Maritime racing treated to many thrilling moments in 2012
By Bo Ford
The story of 2012 is without a doubt the three-year-old filly sensation, the 16 for 16 Malabrigo. The Marc Campbell trainee was perfect every time she stepped onto the race track, giving fans a reason to come to the track.
On the topic of Marc Campbell, what another outstanding year he has had! He returned over 170 of his mounts back into the winner’s enclosure all around the Maritimes with earnings of over $450,000.
And who can forget Eighteen and Tyler Moore capturing the 53rd running of Sobey’s Gold Cup and Saucer!
We can’t get to the hot stakes season without first beginning 2012 in the usual way with one of the slow months in the Maritime racing scene – January. Casual Motion managed to win three of his four starts in Charlottetown for Joey Pineau, including a frontend victory in the top class to close out the season. A few Maritime horses including Maple Leaf Spirit, Honey Do Jigtime and trotter Caliban Hanover were also having luck elsewhere in the big leagues.
The off-season, or the award time of year here in the Maritimes started in February with Islander Marc Campbell. He was a runner-up in the horsemanship category of the O’Brien Awards. He wasn’t the only driving gun getting attention, as a benefit was held in aid of Gilles Barrieau after he suffered a leg injury. Over $16,000 was raised in the effort. It just goes to show what Maritimers can do when someone in the game needs a hand.
Also in February, the Newfoundland Harness Horse Association presented their awards. Shane and Scott Forward cleaned up in the human category, with Shane taking home most wins and top UDRS for a driver, and Scott taking home most money earned as a trainer and the Trainer of the Year award. P H Tornado was named Horse of the Year and Our Ryall Flush was named Mare of the Year.
The free-for-all circuit also got a little tougher with the purchase of Aled Hanover by owner Ron Hall, for the father and son combination of Dale and Alex Sobey.
The horsemen got together for some away-from-the-track activities in Cape Breton, with the first annual horsemen’s hockey tournament. The team from Inverness would take the victory 3-2 in a shootout. From what I hear, a good time was had by all involved.
March focused on the training of the young ones. The big news didn’t come from the Maritimes though it could have the most impact on us. Ontario racing was blindsided with word that the Liberal government was planning to cut its Slots at Racetracks program in March of 2013.
April was a month full of awards, and racing returned to most of the Maritime tracks.
Fredericton handed out their awards April 21. Horse of the Year went to the very consistent Ace on the River. Gilles Barrieau took home Top Driver and Brian Embleton received Top Trainer. In Saint John, Barrieau would once again receive Top Driver. Top Trainer went to Robert Laffin, and Horse of the Year went to Moon Landing, owned by APC’s very own Patrick Eastwood.
In Prince Edward Island, Summerside was first to dole out the awards. The hard-closing Blu Meadow Willie was named Horse of the Year, while Mitch Tierney stole the show taking home four awards including Pacer of the Year with the hard-hitting Courtside and Trainer of the Year honours. Marc Campbell was named Top Driver and Horseman of the Year, while Mackenzie MacInnis was awarded Horsewoman of the Year.
In Charlottetown, Marc Campbell would be in the limelight again taking home Top Driver. Jackie Matheson took Trainer of the Year; George Boswall, Horseman of the Year; Shirley Weeks, Horsewoman of the Year; and Jerry McCabe was named Active Horseman of the Year. Maple Leaf Spirit controlled the horse side of the awards taking home Horse of the Year, Trotter of the Year and Three-year-old Trotter of the Year. Charolettes Maggie was named Pacer of the Year.
Northside Downs also followed suit in April. Ryan Campbell took home Dash Winner and Myles Heffernan was Top Percentage on the drivers’ side. Crusin Art was named Horse of The Year.
Also in April, racing started up in Charlottetown and Truro. Oakrock Almighty dominated the top class winning the preferred pace twice for the red hot Ron Matheson. In Truro, Ryan Ellis put on a driving display and won eight races in the first two cards.
May kicked off with a bang for the Island racing scene with the announcement of two new racing series coming to PEI in 2012, sponsored by Meridian Farms: The Erwin Andrew Memorial Trotting Series for Aged Mares and the Island Pacing Series (to be held in the fall).
