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FIDDLER'S FACTS: They're coming from everywhere for Old Home Week

Harness racing at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
Harness racing at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park. - Jason Malloy

The Gold Cup and Saucer draw was held Tuesday evening with the favourite Rockin In Heaven drawing the post position and one of the strong contenders with a cast of Island owners Lincoln James saddled with the outside eight post.

We’ll go into detail on Saturday’s column so today we’ll look at our annual “back again for Old home Week” piece.

Prince Edward Island is one of the great harness racing strongholds in North America and if you’ve been around the city this week or last, you will have reached that conclusion. Pompano Park race secretary Joe Frasure is here for the week but I believe he’s babysitting Wally Hennessey and Mark Beckwith, a.k.a. The Mechanic who is a top driver in his own right with over 5,000 lifetime wins. The Beckwith Stable and driver Hennessey are clicking at a win percentage of 19 per cent at Saratoga, second only to the Allard Stable at nearly a 25 per cent win ratio. Rene Allard and his brother, Simon, are here from Pocono and it is great to see both who have been major contributors towards Old Home Week racing for the past decade.

Callie Rankin, who was the leading driver at Flamboro for many years, is here from Ontario and he heads a huge Ontario contingent. Prominent trainer Carl Jamieson and his colourful son, Jody, are here for the week, brothers Robert and Patrick Shepherd, who are among the tops in trainers-drivers in Ontario are here while Phil Hudon and Paul MacKenzie, both former Gold Cup and Saucer winners were seen sipping “pop” in that tent on the first turn. Garry MacDonald, who was the leading OHW driver for many years, is here from Ontario and he hit the win circle Monday. Ozzie MacKay, who is a partner in some nice horses with Blake MacIntosh, is here keeping an eye on his sister, Tammy, from Truro. Sugar Doyle the calls the races at Western Fair, betting on those Summerside-based horses.

Garry MacDonald
Garry MacDonald

Dr. John Hennessey, who is a major player in Ontario harness racing and who has bred a number of top horses, is here for two weeks usually with a contingent destined late in the evening for The Olde Dublin Pub and the Canton. Former owner Walter MacLean and George “Sticks” Frizzell, who raced a big stable at Pompano Park, Florida, in the early 1960s is here from Moncton with Amherst, N S., pal Doug Polley, whose horse Rockin In Heavin was great in Trial 1. Owner David Lund from the Hub City and Don Gaudet, a semi-retired hockey referee and harness racing fan, are part of a big New Brunswick cast of horse lovers. Gaudet was in a lively discussion on a hockey rule interpretation with referee Thane Arsenault, Jim Hare and Tommy Ford who looks like the top ref here since the retirement of Jamie Kennedy. Saint John’s trio of Bruce Maxwell, Brian Morrell and Jimmy McDevitt have been coming here together for almost 50 straight years since before Scotch Gauman won the 1974 Gold Cup and Saucer. Maxwell’s horse, JJ’s Jet, won the $20,000 Paul Bunyan Pace recently at Bangor, Me. The Port City’s leading trainer Sean Dooley is here holding court in the beer tent. Prominent owner Steve Downey whose dad, Milton, had great horses like Comte Richelieu, Jimbo Thomas, Swingalong N, Don Juan N, Royal Salute, Bachelor Boy N and Steve B Down among others is back again for the week. Daryl Pierce, who owned a big stable during the Francis Mcisaac era at EPR, is also here for the week along with Charlie Price.

Prominent Nova Scotia owner David MacDonald of RFM Refrigeration who has spent hundreds of thousands on horses and horse promotions is here from Halifax and he was one of the fortunate ones that drew into ownership of Lincoln James.

Paul Taylor from Winnipeg is back again and let’s not forget he’s Charlottetown’s first great (and only) soccer star from the late 1950s. George Rogers is here for the week from Calgary with his partner, Kathy, playing lots of golf. George and Jim MacPhail have a number of horses but “they’re in tough” if they hope to take money from Neil MacFadyen on the golf course. On the topic of golf, Wally Hennessey and Al Stewart drubbed Rabs MacDonald and Gordie Lund at Belvedere on Tuesday morning.

Bruce MacDonald, the ex-play-by-play hockey announcer from Grand Falls, N.L., is here for the harness racing and the Queens Square School reunion with the cooler presentation at the track Friday. Shane Ryan, the Atlantic Post Calls scribe and race announcer heads a big Cape Breton contingent that includes Joey Garabb, a.k.a. “Judge Judy”, along with Erland Campbell, D.F. Beaton and Todd Moore and representatives of clans MacNeill, Mcisaac, MacLennans, MacDonalds and MacDonnells.

Paul MacKenzie
Paul MacKenzie

And how about a tip of the hat to Charlottetown’s Don Whalen who came home for Old Home Week from Hong Kong where he says, ”I love The Guardian’s televised sports show which I watch every week”. Now there’s a smart guy. See you on Saturday morning.

Fred MacDonald’s column appears in The Guardian every Saturday. This is his annual Old Home Week mid-week special. He can be reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

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