The centre piece of each season’s harness racing on Prince Edward Island, Canada is the Gold Cup and Saucer. Every summer, a little history is added to Gold Cup night, as the Island Hymn is played and the crowd focuses their attention on the horses and drivers approaching the field. Horses and drivers are introduced to the packed crowd before the starting time of exactly two minutes to midnight. The call to the post is heard, horses and drivers get ready to compete in the Gold Cup and Saucer Race, one of the most anticipated shows in harness racing. Canada’s equivalent to the USA’s Little Brown Jug loses little in comparison. In fact Dean Hoffman writing in Hoof Beats in 1993 considered the Gold Cup and Saucer the “Greatest Show in Harness Racing”.
2017 was no different with the Gold Cup and Saucer being the culmination of Old Home Week which included
- Fifteen race meetings over nine days
- World Trotting Conference at Delta Prince Edward Island including a public symposium
- Launch of World Harness Book, copies available from www.retromedia.ca at a cost of C$29.95 plus shipping and fees
- Gold Cup and Saucer/Old Home Week parade
- World Drivers Championships (WDC) final round of heats
- Gold Cup and Saucer racenight
The Red Shores Racetrack contains excellent displays of memorabilia including Gold Cup displays, a Wall of Fame, numerous pictures/trophies/rugs andthe 2000 winners club portraying many of those involved in harness racing at Charlottetown Driving Park since its inception in 1888.
Prince Edward Island (PEI) has a proud tradition of harness racing as shown in the following extract from this year’s Gold Cup and Saucer programme :
The Historic Judges Stand is just another long standing example of the history of Charlottetown Driving Park :
First held in 1960 when won by two time winner Dees Boy (1960, 1962) the now Group 3 Gold Cup and Saucer event was this year contested by a field of seven and run over a distance of 1 mile for a current stake money of C$60,000, the largest for any race in PEI. Run on Saturday evening 19 August 2017, this time honoured event in its fifty eighth edition has over the years featured a number of well performed runners including :
- Three time winner Andys Son (1965,1966, 1971)
- Number of earlier winners also won Walter Dale Memorial run at Fredericton, New Brunswick
- Two time Australian bred winner Sauls Pride in 1980, 1982 (Byebye Bill [Captain Adios] stallion from Star Smoke) with a New Zealand bred winner in 1981 in Henry Butler (Lord Butler/Black Drive), a FFA winner at Richmond Raceway, Fremantle and Gloucester Park. Another NZ bred winner in London Mews (In The Pocket/Liberty Print) took out the 2002 edition
- Stargaze Hanover, 1989 winner was 1988 CTA Older H&G Pacer of Year, 1:53.4, $469,479
- Scarlet And Gold 1:50.3, $545,659, winner in 2001 is amongfirst 100 2:00 pacers in UK (1:58.9 Tir Prince, Towyn, Wales)
- Several millionaires and sub 1:50 horses have won the event over past twenty years –
- Native Born, 1:50.3 $1,156,008, winner in 1998, also Group One’s Battle of Freehold – 2c, Nassagaweya – 2; Group Two Champlain Stakes – 2, Group Three Meadowlands Pace Consolation
- Driven To Win, 1:49,3, $968,353, winner in 2005, also Group Two Fox Stakes
- Silent Swing, 1:48.4, $2,090,232, winner in 2007 (1:51.4 as 2yo), number of US/Canadian Group Three victories
- Eighteen, 1:49.1, $773,274 winner in 2012
- Escape The News, 1:48.4, $783,546, winner in 2013 (1:50.2 at two)
- Bigtown Hero 1:47.3at Pocano Downs, $469,072,winner in 2014
- Take It Back Terry, 1:50.0, $1,228,047, winner in 2015
- YS Lotus 1:49.3, $213,247 winner in 2016 setting new track record of 1:50.1 and winner of a qualifying heat in 2017 (scratched from final)
The Gold Cup and Saucer has an interesting history as outlined below :
2017 Gold Cup and Saucer
So to 2017’s running of the Gold Cup and Saucer.Qualifying heats ($12,500) for the fourteen entries had been held the preceding Saturday and Monday of Old Home Week with winners and those progressing to the final being :
Heat One, Saturday 12 August : Always At My Place (1:51.1, dr Mark Campbell, eight length winner); Shadow Place; Do Over Hanover; Crombie AHeat Two, Monday 14 August : Ys Lotus (1:52.4, dr Louis Philippe Roy. neck); Sports Lightning; Sapphire City; Arque Hanover In 1980 the Gold Cup and Saucer moved to its current format of two heats, a consolation and a final. A year later the final was moved from Friday to Saturday night where it remains as a fitting conclusion to Old Home Week. The 2017 James Roach McGregor Memorial Gold Cup and Saucer Consolation was run as the final race on WDC night, Friday 18 August. The winner in the six horse field was Windsong Leo for driver/trainer Daniel O’Brian in 1:54.2.
The 2017 Gold Cup and Saucer on Saturday 19 August was part of a fourteen race programme, with corporate sponsor Sobeys (second largest food retailer in Canada) sponsoring the race for the twentieth consecutive year (since 1998).
We had been advised that a crowd of between 15/20,000 could be expected. In earlier years, excess crowds flowed over into the infield of the track. This practice was banned after an incident that occurred at the start of the 2003 Gold Cup and Saucer.
The 2017 Gold Cup and Saucer was part of a fourteen race programme, with corporate sponsor Sobeys (second largest food retailer in Canada) sponsoring for the twentieth consecutive year (since 1998).
We were advised a crowd of between 15/20,000 could be expected. In earlier years, excess crowds flowed over into the infield of the track. This practice was banned after an incident that occurred at the start of the 2003 Gold Cup and Saucer.
