Always At My Place crosses the finish line first in 1:51.1 in Gold Cup and Saucer Trial 1.
©Photo special to The Guardian by Gail MacDonald
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – There are five or six must-see races on the North American harness racing calendar, namely the Hambletonian, the Little Brown Jug, The Meadowlands Pace, the Adios, the North American Cup and our own Gold Cup and Saucer here in Charlottetown, which goes tonight and is the climax of Old Home Week.
It is not the richest event but in terms of pageantry, delivery, media attention and atmosphere, it is not a race, it is an event.
It will be jam-packed this evening regardless of the weather with about 15,000 harness racing fans from this continent and around the world watching what I believe to be the Super Bowl of harness racing.
Tonight's $60,000 race is the richest in Atlantic Canada and brings together the four top finishers from Trial 1 and Trial 2 and it looks like a field with much more depth and speed than any other year. If the weatherman co-operates, we could see the first sub 1:50 mile in the history of the city track, that's the talent in this field.
Let's take a closer look:
Crombie A has been razor sharp for the past month, setting a track record at Truro a few weeks ago and is one of three from the Rene Allard stable in this race. Gary Chappell, unspectacular and underrated as a driver, gets his chance to shine and has a shot in this tough field.
Sapphire City drives one of two from the Ron Burke stable and he's been in against the best pacers in the country in recent weeks. Marc Campbell qualified this horse along with Always At My Place and opted to stay with the latter. Anthony MacDonald gets the drive on Sapphire City and he's a legitimate contender.
Marcus Miller, one of the best young drivers in North America, handles Arque Hanover for trainer Dylan Davis and he'd love nothing better than to win in front of his dad Erv Miller, one of the top trainers in North America. This horse has a big chance.
Shadow Place raced super in his elimination and closed fast in a four-way win photo. Ontario trainer Kyle Fellows has veteran driver Gilles Barrieau in the bike and he's no stranger to the winner’s circle.
If there's a battle early, this horse has an outside shot. Ys Lotus is the defending champ, having won in a track record 1:50:1 for Allard, one of game's top trainers and a great ambassador for this race. Ys Lotus from Post 5 has young driving star Louis-Philippe Roy in the bike. In his last start, he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, splitting horses in the final strides for the victory.
Always At My Place (Post 6) won his trial in impressive fashion and with plenty to spare for Burke. Marc Campbell, by far the leading dash-winning driver at the Charlottetown track, gets the driving assignment for this horse, who has been racing in the $35,000 class at Yonkers. Based on his recent form and the connections, this is your Gold Cup and Saucer favourite.
Do Over Hanover is the likely sentimental favourite, as he is co-owned locally by the Kensington syndicate, Allard Racing and Steven MacRae. Jason Hughes gets the call to drive the horse that has blinding gate speed, which could impact this race. I don't believe he can win from Post 7, but he's good enough to get a good piece of the purse.
Sports Lightning has the dubious task of winning from the dreaded eight-hole with speed galore inside of him. Brett MacDonald is in the bike for trainer Jamie Copley, but oh, that eight-hole hurts. With racing luck on his side, he could get a cheque.
Fred MacDonald's column appears every Saturday in The Guardian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org