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Northside Celebrates 120 Years

Published: September 29, 2018 5:53 pm ET

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The harness racing community in Cape Breton celebrated 120 years of Standardbreds at Northside Downs in North Sydney, Nova Scotia with a special card on Saturday (Sept. 29).

First holding races on July 31, 1898, the track was originally known as the North Sydney Trotting Park according to documents recently unearthed by local participant Diane Collins.

“Charlie Ballard owned the track from 1930-1950. There’s a couple of stories with that,” Collins told the Cape Breton Post. “Some say he bequeathed the track to the farmers, to the exhibition with the understanding it would always be a racetrack. The other story is he sold it for a dollar. I don’t know which one to be true.”

One stipulation remains common between the stories: that the land remained as a racetrack.

Collins noted that surnames the likes of Ratchford, Peck, Rankin have been fixtures at the track since opening in the late 19th century. Those names are synonymous with harness racing across the country and the continent.

“There were and are a lot of good horsemen to come out of North Sydney and surrounding areas that went on to make their own name for themselves but never forgot that Northside Downs is where it all started,” continued Collins.

Stealing the spotlight on the Saturday card was horseman Kevin Bailey, managing to win one-third of the afternoon's races including the Northside Downs' 120th Anniversary Pace with pacing mare Im A Sumbunnie.

Bailey left sharply with Im A Sumbunnie from post four to position his contender behind public choice Burn Em Up Burr (Gerard Kennedy), whose rail spot allowed for the shortest path to the lead. Burn Em Up Burr carved out fractions of :28.1, :58.3 and 1:29 before feeling the pressure of Eastview Dexter (Mark Pezzarello) around the final turn. Bailey found a seam up the inside for Im A Sumbunnie and left-lined his mare for a stretch drive rally. The horses were three across at the wire but Im A Sumbunnie made it there first, a half length ahead of Eastview Dexter and Burn Em Up Burr respectively with the mile timed in 2:00.4.

Bailey trains and owns seven-year-old Im A Sumbunnie (Western Paradise - Cams Newsmaker), now a winner of 18 races over her career with purses totalling $18,650.

The win with Im A Sumbunnie bookended the Bailey training hat-trick, as Wildcat Jet connected in race four for catch-driver Kennedy and The Good Wife capped the three-win day for Bailey in race seven.

One of the oldest invitational races in Cape Breton is the J.A. Ferguson Memorial, a race in honour of the forefather of harness racing Cape Breton and a fixture at Northside since 2007. Fittingly, a horse that's made a name for visiting the winner's circle at Northside captured the 2018 edition of the race in dramatic fashion.

Southwind Ricardo (Ryan Campbell) did all the work on the front end through fractions of :28.3, :58.3 and 1:29.1 before the field of six started to bunch up around the final turn. Charlottes Style (Barry Bates) was challenging first-up, Keep A Secret (Roddy Hurley) was three-wide and Surrealist -- who was sixth and last at the half -- was sent four-wide turning for home by Paul Langille. Keep A Secret took the lead in mid-stretch but Surrealist was just hitting his best stride. A photo was called as those two pacers hit the line together in a time of 2:00.2 with Surrealist getting his nose on the wire first.

Surrealist (#1) gets up to nose out Keep A Secret (#2)

Still one of the top horses in Cape Breton at the age of 12, Surrealist (Modern Art - Keeping Secrets) how sports eight wins on the season and 78 lifetime along with nearly $300,000 in purses for trainer-owner Dana Getto of New Waterford, N.S.

For the charted lines from the Saturday card at Northside, click the following link: Saturday Results - Northside Downs.

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