Last issue’s question: Name the horse who upset Power Baron and others in the Governor’s Plate for a then record $6000 purse?
Answer: FLYING CAPER
In 1979 Summerside Raceway officials made the decision to double the purse of the Governor’s Plate race to $6000 in an effort to attract the region’s top free-for-allers for the 11th edition of the track’s signature race. It was the richest purse ever offered on PEI until that time and was successful in attracting Power Baron and owner/trainer/driver Mike Doyle who would make their first start at the Prince County track. Other top horses who entered included Kaweco for Henry Smallwood who had set the track record at Sackville Downs a month earlier, Flying Caper from the Marcel Barrieau Stable had won the $10,000 Alexander Memorial earlier in July at Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John in 2:01.1 and Ian Moore’s Saunder’s Glory, a local favorite who had won in 2:03.2 earlier and had raced the local free-for-all circuit. Also included in the field were the three-year-old The Butler Machine, a 2:02.3 winner at Sackville and Squire Thomas had who set a Maritime record for Maritime-breds in the region with a 2:02.1 mile at Sackville downs earlier in the year. Boyd MacDonald’s Aaron Court and Foolish Fortune who had been racing at Foxboro Raceway for the ownership group of C.C. Cameron, Charles MacLennan and Bruce MacDonald rounded out the eight horse field.
The Summerside track record of 2:03.2 set by Kitley Township and Russell Burgoyne in the previous year’s Governor’s Plate was expected to fall with any kind of decent weather. The pre-race favorite was eight-year-old Power Baron, who was coming into the race after winning three of his past four starts, including a repeat victory in the J.A. Ferguson Pace at Sydney in 2:02.3 and a 2:01.1 score in the Monctonian at Brunswick Downs. Mike Doyle had decided to campaign the veteran pacer in the Maritimes that season after spending most of his previous three campaigns in Montreal and the United States. The draw would even the betting odds some when Doyle pacer drew the outside post six, with local favorite Saunders Glory on the rail, front runner Flying Caper from post four and Foolish Fortune for driver Mike MacDonald along with Kaweco in the trailing spots. At the 11:30pm post time, there was a significant breeze blowing up the stretch on an otherwise nice evening. Sadly the feature would quickly turn disappointing after a terrible start – the starter had left the field scattered well before the wire as he sped away leaving Power Baron some six lengths behind. Marcel Barrieau took advantage sending Flying Caper past Saunders Glory, who had gotten away well on the rail, to the top before the quarter pole in 29:4. With the field spread out behind him, Barrieau gave his steed a breather through a 31:4 second quarter and led his challengers past the third station in 1:32.4. By that point Power Baron had moved up past Aaron Court and Squire Thomas with The Butler Machine and Dave Pinkney following his move. But they had too far to come and Barrieau and Flying Caper drew off down the stretch to win handily in 2:04.3. The Butler Machine would prevail in a three-horse photo over third-placed Saunders Glory and Power Baron for second money, two lengths in arrears. RG McGroup’s Kaweco would grab the final cheque.
Less than a week later, Power Baron would bounce back from that disappointing start to win impressively in the first Earle Avery Memorial at Woodstock Raceway with a track record mile of 2:00.4 in a downpour. Another track record performance followed with a 2:00.2 win in the $6000 Brunswick Pace in Dieppe and a 2:02 victory in the $5000 B.C. Cruikshank Memorial at Sackville Downs. At season’s end he was named the USTA District 10 Horse of the Year with $28,255 in seasonal earnings, while going over the $200,000 in career money.
Flying Caper was a four-year-old son of Flying Bret that was originally brought to the Maritimes by the Whebby family. In 1977 as a two-year-old he showed $275 in earnings in six starts with a second and two thirds to his credit. The colt was purchased by the Brimurvin Stable of Saint John, consisting of Doug Brittain, brothers Peter and Mike Murray and Mel Vincent, and placed in the care of Marcel Barrieau at EPR. The rangy colt would blossom as a three-year-old taking a record of 2:04h with a 32-12-08-5 line with earnings of $13,498. After winning in 2:02.1 early in the 1979 season at EPR he was ready to step with the local bearcats. An impressive second place finish to Power Baron in 2:01.2 in mid-June earned him an invite to the J.A. Ferguson Pace in Sydney. Unfortunately it was a long truck home after the four-year-old pacer hit the gate leaving and made a break finishing out of the money. It was a different outcome in the richest early season showdown in the $10,000 Alexander Memorial at his home track when he showed his heels to a top field after battling Daily Special to the quarter in :28 seconds in a stakes- and Maritime- season’s record 2:01.1 mile, giving trainer/driver Marcel Barrieau his first win in a major Maritime invitational.
Flying Caper would be a major force on the local invitational circuit throughout that summer, finishing second in the Monctonian after being parked to the half in :59.4 and again playing the bridesmaid role to Power Baron in the Brunswick Pace. The stallion would cut the mile in the Cruikshank Memorial before fading to seventh and was on top in the stretch in the Gold Cup and Saucer before finishing third behind Kaweco in that $7500 test. He would end up being placed fourth for interference with El Lider in the lane. He had no luck in the $20,000 Provincial Cup II in Saint John after being parked out for the duration as Power Baron cut the fractions before being caught by KC Three in deep stretch. Flying Caper would finish second and third in the first two legs of the Alpine Autumn Gold Series at EPR and qualified for the $5000 final before failing to show for that event, his season over. The big brown horse had put together a solid season with $18,310 in seasonal earnings with a 5-6-1 line in 20 starts. The star pacer also helped Marcel Barrieau become the first Maritime driver to exceed $100,000 in season winnings. Barrieau’s 119 driving wins were second only to Doug “Sonny” Rankins for tops among the region’s drivers that season.
The following two years Flying Caper was plagued by lameness issues. In 1980 he won but two of 12 starts with $4910 earnings and was scratched from the Alexander Memorial. In 1981 he would make 25 starts with a win in 2:04.3 among his three on the year. He made his second start in the Alexander Memorial that year, a sixth place finish. He was shipped to Ontario that fall where he was raced by Dr. Ian Moore on the Ontario Jockey Club circuit. (I believe he was the first horse I paddocked at Mohawk Raceway while helping Doc Moore in those days). The following year he had a rebound year with $17,371 in earnings for owner Jack Graham of Vienna, Ontario, taking his lifetime record of 1:59.2f as a seven-year-old, his last at the races. He would retire with 27 Wins and lifetime earnings of $ 61,007. The Brimurvin Stable had some success with other horses such as Dans Champ and Al Petite but nothing like the brief success they enjoyed with Flying Caper against the Maritime’s best.
Thanks again to many friends in the Saint John area who helped provide assistance for this column and attempted to track down photos.
This issue’s question:
Name the last horse to pace the fastest mile during Old Home Week, that did not do it in the Gold Cup Series races?
Answer in next month’s Atlantic Post Calls.
Jerry can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org