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A Silver Lining Turns To Gold

Published: August 20, 2020 7:00 pm ET

Last Comment: August 20, 2020 11:18 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So has been the case for Prince Edward Island horseman Dale Spence, who was forced to postpone his wedding from this summer to 2021 on account of the coronavirus pandemic. But thanks to a leap of faith he took earlier in the year, he may still be able to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime experience this summer after all.

This Saturday (Aug. 22), Spence will make his first ever appearance in the $60,000 Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer at Red Shores at Charlottetown Driving Park, driving 5-2 favourite Casimir Richie P for trainer Dr. Ian Moore. The opportunity was borne of Spence and his fiancée MacKenzie MacInnis' decision to join Moore's winter staff in Florida -- seemingly an eternity ago in hindsight, but truly just mere months ago.

"We had kind of had a string of bad luck — not really bad luck, I guess, just working hard and getting nowhere — and we saw Doc's post on Facebook that he was looking for help in Florida for the winter," Spence told Trot Insider. "[MacKenzie] said to me, 'Why don't we do this for the winter? It'll be a nice change of pace.'

"Doc didn't know me, but he did know MacKenzie," Spencer continued, noting that MacInnis was the Ambassador for Moore's Gold Cup and Saucer winner Eighteen in 2012. "We called him up, and seven days later we were in Florida. It was great ... it was a nice learning experience, and actually we're going down again next winter."

The move proved fulfilling for both Spence and MacInnis, who gained more experience with preparing two-year-olds for the races than they had been availed in their home province of Prince Edward Island. But the stint in the Sunshine State came at a cost, as both had to take leave of their day jobs away from the racetrack -- Spence at a concrete plant, MacInnis as a dental assistant.

"I work at the office doing dispatching and invoices," Spence explained. "The concrete world around here in the wintertime is fairly slow...Everything shuts down here in the winter, pretty much.

"I actually -- just the way the organization works that I work for -- I had to give up my position in order to do it. MacKenzie was a little luckier than me; she had a leave of absence. In saying that, when I got back here, I contacted my employer and told them I was back in town if they ever needed anything, and I'm back working for them again."

While they both were able to resume employment upon their return north, Spence and MacInnis were sadly forced to put other plans on hold.

"We had planned our wedding for this year, June 20," Spence continued. "But anyway, with everything that went on when we were in Florida and COVID-19 came along -- back home, you had the two weeks' quarantine, can't have gatherings over four people. And the kind of people that we are, we have a lot of family and a lot of friends, and we want to have a celebration. Our plans didn't work out, so we rescheduled the wedding for June 18, 2021."

To say that the pandemic and the sweeping public health measures that have followed have disrupted many a major event is a grave understatement. But in one case in particular for Spence, it has also opened the door for his first appearance in Atlantic Canada's most prestigious race. And the sense of accomplishment is not lost on the 28-year-old reinsman, who has been teamed up with one of his old Florida friends in Casimir Richie P, whom MacInnis actually cared for through the winter.

"Picking up the catch drive on Richie is a huge feather in my cap," Spence said. "Per capita, Doc's had the best horses for a long time; he puts out good horses year to year. For him to call me and say, 'I've got Richie down for the Gold Cup; can you drive him?' It's quite a large feather in my cap. He could have called anybody here -- Gilles Barrieau, Marc Campbell -- he could have called any of those guys.

"He called me the other day just to give me a little pep talk...'Dale, you know the horse, you've got a good set of hands, you've got a good head on your shoulders. Just do what you do best and go have some fun.'"

To no one's surprise, the young gun delivered with the poise of a grizzled veteran in Monday's second Gold Cup and Saucer trial, piloting Casimir Richie P to a decisive 1:51.2 win over Prince Edward Island stalwart Rose Run Quest.

If Casimir Richie P's post-race disposition is any indication, the short turnaround into Saturday's $60,000 final shouldn't be any issue.

"I talked to Doc [Wednesday], and he said that the reports were that he's doing well," Spence said, noting that light jog miles make up the bulk of Casimir Richie P's training regimen for the week. "After the race, he was feeling pretty sharp. He's just a classy animal. He's in top physical condition and he's feeling good."

On Saturday, Spence and Casimir Richie P will start from post six. The other Trial winner, Time To Dance, will start from post 2 in line to Marc Campbell after posting a 1:52.4 win last Saturday. Despite the post disadvantage, Spence likes his chances.

"The six-hole doesn't bother me a whole lot. It's just going to be an interesting mile."

Aside from Time To Dance leaving from the inside half of the gate, Casimir Richie P's main contenders -- Simple Kinda Man and Rose Run Quest -- line up in the outside two slots, paving the way potentially for a hotly-contested early pace under the Red Shores floodlights.

"Everything will be left on the racetrack, that's for sure. The Gold Cup and Saucer is one of the most coveted races in Canada, as far as I'm concerned. The pageantry is unbelievable. There are only two fellows in the race as far as drivers go who have ever won it before, so there's six of us looking for our first Gold Cup and Saucer."

Regardless of the result, Spence is thrilled to have the opportunity to drive on the Maritimes' biggest stage.

"Just to be mentioned in this race — it's the best of the best; it really reflects well on a person. We're going to make the most of our opportunity, that's for sure."

August 20, 2020 - 11:18 pmGreat article! Dale forgot

Great article! Dale forgot that there are actually three men in the race that have won before! Marc, Gilles, and Mike Downey! Best of luck Saturday night Dale and Doc!

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