The Atlantic Breeders Crown weekend hosted by Red Shores Charlottetown and the Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale, where 110 yearlings or so garnered over $1,000,000 in sales, had horsemen throughout Atlantic Canada brimming with confidence that better days are ahead for the harness racing game. Let’s take a closer look at what transpired here in Charlottetown last weekend.
While steady rain hampered the Saturday Breeders Crown Consolation card, the weather cleared for the Sunday afternoon Crown finals featuring the best two and three year old pacers and trotters as well as an assortment of Aged championships. The Breeders Crown in many cases is the deciding factor in end of the year honours in just about every jurisdiction and on Sunday, Red Dirt Boomer (Malicious) proved he’s the best of the three year old pacing class, winning his 10th of the season from sixteen starts with an eased up 1:56.4 victory in the $20,000 Breeders Crown three year old pacing final. The colt is owned by Dan Ross of Belfast, PEI, but word around the track Sunday evening was that the colt has been purchased by prominent PEI owner Don MacRae and USA trainer Rene Allard and will continue his racing career South of the border. It’s another example of the strength of the Atlantic Canada breeding program and why, with a little support on the mainland, our harness racing industry can grow in Atlantic Canada.
Another colt that impressed on Sunday was three year old Atlantic Sire stake sophomore trot sensation Getting Messi (Armbro Barrister) who solidified his position at the top of his class with a nine length 1:59:1 victory in his $9,000 Trot final for owner James Whalen of Vernon Bridge, PEI, trainer Len “Barney” McGuigan and driver Mike McGuigan. It was the 12th win of the season in 15 tries for the trotter who will most likely attract many offers from up-country interests.
Tequila Tuesday (Armbro Barrister) captured the two year old Erwin Andrew Memorial Trot final as driver Myles Heffernan had him on top at every station as he held off Mabou Ridge by a neck in 2:03:1 for owner Jackie Heffernan of Glace Bay. Bill Andrew, the master of Meridian Farms, was on hand for the presentation and it was fitting indeed as both trot winners were sired by Meridian Farms stallion Armbro Barrister. See more coverage inside from CDP scene writer Kurt Hughes.
Nova Scotia Minister Responsible for Harness Racing Here
The Breeders Crown Banquet at Red Shores was a sold out affair with a number of horse racing families from all over Atlantic Canada here for both the racing and the Banquet itself which paid tribute to a family from each province that has contributed to the life and times of harness racing in this region. The Ron Gass family from PEI as well as the Merner Family from Newfoundland, the Belliveau family from Memramcook, New Brunswick and the Ellis family from Truro, Nova Scotia were honoured this past weekend, recognition richly deserved.
As well on Saturday night at the Breeders Crown Banquet, the Nova Scotia Minister of Finance Karen Casey was on hand, the guest of Premier Dennis King and the PEI Minister of Finance Darlene Compton who is responsible for harness racing in this province. PEI provincial governments both past and most certainly the present who are very much interested in the harness racing industry were showcasing the benefits of harness racing as an economic generator to the Minister who resides in the Truro area, the home of Truro Raceway. Casey was very impressed with the PEI Red Shore operations in both Charlottetown and Summerside and it is the hope of all horsemen that eventually a scaled down version of Charlottetown will be in the game plan for Truro Raceway in the near future.
We have all heard rumours of the impending shortened 2019 season at Truro Raceway and while that may be true, I view this as a chance to regroup and re-evaluate the industry needs and gives the government in the Bluenose province time to fashion a long-term plan for the future. I have confidence in the management team now in place Truro Raceway, people like Jeff Skinner, (Bob and Jean’s son),plus Arnold Hagen and Anthony Stymest, and with the interest shown by the Nova Scotia Minister, better days are ahead for Nova Scotia. Guarded optimism, is the term best suited for this situation.
Veteran horseman Clarkie Smith honoured with Joe Smallwood Memorial
A big crowd attended the annual Sunday morning pancake breakfast at Red Shores Charlottetown sponsored by Dave Corrigan and Kathleen MacMillan as Premier Dennis King presented the 1st annual Joe Smallwood Memorial Award to veteran horseman Clarkie Smith. The soft-spoken Smith who was the dominant driver in the Maritimes in the 1950s and 1960s and was the leading Old Home Week driver seven times (1958, 1959,1960, 1963, 1966,1967,1968) is regarded as one of the great all-around horsemen and among the best drivers to come out of this region. I think of no greater person to win this award than Clarkie Smith, a class act off and on the track.
Thoughts on the $1,000,000 Yearling Sale
Dave MacKenzie Takes New Role
at Red Shores
Since our last edition of the Atlantic Post Calls, there have been a couple of major happenings that should be interpreted as good news for our harness racing game. The announcement that Dave MacKenzie has taken over GM duties at Red Shores is a big plus. MacKenzie has had a long and successful career in both the private sector and government, as CEO of Confederation Centre of the Arts, as Deputy Minister of Tourism, as Executive Director of the Capitol Commission, and more recently as Regional Manager PEI for the Saltwire Network. He comes from a harness racing background and he and his step-father Reg MacPherson have previously owned horses and are still key players in the game. This is a great hire for Red Shores and is seen as a positive move for the harness racing game.
The Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale at Crapaud, where 110 yearlings had the cash register top $1,100,000 for the first time, suggests to me that our breeding industry has plenty to smile about. Premier King is a strong advocate for our industry, as are Ministers Darlene Compton and Matt MacKay and in this day and age whether Ontario, Quebec or any state in the USA, government support of an economic generating “green” industry like harness racing is crucial. I believe race fans in this region are believers too, hence the hefty outlay of money for Atlantic Sire stake yearlings. The key, of course, is Nova Scotia getting involved in a serious manner and all the players are now in place, let’s keep our fingers crossed.