But May didn’t come without heavy hearts on the Island as the race game lost two well respected men in the passing of David Rose and Louis MacIsaac.
It also was the starting point for some up-and-coming superstars in 2012, with newcomer Arabica and P H Bestman, amongst others.
The three-year-old stake season would get underway in May with the colts making the trek to Inverness and the fillies heading to Truro.
Four divisions of the fillies went postward in Truro for a purse of $6,600 each. Southfield Sophie, in line to Terry Gallant, was the fastest division winner, while Oduya (Clare MacDonald) and A As Glory (Mike Stevenson) each took their division in 1:59.4. Malabrigo and Campbell took their division in 2:00.3.
Two divisions went postward for the colts in Inverness and both featured some pretty impressive last quarters. Junebugs Baby was able to hold on by a third of a length closing it out in 28 seconds to win in 2:00.3. In the other division, Putnams Storm, at long odds, was able to outsprint Touch of Lightning, coming his last end in 28.1, good enough for a 2:01.3 score.
One of the top drivers in the Maritimes made his return to the driver’s seat noticeable after a long layoff. Gilles Barrieau made four trips to the winner’s circle in his return to his home track in Saint John.
June was a month of driving milestones in the Maritimes, with a pair of veterans doing the honours. First it was Danny Romo turning in his 3,500th win on June 16 in Charlottetown aboard Andrew Ward’s A As Glory in an MBA elimination. A week later, Ronnie Gass was in the spotlight, picking up his 1,300th driving victory with top class trotter Caliban Hanover. Romo and Gass are two great guys for the business, and it’s great to see them both still doing well.
June was Maritime Breeders month for the Three-year-olds. On June 23, Red Shores at Charlottetown Driving Park held the Maritime Breeders Final for Three-year-old Fillies (Ken Starrett Memorial) and the Maritime Breeders Final for Three-year-old Colts (Doug Harkness Memorial). On the same card, the Cecil Ladner Memorial Final was held for Three-year-olds and up. What a great card it was!
Aled Hanover and Alex Sobey toyed with his Preferred 1 rivals on this night winning by six, over General Luckypercy in 1:55.4.
Malabrigo was victorious in the $33,085 Maritime Breeders Final, stopping the clock in 1:57.2 for Marc Campbell, holding off A As Glory and Gilda.
Junebugs Baby and Greg Sparling wheeled off an even more impressive victory in the $23,450 Final than he did in Inverness. He turned in a 27.4 last quarter and surged past Touch of Lightning in 1:56.3. First Art Down closed hard for the three.
Newcomer Arabica made his presence known in the Cecil Ladner Final, winning by half a length for catch-driver Kenny Arsenault and trainer Anthony Stymest in 1:55.3. Carnivore rallied for second and Epanephrine held on for third.
July is one of the busiest months in Maritime harness racing. There were lots of highlights this month but only a few can make the cut.
Maritime harness racing lost a true gentleman, breeder and owner in the passing of Wally Wood. Wally, a long-time horseman and owner of Woodmere Farm, died at the age of 77.
The first of the highlights happened on the first day of July at the immaculate Red Shores in Summerside. It was the first glimpse of the young ones, the two-year-olds, going postward. Earl Watts might have had sore eyes by the time the day was over from all the flashes he took in the winner’s circle, as he sent out four two-year-olds and returned all four (Buddy Hally, Howmacs Pride, Sinners in Heaven and Don’t Tell Cindy) back to the winner’s circle.
The second highlight happened on the second day of July, in beautiful Fredericton, NB. It featured the three-year-old colts in Atlantic Sire Stakes action and the Walter Dale. Dukes Up and Touch of Lightning took the two “A” divisions.
The big news of the day came from a little horse by the name of Mcapulco in the Walter Dale Memorial Invitational Pace. Making his first start on Maritime soil, the seven-year-old stallion made quick work of his foes, stopping the clock in 1:54.2, and breaking the longest standing track record in Canadian history at 19 years. Brodie MacPhee picked up the catch-driving call after Gilles Barrieau was unseated earlier in the card.
