SUMMERSIDE — There’s one thing all eight drivers in the Governor’s Plate agree on.
That is a final decision on strategy will have to wait until the starting gate is in motion.
“So many things can happen from the start of the stretch to the gate leaves that can make you change your mind four times,” said Modern Xhibit driver Marc Campbell. “I’ve been in the situation a lot of times where you go out with a game plan, and not too many times it actually works.
“A horse may make a break or a horse you think may leave doesn’t leave or something like that, and it can really change how the race unfolds.”
Gilles Barrieau, who has the rail with favourite D Gs Camme, agreed with Campbell.
“You don’t know until the wings close,” said Barrieau on Thursday afternoon. “I haven’t got a strategy right now, and haven’t put much thought into it. You can’t predict a race until you get behind the gate.”
The 46th running of the Governor’s Plate, sponsored by Summerside Chrysler Dodge, will go at Red Shores Summerside tonight. Post time for the 14-dash card is 7 p.m.
The top four finishers in two eliminations advanced to the $25,000 final.
The Barrieau-driven D Gs Camme looked like he won the first elimination Sunday. However, the judges ruled that D Gs Camme had interfered with second-place finisher Red Rock just past the eighth pole. Red Rock was declared the race winner, and D Gs Camme was placed second.
D Gs Camme went the mile in 1:54.2, and Red Rock’s adjusted time was 1:55.1.
“I drove him for the first time last week,” said Barrieau. “I like him a lot actually. I really believe he’s going to be a strong contender in there.
“He’s a real nice horse, he won’t be out of place and hopefully things will work out.”
All Turain won the second elimination on Monday night in 1:56 flat. However, it was learned on Wednesday that All Turain’s post-race test in Fredericton on Canada Day came back positive, resulting in a suspension.
Ultimate Luck, the fifth-place finisher in the first elimination, was added to the field and will leave from Post 8.
“I like the horse,” said Ultimate Luck driver Kenny Arsenault. “I really thought he was going to be second last week to Gilles.
“His last 30 feet in, he kind of slowed up. I don’t know what happened, maybe the heat got to him. He’s a real good horse. He went in (1:)54.2 here three weeks ago, and was just flying. I think the horse is a legitimate contender.”
As for the dreaded outside post, Arsenault said he’ll look over and see what happens.
“If they are all leaving out looking for a position, the only one thing I can do is take back,” continued Arsenault. “But if nobody is on the gate wanting to go out, I will go out. It’s pretty tough to win the race sitting eighth at the quarter pole.”
There are three Jason Hughes-trained entries vying for Prince County’s most prestigious standardbred race.
Astor will leave from Post 2, Red Rock has drawn Post 6 and Narragansett leaves from the seven-hole. Hughes will drive Astor while Gary Chappell will be in Red Rocket’s bike and Corey MacPherson will steer Narragansett.
“It’s very exciting to have three entries,” said Hughes. “Unfortunately, you can’t drive all three of them. I think we made pretty good picks with the other guys driving.”
Hughes admitted post positions played a role in his decision to drive Astor.
“I expect there will be a little speed (off the start),” said Hughes. “Red Rock can get off the gate pretty good, and I expect he’ll be leaving out.
“The (No.) 1 horse showed last week he can get off the gate pretty good, and my horse can get off the gate pretty good too.”
MacPherson drove Narragansett when he was much younger.
“He wants to race now whereas when he was younger he was green and didn’t know how to race,” said MacPherson. “He’s turned into a nice horse.”
Chappell will drive Red Rock for the first time from Post 6.
“It’s nice to get a drive on a horse of that calibre,” said Chappell. “He’s a pretty good leaver, and a fellow will have to head for the front.”
Does Chappell expect a lot of speed off the gate?
“Every race there is speed, but you never know really until the wings are shut and you’re halfway to the turn,” he answered.
Campbell is excited to have Post 3 after leaving from the outside in his two previous drives behind Modern Xhibit this season.
“I raced him both times from behind because we drew outside,” said Campbell. “He seems to be able to finish pretty good.
“He’s a nice horse to drive. He does nothing wrong, he’s good gaited and I think if I can keep him up close he’ll be there at the end.”
Judge Jon and Mike Stevenson will line up at Post 4.
“We will take as inside as we can get with him because he’s going to need to be following and tripping out,” said Stevenson. “It should set up good to maybe slide out second or third over in there somewhere.
“Hopefully, they roll to the half and he can pick up some pieces finishing.”
Stevenson said Judge Jon “raced awesome” in finishing second in Monday’s elimination.
“After a half in 56 and a piece, we slipped out and followed Brodie (MacPhee and All Turain) and he hung tough,” he said. “Brodie’s horse did most of the work first over, and he was kind of a fresh horse coming late. He certainly didn’t disappoint. He didn’t miss by much actually.
“At the top of the stretch I thought I had a pretty good shot at beating him (All Turain). He got up alongside him, but that’s as far as we went. I thought he raced exceptionally well myself.”
With All Turain out, MacPhee got the call to drive Machinthesand, owned by Russell and Karen Noonan of Middleton. The five-year-old bay gelding drew Post 5.
“He’s actually a bit of a sleeper in that race,” said MacPhee. “He can come up with some good miles. He’s my kind of horse. He’s a little bit lazy, and he makes you work for it. If everything works out I think he can be close.”
Trainer Mark Bradley is excited to have MacPhee in the sulky.
“Brodie drove him last year for us a few times, and got along great with him. Right from the first time he drove him, Brodie seemed to get along with him good.”
Governor’s Plate positions,
with drivers in parenthesis:
1. D Gs Camme (Gilles Barrieau)
2. Astor (Jason Hughes)
3. Modern Xhibit (Marc Campbell)
4. Judge Jon (Mike Stevenson)
5. Machinthesand (Brodie MacPhee)
6. Red Rock (Gary Chappell)
7. Narragansett (Corey MacPherson)
8. Ultimate Luck (Kenny Arsenault)