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DOWN THE BACKSTRETCH: Charlottetown Driving Park lone track operating in Canada due to pandemic

Horses race at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park earlier this month.
Horses race at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park earlier this month. - Jason Malloy

Looking at the racing scene in Canada is a bit eerie these days with Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park being the only track operating in the world's second-largest country.

The other tracks in Atlantic Canada were set to be shut down anyways but the COVID-19 pandemic has also closed tracks in Ontario and Western Canada to leave Charlottetown as the last one standing. The handle has increased exponentially at the capital oval but cutting through the noise of the U.S. market has still proven to be tricky.

With no other tracks in operations, the Island crowd has full rein of the Canadian leaderboard and I'll admit it is a little strange to see Gilles Barrieau and David Dowling tied for first in Canada for wins. Robert Shepherd is usually a staple on the top-10 board for wins in Canada but the only Shepherd on the list right now is his brother Steven Shepherd, who is tied for ninth with Brian MacPhee for Canadian victories.

Adam Merner is the leading percentage driver in Canada but is absent from the bike for the rest of the winter season while serving a suspension for a driving infraction.

On the training side, Jennifer Doyle stands alone with five wins in 2021 while the training percentage crowd is very sparse with only Ron Matheson having enough starts to register due to Standardbred Canada's formula.

In the middle of this odd state of affairs has been a truly golden opportunity to showcase the first-class Red Shores product around the world. Will our handle instantly grow to $500,000 a card like some people hoped for? No, probably not, but we have exposed several new markets to racing in Charlottetown and grown our pools.

And even if everything has not gone exactly the way we may have hoped for there are some valuable lessons that will be learned by the Island industry during these winter weeks. Our breakthrough moment is coming, it just may be hard to recognize while we're standing alone in the wind.


With the lockdown closing racing in Ontario, a number of trainers have moved their stables to the U.S. for the time being.

Stratford native Patrick Shepherd, a brother of Robert and Steven, is racing a string of horses at Northfield Park outside Cleveland, Ohio. The trainer recorded a victory Wednesday evening at the half-miler as Wild Country won in 1:56 with Aaron Merriman in the bike.

Mitchell Tierney, formerly of New Haven, is also in Ohio with his stable. Tierney has raced five horses so far in Ohio and just qualified Atlantic trot stakes graduate Terrible Ted at Miami Valley Raceway.

Mixed Sale

The 2021 Tattersalls Winter Mixed Sale was held recently at The Meadowlands in New Jersey with some Island action.

Island-bred Bettim Onthe River went through the ring for $6,000, selling to New Jersey connections. Jeff Lilley of Miltonvale Park bred the four-year-old daughter of Riverboat King out of the Justice Denied mare Bettim Amanda. She had been racing the Ontario circuit before the lockdown.

Arnold Hagen of Nova Scotia, who operates a farm in Oyster Bed Bridge, shelled out $67,000 for Wayside, a four-year-old daughter of Somebeachsomewhere. A winner of three races and $51,000 in purse earnings, the mare was trained by Ron Burke in the U.S., and has an impeccable pedigree with her being a full sister to $1.2-million earner Sandbetweenurtoes.

Misty Memory N, who raced on P.E.I. last season for co-owner Don MacRae of Vernon Bridge, was sold at the sale for $17,000 to New York connections.

Nick's Picks

Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park:

Race 1 - Dueling Banjos

Race 2 - Oh To Be Me

Race 3 - Roxy Lund

Race 4 - Therealdeal

Race 5 - Harbourlite Jerry

Race 6 - Pacific Delight

Race 7 - Collective Wisdom

Race 8 - Here Comes Red

Race 9 - Woodmere Skyroller

Race 10 - Babbling

Race 11 - Southwind Ion

Race 12 - Bugsy Maguire

Race 13 - Tempo Seelster

Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at [email protected]


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