It wasn’t long until we got to see the Barrieau-Matheson connection at work. A week later they made the trek to Summerside, winning their elimination of the Governor’s Plate with Mcapulco, just 1/5 of a second off the 1:53.2 track record. Arabica and Kenny Arsenault won another division in 1:54 flat, and long shot Maritimer and Arsenault won the other division in 1:56.
Governor’s Plate night 2012 brought out a large crowd. Barrieau, the “Maritimes Magic Man” showed just how he picked up the nickname. It started in race 13 with Dukes Up. Barrieau was three wins shy of Marc Campbell for the Basil Whelan trophy, for the most wins, with four races to go. He converted off a perfect two-hole ride to win an “A” division in 1:57.1. Next up he had Jackie Matheson trainee Oakrock Almighty in the Consolation. He circled them from sixth and won by a length in 1:55. He then hopped up on General Luckypercy in the Open Mares, grinding it out first over to hold on by a neck in 1:57.1. This tied Barrieau with Campbell for the most wins.
Well, the magic didn’t stop there. Barrieau, who let the dust settle in the early stages of the Plate Final before rushing Mcapulco to the lead approaching the half, and not looking back, won by a length in 1:53.3 over Firethorn and a hard closing All Turain.
The Barrieau-Matheson connection teamed up in the last three races to win all three times, in the biggest races of the week. Let me tell you, it couldn’t have happened to any better guys.
New Brunswick had its week, PEI had its week and then it was Nova Scotia’s turn with Grand Circuit week in Truro.
Let’s start off with the youngsters of the game. Corey MacPherson took home the Young Guns Drivers Challenge midway through the week but was overshadowed by Jack Panting, who picked up his first pari-mutuel driving victory aboard Mullet Man in 1:59.
On Saturday night Junebugs Baby continued his dominating ways, winning the first “A” division, while Touch of Lightning made quick work of his division setting a new track record of 1:55 flat for three-year-old pacing colts.
Mcapulco remainded undefeated in the Maritimes, winning in 1:56 by a neck over All Turain.
Sunday was the Frank and Beth Stanfield for the fillies. Going for $16,725 each, victors were Elm Grove Girlzone, Isleofpalms, Pictonian Amanda and Malabrigo. It was all overshadowed according to Kyle Burton. Touch of Lightning’s connections were just starting to celebrate the colt’s track record performance when Darren Crowe cut Autumn Gottem loose to win by 31 lengths in 1:54.4.
Gold Cup and Saucer 53 . . . Eighteen . . . Tyler Moore . . . What a show! Leading up to the big race, Stonebridge Terror and Anthony MacDonald won in 1:52.2 (Trial 1). Aaron Byron followed suit on Sunday afternoon with Hare Craft in 1:52.3 (Trial 2) and Eighteen won Trial 3 in 1:52.2 with Tyler Moore in control. With all the trials clocking in so close, it looked like the Gold Cup and Saucer Final would be a wide open affair.
In the Gold Cup and Saucer Final, Eighteen drew the coveted rail position and the question was, could he handle the turn? Well, Moore was quick to answer the question, giving the fans a “Boom Just Like That” quarter of 26.4 and a half in 54.2. The rest of the field never made it past his wheel as Eighteen and Moore won convincingly in 1:51, tying the track record set by Part Shark and Scott Zeron in the 2010 Gold Cup and Saucer Final. Mystician was second and Amazon Art came in third.
In September, it was FREX week in Fredericton. Panmunjom and driver Gary MacDonald was able to show his foes he meant business. After winning the James “Roach” MacGregor Gold Cup and Saucer Consolation during Old Home Week, he made the road trip to Fredericton where he captured the Jennie & Joe Chippin Memorial.
First Art Down and Gilles Barrieau just missed the three-year-old track record in the Bill Quigg Memorial. The new addition for Bruce Wood and the Jackie Matheson Stable ripped off a decisive 1:55.3 performance, which was just a fifth of a second off the record.
In my eyes, Malabrigo’s best race in 2012 came during FREX week as she defeated her rivals in 1:57. I can still remember standing at the fence around the last turn and thinking she was going to be beaten, but she found a little more in the tank to drive past her opponents and get the victory.
