1997 Gold Cup winner’s circle-Comedy Hour-Gilles Barrieau.

1997 Gold Cup winner’s circle-Comedy Hour-Gilles Barrieau.

Last issue’s question: The late Mike MacDonald holds the record with 29 appearances as a driver in the Gold Cup and Saucer. Who is second?


With the 60th edition of the Gold Cup and Saucer in sight, we’ll take a look back at one of the major driver’s achievements in the race’s history. Beginning in 1973, the last of the double dash Gold Cups, Mike MacDonald made the annual trek back home in search of a win in his hometown’s biggest event. He made the trip east with a top contender or two and made a record 29 appearances in the Maritime classic, his final appearance coming in the 2007 event with Harmony P. He won the race a record five times, one of a number of Gold Cup records he holds. It is only fitting that the winning driver of the Gold Cup and Saucer now receives the Michael MacDonald Memorial trophy after his passing in June of 2018.

Not surprisingly the driver with the second most appearances in the first 59 years of Gold Cups is Gilles Barrieau. His four wins in 20 tries are both second only to MacDonald’s numbers. Gilles had his first Gold Cup drive in 1985 at age 21 when he picked up the catch drive on Big D after his uncle Marcel qualified that three-year-old Maritime-bred for owners Dennis James Sr and Jr. Marcel had finished third in his Trial with the Knightly Blue Chip colt after winning the first Trial that year with Angel’s Shadow. Gilles picked up a fifth place cheque with Big D as Winners Accolade gave Mike MacDonald his fourth Gold Cup.

In 1990, Gilles returned to the Gold Cup Final after capturing Gold Cup Trial II with On Broadway from his own stable. Owned by Fairoth Investments of Saint John, the five-year-old son of Sonsam romped in 1:57.4 before settling for show money in the final behind Tigerbird and Bub. Gilles’ next three appearances and first victory in the race would come with Maritime free-for-all star Comedy Hour. In 1996, David Bishop’s No Nukes pacer would settle for third behind invaders Tough Hombre and Victorious Breeze, after cutting the fractions from the rail post in the 1:54.4 mile. The following year the six-year-old would not be denied as Gilles used front end tactics to take the quickest Trial in 1:55.4 before sloshing to win the Gold Cup and Saucer in 2:00 over a muddy track. In 1998, after the race become an early closer series and the purse was bumped to $50,000 Comedy Hour was no match for Native Born and Brett Robinson, finishing last in the 1:53.1 Canadian record mile.

In 1999, Gilles won two of three Gold Cup Trials, with Cory’s Big Guy in 1:54.3 for trainer Greg Peck and El Perfecto in 1:56 for TAP Equities of Truro, NS. In the $59,500 Gold Cup, Barrieau put El Perfecto on the point over an off track and held on for a second place finish to Order to Go and John Holmes in 1:58.2. The following year he notched his second Gold Cup winning drive with Ontario-owned Canaco Simon in upset fashion, recovering after being bothered by the breaking favorite Artistic in the first turn. In 2001, again teaming up to catch drive for trainer Colin Johnson he guided Salinas Hanover to a third place result. London Mews N would provide a second Gold Cup triumph for trainer Colin Johnson in 2002 with Barrieau registering his third victory in the race after laying down quick fractions of 26:3, 54:3 and 1:24 before holding a late charge from R J’s Dexter and Carl Jamieson to prevail in 1:53.3.

With three Gold Cups in his first ten appearances in the race, Barrieau would need ten more drives in the Old Home Week feature before hoisting the Gold Cup for a fourth time after upsetting with Shadow Place in 1:53.2 in the slop in 2017. Highlights from Gilles’ other nine drives since 2003 would include a second place result with Hillbilly Hanover for trainer Ron Burke in the 2013 edition after winning a Trial and a third place finish with defending champ Part Shark in 2011. He was fourth with Astronomical in 2006 for Doc Moore and with Take It Back Terry for Burke again in 2014. D Gs Camme was a back-to-back participant in 2015 and 2016, picking up 5th place money in his first attempt while pacing in 1:52 for local owners and trainer Jackie Matheson. Gilles also picked up the final cheque in 2005 with Our First Falcon N. He would also finish out of the money with catch drives on N Xample (2003), Mighty and Strong (2008) and P H Tornado (2010). A mix-up in 2009 around his sister’s wedding cost the Dieppe native an appearance in the Gold Cup that year after steering both Silent Swing and Along Came Polly to wins in their respective Trials. Barrieau’s nine victories in Gold Cup Trials are also just one back of Mike MacDonald’s record in the eliminations races – he guided Fleet Sensation to win Trial 1 in 2011 before taking the drive on Part Shark in the Gold Cup.

Paul MacKenzie sits in third place for drivers with 13 appearances in the Gold Cup between 1983 and 2010 capped by a win in 1993 with the mare Little Black Book. Two time-winner James “Roach” MacGregor was the first driver to appear in ten Gold Cup and Saucer finals, winning twice; in 1964 with the good mare June Byrd and in 1967 with Dr Harry C. The late Paul MacDonald and Nova Scotia’s Danny Romo have also made ten appearances under the spotlight on Gold Cup night. Anthony MacDonald at age 42 will be looking to make his 10th drive in the Gold Cup this year while Marc Campbell has eight appearances and two wins in the Gold Cup since his first drive on Rigio Hanover in 2006. Dr. Ian Moore, Steve Mahar and Clarkie Smith have each appeared in eight Gold Cups while Wally Hennessey has had seven drives so far after Pennant Play was scratched from the final after winning a Trial in 1982. Joe Goguen, Phil Pinkney and Russell Burgoyne also have seven appearances while brothers Joe and Henry Smallwood, Marcel Barrieau, Jody Hennessey and Robert Shepherd have each lined up behind the gate for the Gold Cup on six occasions.

In total Gilles Barrieau has a record of four wins, two seconds and four third place finishes in his 20 Gold Cup appearances. The 55-year-old teamster who set the standard with five Governor’s Plate victories should still have several opportunities to tie Mike MacDonald’s records for Gold Cup and Saucer victories and Trial wins. It is unlikely but not impossible for the popular catch driver who is nearing 5000 lifetime wins to match MacDonald’s record of 29 appearances in the big race. Mark MacDonald has three win in only four tries in the big race but has not been home to drive in the Gold Cup since his 2011 win with Blissful Breeze. At this point, local reinsman Marc Campbell at age 34 with two Gold Cup wins to his credit already might have the best shot at MacDonald’s records in the long run. It will be no easy task.

This month’s question:

Name the first colt to beat 2:00 in the long history of the PEI Colt Stakes program?

Answer in next Atlantic Post Calls.

Jerry can be reached at: j_dodger74@yahoo.ca

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