Driver Mark MacDonald's trip home to the East Coast provided him with his third Sobey's Gold Cup & Saucer trophy as he guided Blissfull Breeze to victory in the $60,000 event on Saturday night at
Charlottetown Driving Park.
Last year’s champion, Part Shark (Gilles Barrieau), blasted off the gate from Post 4 but was parked during the first quarter in a sizzling :26.2 before dropping into the pocket behind inside starter Fire On The Water (Anthony MacDonald).
As Fire On The Water led the way in front of the grandstand to the half in :55.2, trial two winner Firethorn (John MacDonald) advanced first over from third providing the third trial winner, Blissfull Breeze and Mark MacDonald, with cover as they angled off the pylons from fifth.
Firethorn edged ahead down the backstretch and cleared the lead near three-quarters in 1:24.1 with Blissfull Breeze rolling up alongside.
Blissfull Breeze drew clear down the stretch and charged to victory in the 52nd edition of the Gold Cup & Saucer in 1:53.1. Firethorn was the runner-up, finishing two and three-quarter lengths behind, with favourite Part Shark settling for third in this year’s event.
“I’m very happy. The trip worked out great. I did my job and the horse did his,” said Mark MacDonald, walking to the winner’s circle. “There was a little divine intervention because I probably wouldn’t be here [to drive] if my mom hadn’t of gotten sick. I had to stay and I’m just happy to win.”
MacDonald, who won the Gold Cup & Saucer in 2003 and 2004 with Sand Olls Dexter, said luck was on his side as he scored a perfect second over trip.
“I had to drop the eight horse [Oakmont and Danny Romo] in and kind of give him a hole to get him out of the way a bit and then I got lucky and got a second over trip behind John MacDonald and he cleared off his cover and I just had to let my horse pace and he did his job. He paced hard after that.”
Blissfull Breeze paid $6.70 to win as the second choice. The eight-year-old son of Blissfull Hall-Melbourne Breeze is trained by Dean Nixon for owner Leo Racicot of Harrow, Ont. The win was his ninth in 24 seasonal starts and lifted his 2011 earnings to over $90,000. The 46-time career winner now boasts a bankroll of more than $300,000.
Millionaire pacer Rare Jewel cleared to the lead at the quarter pole and cruised to his 60th career win in 1:53 in Saturday night’s $10,000 Gold Cup & Saucer Consolation 2, named in honour of Mike MacDonald. Driver Ryan Ellis and the 10-year-old son of Artiscapes-Michelles Jewel were followed by Serious Damage (Kenny Arsenault), who swept three-wide down the backstretch from last and came on to place, and favourite Im Gorgeous (Mike Stevenson) advanced first over to show. The Scott Bell trainee paid $10.30 to win for the sixth time in 21 seasonal starts. He is owned by Norman Vartanian of Stoney Creek, Ont.
Saturday’s double header was packed full of stakes and series action including a pair of $11,000 Joe O'Brien Memorial gold divisions.
Woodmere Sandman shaved over three seconds off his lifetime mark when he wired a field of three-year-old pacing colts in the first Joe O'Brien Memorial gold divisions on the card.
With the inside advantage, Woodmere Sandman and driver Stephen Trites forced New School (John MacDonald) and Tiger Williams (Earl Smith), who were stacked three deep around the first turn, to take back into second and third during the :27.3 opening quarter. The Western Success-Sanfrangelica gelding never relinquished the lead from that point on as he carved out middle splits of :57.1 and 1:27 en route to the 1:56 victory. New School finished one and a half lengths behind in second and Windemere Express (Simon Allard) rounded out the top three.
Woodmere Sandman paid $6.70 to win as the bettor’s choice. Sheldon Carl Watts trains the gelding, who has recorded four wins, two seconds and one third in seven seasonal starts. The lion’s share of the purse pushed his 2011 earnings to $14,958 for New Brunswick owners Susan Seymour, Beverley Trites, and John Osborne.
The Eagle also bested his mark by over two seconds in the next gold division for trainer-driver Gilles Barrieau and owners Michael Blanchard of New Glasgow, N.S. and Barry Blanchard of Kars, N.B.
The Eagle took control of the field from the Post 2 and posted early fractions of :28 and :58.1 before coming under attack from first over Howdidchado (Terry Gallant), who edged out in front down the backstretch. However, The Eagle fought back and regained control past the 1:27.2 three-quarters mark. The son of Justice Denied-Hot asset was left all alone on top down the stretch when Howdidchado put in a few steps back in second. The Eagle soared to the three and three-quarter length victory in 1:57.3 with Balbriggan Fox (John MacDonald) coming in second and 3-2 favourite Maritimer (Clare MacDonald) recovering from an early break to show.