Atlantic Breeders Crown, the biggest weekend in Maritime racing, was held in October at Red Shores Charlottetown, and as always, Malabrigo didn’t disappoint.
She stayed undefeated in 2012. The three-year-old Western Paradise filly went wire to wire, holding off a late charge from A As Glory in the final strides to win in 1:57.1
Touch of Lightning prevailed in the three-year-old colts, winning in 1:54.4 over Junebugs Baby and Dukes Up.
In the two-year-old pacing colts, Untouchable One made himself look untouchable again, winning in 1:57.4. T M Valley Storm was second and The Rev was third.
Carol Alice romped to victory in the Atlantic Breeders Crown Final for two-year-old fillies, defeating heavy favourite Top Brand and Misssassy Attitude, in 1:59.1.
In the Atlantic Breeders Crown Invitational for two-year-old trotters, Oceanview Kate was given a masterful drive by reinsman Mike Stevenson to win in 2:04.2. In the three-year-old trot class it was Majian Dillon and Barrieau beating a solid field of sophomore trotters, including Sweetwater Rukkus in 2:02.1.
The Cinderella three-year-old All Turain, at long odds, captured the Island Pacing Championship in 1:56.2 to hold off newcomer Balanchine. Millionaire Eagle Luck was third.
The following week the aged mares did battle in the Atlantic Mares Final. Once again Barrieau and Matheson teamed up with General Luckypercy, a going-away winner in 1:55.2. Private Joke was second and Dreaming was third.
November witnessed some wicked miles and wrapped up with the Island Breeders Finals at Charlottetown. Dukes Up, Malabrigo, Dont Tell Cindy and Untouchable One won their pacing finals; while Oceanview Kate and Sweetwater Rukkus won their respective trotting final.
Proven Lover made his return felt and turned some heads when he stopped the clock in an impressive 1:53.2 in Charlottetown in November!
Kingpin Marc Campbell won the Annual Drivers Championship in Charlottetown, defeating Ron Matheson by only a few points.
In December it was Campbell again, being nominated for his second O’Brien award in two years, alongside fellow Maritimer, Darren Crowe, in the horsemanship category.
Mike Downey was also able to reach a milestone in December, picking up his 2,300th driving victory at EPR.
Here’s a list of the top 10 things I remember most about 2012.
• Malabrigo and her unbelievable, undefeated 2012 season
• Marc Campbell – the young driver picked up another triple crown in the Maritimes winning the dash titles in Charlottetown, Summerside and the Maritimes overall; as well as an O’Brien award nomination.
• Eighteen and Tyler Moore winning the Gold Cup and tying the track record.
• The stellar crop of three-year-old colts including Touch of Lightning, Junebugs Baby, Dukes Up, R Es Art, All Turain, First Art Down, Mr Thompson and many more.
• Articulator – this guy sure made the late Wally Wood proud, turning out horse after horse, winner after winner, including Touch of Lightning, First Art Down, Sinners in Heaven and Howmacs Angel.
• Driving performances – Barrieau in Summerside and “Brodie MacPhee Day” in Summerside when MacPhee turned in six winners on the card; Campbell and whatever day he wanted to win four or five races; Ellis’s four-bagger in Truro; and the breakout season for Jason Hughes, who is well on his way to winning 100 races this season.
• The young guns – Jack Panting struggled to get his first win but once he got it, he was able to pick up major stakes victories in his first year of driving. Others who are making waves are Carey Romeo Jr., Katie Miller, Ben Hollingsworth, Dale Spence and Brad Smith. They all continue to put up impressive numbers early in their careers.
• Mcapulco breaking the oldest track record in Canadian history, turning in a 1:54.2 performance in Fredericton.
• Northside Downs rewriting the record books – They might need a new record book after 2012, after six track records were broken this year.
• Drive for Charity at Red Shores – It’s about time we started to give back and the organizers, sponsors and drivers all deserve a pat on the back for raising over $12,500 for charities across the Island.
To all the supporters, sponsors, fans, owners, trainers, drivers, grooms and even horses, 2012 was a great year for the Maritimes. It brought us some tremendous memories. Let’s work together and make 2013 the best year yet!