The more I talked to people during Old Home Week at Red Shores Charlottetown, the more I have realized that harness racing fans love coming to Prince Edward Island in mid-August for the 11 cards of harness racing over seven days, Saturday to Saturday, topped off by the prestigious Gold Cup and Saucer. I am certain that the crowds throughout the week exceeded those in the past decade and the warm, hot weather every day, no rain, plus excellent racing contributed to the strong daily attendance. The Saturday night Gold Cup and Saucer card was one of the best in recent memory with tight finishes from start to finish, under a beautiful warm sunny sky, the ideal conditions for the promotion of the great harness racing sport.
The 2019 Gold Cup and Saucer was everything we thought it would be with not one or two horses but at least five that had a legitimate shot at winning the big race. First time invaders Mitchel and Ron Cushing and trainer Heidi Gibbs brought two horses up from New England, Rock Diamonds N and Betters Fire N and their “back -class” suggested they would be tough to beat and they were. In the $60,000 Gold Cup and Saucer, Rock Diamonds N came flying in the lane winning going away in 1:51.4 over defending champ Somewhere Fancy and Lisburn who were neck and neck at the wire about a length or more behind the winner. Mitchell Cushing,21, handled the winner in slick fashion, giving trainer Heidi Gibbs, the distinction of being the first female trainer to send out a Gold Cup and Saucer winner in the sixty- year history of the race. Owners Kevin Sywyk, Ron Cushing and Frank Ranaldi have already indicated that if all goes well, they’ll be back to defend their crown next August.
It was refreshing to see the City of Charlottetown actually get involved in the harness racing component of Old Home Week by sponsoring the $10,000 City of Charlottetown Birthplace of Confederation Series final raced on the Gold Cup and Saucer card and in memory of Brian Andrew. Mayor Philip Brown was on hand to present the cooler to the connections of Bugsy McGuire including owner Walter Simmons of Summerside, young driver Austin Sorrie and trainer Wade Sorrie of Montague. Brown was at the track almost every night and the City as one of the benefactors of the Gold Cup and Saucer and of Old Home Week stepped up, I might add long overdue.
The 60th anniversary evening brought out a nice crowd and among the guests was Mel Jenkins, the only remaining member of the original “founding fathers” of the Gold Cup and Saucer. Mel was also the co-owner along with Myron Bell of the 1964 Gold Cup and Saucer winner June Byrd and at the Re-union he recalled the night the great mare beat the best pacers in the region. Hopefully, Mel will be a guest every year at the Gold Cup and Saucer, the “majestic” race that he and his group envisioned and at the race-track that he and the same group once owned.
A fan down at the rail can see much more than viewers from the grandstand and that was evident on Saturday night. During the Gold Cup and Saucer post parade, the truck pulling the drag was on the track dragging at the start of the post parade when the lights were dimmed much to the shock of Racing experience manager Adam Walsh who quickly got the vehicle out of harms way and off the track.
After the start of the Gold Cup and Saucer race, one of the wings of the starting gate would not close and it was a great piece of driving just to get the starting gate around the first half mile safely before exiting at the 5/8 into the centre field almost rolling.
On the Saturday night of Trial One, just after the race had finished, the track was plunged into complete darkness forcing an early closure to numerous sites especially the popular beer tent on the first turn. Had darkness hit a few minutes earlier, during the Gold Cup and Saucer Trial 1 race, who knows what harm could have taken place.
The Atlantic Post Calls received many, many favourable comments about our coverage of the Gold Cup and Saucer, August 9th edition and Mel Jenkins especially enjoyed the stories regarding Repeat winners and If Horses Could Talk. Mel talked about Andys Son, Dees Boy, Bob Brook, Hi Jay and about his other mare that he owned under the Greenbrier Farms Stable that raced in the Cup and Saucer- Eloise Wick. The cast of writers and the people that put the paper together especially Production Manager Aura Lee Shepard deserve recognition.