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Leading early hasn’t proven to be successful in The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer
It is no great secret that numerous races are won off the front end on half-mile tracks and that made a comment from a multiple Gold Cup and Saucer-winning trainer all the more interesting.
“In the Gold Cup and Saucer, you don’t want to be the first one to the front,” the man said. “Just take back off the gate and hit the pylons at the start.”
That made me think back to past editions of the race and, true enough, people want to win this race so badly they make moves on the front, or heading to the front, they would never fathom in a normal race.
In 2009, All The Weapons, who his trainer-driver said was one of the worst in the race, pulled off a colossal upset to win at 27-1 odds all because of a senseless front-end speed-duel between two of the better entries, Pacific Oak (Brad Forward) and Along Came Polly (Paul MacKenzie).
In 2010, my first year covering the Gold Cup and Saucer after the tragic death of Maritime harness racing’s legendary journalist Doug Harkness earlier that year, saw the front-end hold up. Scott Zeron told me that week for this publication he had never seen Part Shark beaten on a half-mile track when he made front. That held true for a 1:51 track record.
In 2011, Fire On The Water (Anthony MacDonald) was scorched leading the race and Blissfull Breeze sat back and picked up the pieces for Mark MacDonald.
2012 saw the front return to prominence during a week when all anyone talked about was whether Eighteen (Tyler Moore) could make it through the first turn from Post 1 without making a break. He did and the rest is history.
The Burke Brigade of Pennsylvania became the biggest factor in 2013 with Escape The News giving local driver Marc Campbell his first Gold Cup and Saucer win while stablemate Hillbilly Hanover (Gilles Barrieau) finished second. The pair got away fifth and seventh as Up The Credit (Carl Jamieson) rimmed R Caan (Jason Ryan) for the first half.
Bigtown Hero won the richest Gold Cup and Saucer ever for $75,000 in 2014 for driver Brad Forward and trainer Rene Allard, but they sat sixth at the quarter as Aracache Hanover (Campbell) led the way and finished sixth.
The race was rained out during post parade in 2015, leading to just the Gold Cup and Saucer being presented on Sunday afternoon that year. Take It Back Terry wasn’t exactly first to the front, but he was parked out at the quarter then took over the lead for the duration to win for Campbell.
Ys Lotus prevailed in 2016 and, yet again, didn’t make the lead but it mattered little as he romped in 1:50.1 for the current track record in a career-defining moment for then rising start Louis Philippe Roy.
In 2017, everyone, including Shadow Place’s driver Gilles Barrieau, couldn’t see a scenario where Always At My Place could be beat. But the majority theory continued to rule as Campbell hustled the heavy favourite through the mud in a 54.3 half and was nailed late by 10-1 Post 4 starter Shadow Place, who sat eight lengths back from the start.
First over continued to be the name of the game in 2018 with Somewhere Fancy (Simon Allard), sitting fourth for the first-half tipped to the outside to win by three-lengths on another Sunday night Gold Cup and Saucer after the whole doubleheader was rained out on the Saturday.
So, while people talk about the inside horses and who can make front in Saturday’s final, history begs the question: why would they want it?
Nicholas Oakes is covering harness racing at Old Home Week for The Guardian, culminating with the Gold Cup and Saucer on Saturday. This is his 10th year covering Old Home Week for the news outlet.