The Standardbreds make the move under the lights in Summerside on Wednesday, with a start time of 7 p.m.
Three divisions of the Maple Leaf Trot are featured in our first night card of the season. Each split of this trot series will carry a $4,300 purse.
Veteran trot expert John Pineau sends out the favourite in the opening division. Saulsbrook Pippa (Cory MacPherson) was a four-time winner during her freshman campaign, taking a record of 2:05 right here in Summerside.
The daughter of PJ’s Nabby comes into the race with a solid wire-to-wire qualifier in 2:02.2.
Dusty Lane Galaxy was last year’s winningest two-year-old trotter in the Maritimes. He’s a son of Island sire PJ’s Nabby, who graced the winner’s circle on six occasions last year.
His 2:07 record was taken at the Charlottetown Driving Park in stakes’ competition for trainer/driver Gary Chappell.
The local trotting filly Southfield Shadow (Terry Gallant) rounds out the top-three classifier’s selections from Post 6. She trotted a mile in 2:04 flat in preparation for her first stakes’ test of the season.
The top money-winning two-year-old trotter from a year ago is Phantom Beau, who banked over $20,000 for owner Peter Breau of Moncton, N.B. One of the all-time winningest drivers on the East Coast, Kenny Arsenault, pairs up with this John Pineau-trainee. Beau qualified with a 10-length margin of victory in 2:06.2.
Bo Digger (Mark MacKinnon) and Hope Chest (Walter Cheverie) are the only other 2013 stake-winning horses in this field.
The final division of the Maple Leaf Trot has Villager (Brian MacPhee) listed as the morning-line favourite. This colt did win here in Summerside during the 2013 Lobster Carnival.
He looked sharp in his qualifier holding a six-length lead at the first quarter, timed in 30.3 seconds on a track with a three-second variant. Villager then let one of his rivals take over the lead, and pulled out during the stretch drive to win comfortably in 2:06.3.
B.J. Commanche (Kenny Arsenault) didn’t receive any respect on the morning line (4-1 odds). He was a four-time winner a year ago, and that’s more victories than that whole race combined.
Another veteran trot man from down east, Bert Honkoop, owns and conditions this colt, and will have him ready. If he’s still 4-1 on the tote board, don’t be afraid to “step up.”
The Governors Plate eliminations are coming up on the weekend – the first is Sunday afternoon and the field will be completed on Monday night.
There is a surplus of aged pacing horses in the Maritimes, so my weekend column of “Contenders and Pretenders” should be an interesting one to say the least.
A look at Wednesday’s picks:
Best bets – Phantom Beau in Race 4, and Paphos in Race 9.
Long shot possibilities – B.J. Commanche in Race 6, and Outside The Wire in Race 12.
Vance Cameron is the track announcer in Summerside and Charlottetown. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.