in our game. It’s the Super Bowl of harness racing.
Most Island horsemen and the majority of race fans in Atlantic Canada understand what we have, but I’m not yet sure even tourism and the city really realize what this event called Old Home Week and the Gold Cup and Saucer means to the province.
There are a number of other classic harness races that attract great attention, all kinds of media and big crowds. The Hambletonian, which was raced this past week at the Meadowlands, was televised nationally in the United States and the North American Cup at Mohawk was shown on the TSN in Canada and both drew in the vicinity of 20,000 fans, as did the Del Miller Adios at The Meadows two weeks ago.
They are important events no doubt about it. The next two major races on the calendar the Gold Cup and Saucer set for Charlottetown Saturday, Aug. 16, and the Little Brown Jug, Thursday, Sept. 18 at Delaware, Ohio, will draw enormous crowds and challenge the other three for the right to call itself the greatest race on the continent.
The Gold Cup will draw in the area of 25,000 fans while the Jug somewhere in excess of 50,000 to the Ohio State Fair grounds. The Gold Cup has the pageantry, the Cup and Saucer ambassadors, and the provincial holiday on the Friday before the race, which sets it apart from the others. There is no other sport in Atlantic Canada, and no other location in this region, that is home to one of the great events in the world of sports. The Gold Cup and Saucer is that kind of an event and maybe that’s why it grows in stature with each passing year.
Atlantic Lotto and its management provide a great home for the event with a wonderful facility, terrific food services and an atmosphere that suggests a race of historical importance.
Each year at Old Home Week time, I hear the odd complaint that organizers should change the format of the Gold Cup and Saucer and restrict in some way horses coming from outside to compete in our big race.
The Gold Cup and Saucer is about giving race fans the opportunity to see the best invitational-type pacers in the flesh. You don’t hear the boys from Ohio complain when outsiders win the Jug or the boys from New York and New Jersey lament when Canadians win their major races. It’s as simple as this, “Do you want to watch the Dallas Cowboys in Halifax or the Mount A Mounties? Do you want to watch local stars or Bobby Orr?”
When Roach MacGregor took in the fast pacer Dr Harry C back in 1964, I heard similar rumblings from a group that cared only for themselves. Thank goodness organizers back then, people like Doug Hill, Mel Jenkins, Duck Acorn, Pius Callaghan and Bill Hancock, had the vision and resolve to carry the day.
UPEI vice-president Jackie Podger’s message to the media last week regarding the athletic review had the vast majority of us who follow UPEI sports shaking our heads in amazement. Listening to the VP, one would come away with the idea the situation at the athletic department was so rosy, why on earth was a review even needed. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The situation there was chaotic and morale at an all-time low and I am certain that is the message from the MacNeill review. To cloak that mess in more noble robes may come back to haunt Podger. As for moving quickly on a long string of MacNeill’s recommendations, I would take The Guardian’s editorial advice and move methodically.
The last time the university moved quickly resulted in athletic director Ron Annear leaving work on Friday at 5 p.m. and returning Monday to learn he had been replaced during the weekend.
If there is one item UPEI should move quickly upon, it’s the rehiring of women’s basketball coach Greg Gould. Don’t bother with interviews, hire him immediately. I give the university some credit for resolving a terrible situation even though they played a major role in it’s creation.
In local golf news, congratulations to hometown boy Brian Affleck of York who won last week’s Tim Horton’s Stanhope Open with rounds of 69 and 67. Islander Kevin Crozier was two strokes back.
At Belvedere, the Monday group attracted 29 players and A & S owner Alan Stewart shot a 79 as did Les Parsons, among the best rounds of the day.
Ian MacKinnon eagled the 12th while Rabs MacDonald posted an eagle on the 13th.
The team of Mike Coady and MacDonald came away with the money, while the team of Blair Smith and Boswell Jenkins came away with the eggs. Last I heard, Blair is trying to trade his partner.
At Countryview last week, Valerie Acorn had a birdie on the sixth hole while playing partner Grant Palmer, aka The Marlboro Man, posted an 89, his best round ever. Roger MacLauchlan and Wendell MacEachern have advanced into the Avondale match doubles championship final against George Stewart and Vaughn Jenkins. Roger has been hot of late and his shoulders are getting heavy. Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee looked sharp in the annual Down East classic golf tournament at Avondale two weeks ago and was easily the best of his foursome, which included Sput MacDonald, Donnie Doyle and Gary Kennedy.
I had a chat with George Matthews, who was the voice of the Columbus Blue Jackets for many, many years. Matthews did an outstanding job for the Blue Jackets in setting up their radio market and would be a huge asset for the hometown Islanders of the Quebec league.
George told me P.K. Subban was interviewed after his on-ice training session this past week in Toronto and was thoroughly impressed by young Islanders forward Daniel Sprong.
On a sombre note, our condolences to the family and all connected to Summerside’s Bennie Grady, who passed away last week. Bennie was a hockey standout with the Summerside Aces in the 1960’s and an assistant with the Summerside Juniors who represented the Maritimes in the nationals at Montreal in the early 1960s under head coach Grant Grady.
Tonight’s Gold Cup and Saucer should be a dandy even with a six-horse field.
Astor, the lone Maritime entry, has drawn the rail for local trainer-driver Jason Hughes and owners Foxyhall Racing of Nova Scotia. He will likely be the sentimental favourite, but he’ll have his hands full making it into final four and a trip to the big show next Saturday.
Shock It To Em could do just that for driver Walter Cheverie and trainer Chris Oaks from post two. His toughest test could come from next-door neighbour from post three Big Town Hero, a winner recently in 1:48.3 from the powerful Rene Allard Stable. Robert Shepherd handles Island Jet also from the Allard stable, while highly touted Aracache Hanover, 1:48.1, from the powerful Ron Burke Stable leaves from post five with Marc Campbell.
Up the Credit leaves from post six for trainer Carl Jamieson and young Ryan Ellis.
Monday night’s Trial 2 is the toughest of the two races with at least four who have been in 1:49 recently, including Wazzup Wazzup (James MacDonald) and Mickey Hanover (Anthony MacDonald). Scott Rocks has a 1:48.3 score to his credit a few weeks ago while Take It Back Terry, Duke Did It and Mach Wheel are all capable or they wouldn’t be here. Let’s hope for great weather, fast racing and a safe journey for all.
Fred MacDonald’s column appears in The Guardian each Saturday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.