It seems that we just opened our doors to the 2014 harness racing season in Summerside, and already we’re at the Governor’s Plate eliminations.
That means it’s time for the yearly “pretenders and contenders” column, which has become quite popular.
Post time Sunday is 1 p.m., and the first elimination goes for $5,000 in Race 12. The second elimination goes on Monday, and the top four finishers in each elimination will advance to the $25,000 Governor’s Plate final, presented by Summerside Chrysler Dodge, on July 19.
So, here we go with a look at Sunday’s field:
D Gs Camme drew the rail, and comes into this race off a six-length victory in 1:55.1 that gave co-owner Ronnie Matheson his 1,000th driving victory. Congratulations Ronnie!
However, Gilles Barrieau picked up the catch-driving call from this horse’s connections on Sunday, and D Gs Cammee did win over Mohawk Racetrack in 1:51 flat.
Only because of Barrieau, he is a contender.
Likely To Win, the Cecil Ladner Memorial consolation winner, ships into Summerside looking for a spot in the Governor’s Plate.
He front-ended his rivals in that race, stopping the clock in 1:56.3, and went on to win the top class in Truro, coming from off the pace in 1:56.2.
I don’t think national driving championship finalist Ryan Ellis can get him there. He is a pretender.
Red Rock, the newest “bearcat” in the Maritimes, will leave from Post 3.
Jason Hughes does the training and driving with this newcomer to P.E.I., and he’s got some credentials too. Red Rock enters Sunday’s race with back-to-back wins at the half-mile Younkers track in New York. His latest victory was in 1:53.4, with a closing quarter in 28.1.
He is a contender.
Narragansett, owned by Foxy Hall Racing, drew Post 4.
Mark Bradley will be driving him for the first time, fresh off a going-away Summerside win in 1:56.
However, this is for a shot at the Governor’s Plate. He’s a pretender.
Touch of Lightning is the only Island-bred in the first plate elimination.
Watching Earl Smith’s horse win in 1:53 in Charlottetown last year was magical. The start to his 2014 campaign was just mediocre, before a big-time class drop found him in the winner’s circle in 1:55.4.
I hope that braves him up. He’s a contender.
Carnivore is the richest pacer in Sunday’s field, and has drawn Post 6.
The veteran stallion has posted back-to-back 1:55-and-change victories in Summerside and Charlottetown. Mike Stevenson is good as it gets for a catch-driver.
As good as he has been lately, he shows racing non-winners of a ham sandwich (non-winners of $451 in their last five starts), and then not even picking up a cheque.
The streak is over. . . he’s a pretender.
Ultimate Luck is the fastest horse of 2014 in Summerside by virtue of his 1:54.3 clocking.
The talented Kenny Arsenault is back in the bike from Post 7. The horse’s owner and trainer Sifroi Melanson has pretty good luck in Summerside.
After all that, this is my toughest decision of all time. He’s a pretender.
Modern Xhibit finds himself on the grandstand side (Post 8), which is everybody’s favourite spot not to be.
This horse was very good finishing second in the Walter Dale Memorial Pace in Fredericton, pacing his own mile in 1:54.2. It will be strictly up to Marc Campbell on how the trip goes. He’s a contender.
I really mean no disrespect to my colleagues or their horses. I created this “pretenders and contenders” column, and you’ve no idea of the tremendous response – one way or another – it creates year after year. Good luck to everyone!
The Lobster Festival Open Mares Series eliminations will also be featured on Sunday afternoon.
Three $2,250 divisions will determine next weekend’s finalists.
A look at Sunday’s picks:
Best bets – Riverview Jameen in Race 1, and Paphos in Race 5.
Long shot possibilities – RE’s Nancy in Race 6, and American Terror in Race 10.
Vance Cameron is the track announcer in Summerside and Charlottetown. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.