The 5-2 second choice paid $7 to win for the second time in 10 seasonal starts. His earnings climbed to $11,726 for 2011.
Three $5,000 Joe O'Brien Memorial grassroots divisions for three-year-old pacing colts were also contested during the afternoon card in which the Leith Waite homebred Stoveonfire ($3.30) romped to a three and a half length victory in a career-best 1:57.2 with Corey MacPherson in the bike; Elm Grove Fonzie ($11.10) and driver Leonard Myers wore down pacesetter Porthill Ian right at the wire for his third win in four starts in a new mark of 2:00; and Island Commander ($10) and Kenny Arsenault swept to command ahead of favourite Woodmere Ultimate past the half and cruised to a one length victory in 1:58.3.
Mares owned in part by Meridian Farms’ Andrew family swept the top two spots in the $6,100 final of the Meridian Trotting Series on Saturday evening. The series, sponsored by Standardbred Canada and Meridian Farms, is for Canadian sired and/or 100 per cent Canadian owned mares.
Warrawee Jade took over command from favourite Flashy Image early on and cruised past panels of :28.2, :58.2, and 1:29.4 en route to the 2:01.1 six and a quarter length victory. Driver Brian Andrew shares ownership of the six-year-old Angus Hall-Independent Dame mare with trainer Blake Andrew. Napanee Seelster, owned in part by Bill Andrew with trainer-driver Daniel MacDonald and Philip Pitts, advanced first over to finish second with Diana Car following for third.
Warrawee Jade paid $20.30 to win for the 9-1 upset after finishing second in the opening legs. The win was her third in 22 seasonal starts and lifted his 2011 earnings to $9,895.
The $8,250 Spud Island Classic final for aged pacing mares went to General Luckypercy ($6.90) and driver Robert Shepherd, who converted from the pocket to win in 1:56.2. Pacesetter Troxel Hanover (Simon Allard) finished one and a half lengths behind in second with J K Special (Walter Cheverie) rounding out the top three. Jackie Matheson trains the five-year-old daughter of Blissfull Hall-Periella Hanover, a winner of six races in 28 seasonal starts, for owners Jody Matheson of Cambridge, Ont. and Jack Brown of Stratford, P.E.I.
Favourite Wild Heart ($4.70) and driver Simon Allard sprinted home to capture the $3,000 Spud Island Classic Consolation contested during the afternoon card over pacesetter Abby Best in 1:57. Earl Watts trains the five-year-old daughter of Real Desire-Wild Helen for owners John Howatt and Windemere Farms of North Wiltshire, P.E.I.
Veteran pacer Outlawpositivcharg ($5.70) brought his A game to Charlottetown for Gold Cup & Saucer night and went wire-to-wire to win the $2,500 Papermaker Pace in a season’s best 1:55.1 for trainer-driver Terry Gallant and owner J. Fred Lamont of Calgary, Alta.
Bet The House ($15) and driver John MacDonald made a three-wide backstretch brush to take the winner’s share of the $2,000 jackpot in the Norman MacPhail Memorial Pace. Owned by trainer Blaine McKenna and Gary Arsenault of Miscouche, P.E.I., the five-year-old gelding stopped the clock in 1:56.
In the $5,900 Alpine Claiming Series final for fillies and mares, Timeless Hanover ($10.20) and driver Simon Allard overcame a Post 8 start and wired the field of $3,000 claimers, winning in a career-best 1:55.3 by four and a quarter lengths. The seven-year-old The Panderosa mare was claimed in the second leg of the series by trainer-owner Patrick Murphy of Augustine Cove, P.E.I.
Fox Valley Peepsho ($6.40) and trainer-driver Marc Campbell won the $2,500 consolation in 2:00.2 earlier in the day for owner James Whalen Jr. of Vernon Bridge, P.E.I.
With trainer Terry Gallant in the sulky, Flaming Prince ($13.10) rallied wide from the backfield and came on to score the 1:58.3 win the matching Alpine Claiming Series final for $3,000 claiming horses and geldings by one and a half lengths. Gallant also co-owns the six-year-old As Promised-Flaming Princess gelding with Kathy MacKenzie of Puslinch, Ont.
To view Saturday’s harness racing results, click on the following links: