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The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer turns 60 on Saturday
The 60th running of The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer is set for Saturday evening at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) and the much-celebrated big race with a relatively small purse on the international scene has lots to be proud of on its road to this point.
Saturday’s race is sure to be hotly contested from the start but, regardless of the outcome, there is something to be said about both trial winners being trained by two 20-somethings who literally grew up at the CDP.
Rachel Andrew, daughter of the late Meridian Farms master and trainer-driver-breeder Brian Andrew, trains Trial 1 victor Midway Island, while Patrick Shepherd trains Trial 2 winner Sir Pugsley. Shepherd gets the harness bug on both sides with his father Harold a trainer-driver on the backstretch of the CDP and his mother Fran a member of the Hughes racing family that includes her nephew Jason Hughes, driver of Sir Pugsley in Saturday’s race.
During the past 59 years, this race has become one that everyone wants to win, and it is spoken about in harness racing circles across North America and even the world. Known for its pageantry, friendly Island hospitality and the beauty of Prince Edward Island in the summer, the Gold Cup and Saucer and Old Home Week have become a must-see for anyone connected to the sport.
If only CDP race secretary Duck Acorn and Evening Patriot publisher Bill Hancox knew what they were creating in 1960.
The first runing of the Gold Cup and Saucer was held on Friday evening of Old Home Week and it remained on that night until the first Saturday night race in 1981.
When the race was originally conceived, the current format of trials and a final was nowhere near what occurred. During the first two decades of the race, two heats were held with the horse with the fastest time, Dee’s Boy, claiming the race in 1960, then the horse with the best summary from the two heats being named champion from then on. 1974 was the first single-heat Gold Cup and Saucer, which was staged as a one-race invitational, then the current format with trials and a final was introduced in 1980.
There is no question horses coming from out-of-province adds to the excitement of the race, but it is worth noting non-Maritime circuit entries were the exception, not the rule, up until the early ’90s. That was when the prestigiousness of the race, and the value of a summer trip to P.E.I., was amped up leading to today’s reality of the majority of top East Coast horses skipping the trials to race in slower events where they are more competitive.
And competitive is the word for Saturday’s race where everyone belongs. Trip will be key and the first quarter will be well-contested. Normally, the winners of the trials are the hot topic of the Gold Cup and Saucer final, but the dark horse of the field is undoubtedly Post 2 starter Bettors Fire N (Ron Cushing). The Maine pacer raced extremely well from Post 8 in Saturday’s trial and has the much-more favourable Post 2 in the $60,000 final, while the horse’s stablemate, Rock Diamonds N, has Post 6 with Cushing’s son Mitchell Cushing driving.
It is sure to be another great race. In the words of track announcer Vance Cameron “Grab a ticket, grab a seat and buckle up.”
Saturday at 7 p.m. at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park:
Race 1 – Best To Hurst
Race 2 – Distinctiv Rusty
Race 3 – Heaven For Sure
Race 4- Saulsbrook Quick
Race 5 – Adkins Hanover
Race 6 – Red Magician
Race 7 – Majian Tango
Race 8 – Rusty Riley
Race 9 – One Hot Camshaft
Race 10 – Seethelightsngo
Race 11 – Red Dirt Rocknroll
Race 12 – Euchred
Race 13 – Jordies Hope
Race 14 – Bettors Fire N
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.