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The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer final goes to the gate Saturday evening and the driver of the first Island-bred horse to be in the race in more than a decade is ready.
“I’m going to put my horse in the best position, I think, to win and go from there,” said first-time Gold Cup and Saucer driver David Dowling, who will sit behind Woodmere Ideal Art in the $60,000 final for trainer Sifroi Melanson of New Brunswick. “He raced his best start last week and learned to go faster, which I think will only make him even better for the final.”
Woodmere Ideal Art, bred by Bruce Wood of Marshfield, is the first Woodmere horse to ever be in the Gold Cup and Saucer final. Country Estate was the last Island-bred horse to be in the final in 2008 while the last time a horse born on Prince Edward Island won the Gold Cup and Saucer was 47 years ago, when Les Waite steered Dr Walter C to a 2:05.4 victory in 1973.
The last Maritime-bred to win the Gold Cup and Saucer was Nova Scotia-born Kilkerran Ingle and Emmons MacKay in 1992.
Dowling, a native of Cornwall, is just excited he could go from hiking to the local feed mill in his youth to get a drive to Charlottetown to racing in Atlantic Canada’s biggest horse race.
“It’s been an up-and-down road in my career, but I made it to my dream race and (I'm) going to make the best of it. It’s going to be a great race. The Maritime horses can put on as good of a show as anyone.”
Casimir Richie P will be the favourite in the Race 14 finale for the combination of driver Dale Spence and trainer Dr. Ian Moore, after winning Trial 2 in 1:51. Gilles Barrieau, the driver of Post 8 starter Rose Run Quest from the Marc Campbell stable, says although Casimir Richie P is the best in the race, he is far from unbeatable.
“I know he’s a versatile horse, he doesn’t need the front but no he’s not a layover,” Barrieau said. “There is a lot of speed outside and some inside. It’s an incredibly competitive group.”
Barrieau, a four-time winner of the Gold Cup and Saucer, has previously driven the horse three times, winning two of those starts, including the 2018 Exhibition Cup final in Bible Hill, N.S.
“Eight hole is a tough post, too bad I have to be out there,” Barrieau said of the Blair Hansen of Charlottetown-owned Rose Run Quest. “There will be a lot of speed. Just need to be on the move early and keep the big fella moving.
"Hopefully, capture some of that front-end speed late.”
Most Gold Cup and Saucer finals have an agreed upon narrative heading into the big race, but no one seems certain what will go down in this competitive field of Maritime talent.
“It will be like any other Gold Cup, a complete cavalry charge to see who can make front and, honestly, I don’t even know who will be on front,” said driver Corey MacPherson, who gets the call on Screen Test from Post 3 for employer Ron Gass. “Casimir Richie P is going to aim for the front, but how long it takes him to get there, or if he does, is the question.
"If they roll off the front and I’ll say Screen Test gets out late he can win, but I probably won’t be in late in the mile. I want them to rock off front.”
MacPherson sees every horse in the race as a legitimate contender for a top-three finish.
“Casimir Richie P looks like the best on paper and was huge the other night, but this race has proved anything can happen,” MacPherson said. “My horse has been just as good as the rest of them all year. It would be awesome to win it, but it would be really special if it was with this horse. The people that own this horse are fantastic. I’m not going to say they don’t care if they win this race or not, but they just really love the horse.”
Marc Campbell has claimed victory in this race twice before with a pair of trainees from the Ron Burke stable of Pennsylvania. The Winsloe driver says going into the East Coast classic with two real shots from his own stable is a totally different feeling.
“To have two in it with real shots is really cool,” Campbell said.
He says post position was the deciding factor that led him to pick Trial 1 winner Time To Dance as his drive in the big race.
“Don’t get me wrong, Rose Run Quest is one of my best friends as my daughter, Allie, would say. I just had in my head that if one drew really good and one drew really bad I’d drive from the better post. It’s not like Time To Dance just squeaked into the final either.”
Campbell says he expects two or three horses to battle for the lead early while Casimir Richie P bides his time.
“Dale is likely going to ride around the turn and then come,” Campbell said. “That’s what I would do if I was driving Casimir Richie P, let things settle in and then come. That’s what I think will happen but people get pretty excited in these big races. I think this race should set up for my other horse, Rose Run Quest, to get a big piece of it.”
Nicholas Oakes is covering harness racing at Gold Cup and Saucer Week for The Guardian. This is his 11th year covering the big week for the news outlet.
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