However, due to the most inclement weather encountered, the crowd numbers were down on previous years although in excess of ten thousand braved the conditions. The afternoon meeting had been impacted by steady rain, in fact on arrival at the track an hour or so before the first race at 7pm, grit was being applied with the track conditioner doing its best to present a track in pristinecondition. Steady and at times very heavy rain fell throughout the evening together with strong winds that had started mid afternoon (3pm), stopping for a period prior to the Gold Cup but commencing again before post time.
The weather did not stop the diehardenthusiast’s from attending, many
‘Little Brown Jug” like tying chairs and tables to the home straight fence to reserve their close up position for all the action to follow. A great number ventured out and endured the inclement conditions to watch the major race of the evening. Those oncourseincluded many of the World Trotting Conference delegates, WDC drivers, John Campbell attending his first Gold Cup and “local” Wally Hennessey.
After the first thirteen races had been held in a seven to eleven o’clock window, the time dawned for the Gold Cup and Saucer final with approximately an hour’s gap between races 13 and 14. At this point the 2017 Gold Cup Ambassadors entered the fray. The Gold Cup and Saucer Ambassadors are eight young ladies who each draw a horse starting in the final. They were part of the Gold Cup and Saucer parade on Friday morning, each accompanying one or two of the WDC drivers in open top convertibles or classic cars through the streets of Charlottetown. The ambassador representing the winning horse is crowned Miss Gold Cup and Saucer; for 2017 this was nineteen year old Katie Wight of Charlottetown.
From the confines of the historic Judges Box, each Ambassadoraccompanied her chosen horse’s driver onto the track to be met by the horse that they were driving. After all horses and drivers had been reunited, the tracks lights were turned off and each participant in numerical order was individually spotlighted and paraded the length of the home straight in front of cheering patrons. A rousing rendition of the local PEI Hymn (Anthem) was then sung.
This year’s field was due to contain last year’s winner/track record holder and one of this year’s heat winners in Ys Lotus but unfortunately he was scratcheddue to sickness on the Saturday morning. The field also contained former Australian pacer Crombie A (now 11yo, 1:50.1US, WA Derby, ID heat, over $700k), millionaire/sub 1:50 pacer Sapphire City (1:49.3US), sub 1:50 pacers Argue Hanover (1:49.4US), Shadow Place (1:49.1US), Always At My Place (1:47.2US). So you can see this was a more than suitable line-up of well credentialed horses for the Maritime provinces major race.
With the time fast approaching midnight all was in readiness for the 2017 Gold Cup and Saucer final. The final field of seven lined up behind the mobile gate ready to commence battle. The weather had worsened again just prior to race time and the track conditions were slushy at best.
Favourite, Always At MyPlace and Marc Campbell led easily in a 27.1 first quarter from Sapphire City before reaching the half mile in 54.1 withShadow Place settling four back on the rails far from the leaders. Sapphire City retreated in the back straight while Argue Hanover and Shadow Place made their presence known rounding the home turn. Still clear well into the home straight Always At My Place could not withhold the late challenge of Shadow Place who went clear 30m off the post to win by a length in a 1:53.2 mile with a final quarter in 27.4.
All things considered an especially good time in the conditions but yet another example of the more fancied runners not getting the job done on a night of upsets. Before long it seems certain that PEI will see its first 1:50 or sub 1:50 time but maybe the weather gods will have to be in agreement first.
2017 Gold Cup and Saucer result –
SHADOW PLACE (6g Shadow Play/Loving Place by Artsplace); owners Carl Stafford, Newfoundland and Labrador and Kyle Fellows Ontario; trainer (Robert) Kyle Fellows, Ontario; driver Gillies Barrieau; breeder Dan Beliveau, Halifax, Nova Scotia; won by one length, 1:53.2
Second: Always At My Place; tr Ron Burke, dr Marc Campbell
Third : Arque Hanover; tr Dylan Davis, dr Marcus Miller
Fourth : Crombie A; tr Rene Allard, dr Louis Philippe Roy
**photo coutesy of Larry Resnitzky
Winning driver Gillies Barrieau is now a four time winner (1997, 2000, 2002, 2017) of the Gold Cup and Saucer, second only to Mark MacDonald who recorded five victories from twenty nine drives in the final (1975, 1977, 1984, 1985, 1995). Barrieauwon the Francis McIsaac Driving Award as the top driver during Old Home Week, an award which Francis won on ten occasions. Louis-Philippe Roy won four times on Gold Cup and Saucer night to win the Chucker’s Trophy Award as top percentage driver during Old Home Week. Barrieau, known as the Maritime Magic Manrepresented Canada at the 2007 World Drivers Championship in New Zealand and Australia finishing in eighth place of ten competitors.
** photo courtesy of Gail MacDonald (Charlottetown track photographer and mother of World Champion James MacDonald)
And so the running of the 2017 Gold Cup and Saucer brought to an end our feast of harness racing in PEI, a wonderfully enjoyable time we had thanks to the many kind and generous native PEI’s we net.
Our diet of harness racing during our Canadian trip was not quite over however with a couple of “bonuses” to be sampled in Ontario, specifically driving past Mohawk Racetrack and an evening’s racing at Grand River Raceway in Elora. Duane Marfisi (Rolling Hills Racing Stables, Uxbridge, ON) who was Mark Purdon’s foreman until returning to Canada last December, had Top Desire racing in a claimer. Producing a good performance he won his second race on end for Duane but was subsequently claimed. Duane and his wife Janet who we had met on several occasions in Christchurch were unfortunately not on course.
20 September 2017
Approved By Dean Baring www.harnessbred.com
Driving The Future Of Harness Racing