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Officials with Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park hope to have more people on the grounds for this summer’s Gold Cup and Saucer week.
Lee Drake, manager of marketing, brands and broadcasting, said Monday that plans are well underway for a full week of racing, and everything is being done in compliance with P.E.I.’s Chief Public Health Office.
The week is set to culminate with The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer Race on Aug. 21, which goes for a purse of $60,000.
Gold Cup and Saucer week was one of the few events in P.E.I. that took place last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. P.E.I.’s marquee harness race proceeded but with far fewer people watching in person.
Public health restrictions were in place for all 11 cards during the 10 days of racing last summer that limited the number of people on the premises to 400, including horse owners and those dining at the two restaurants inside Red Shores. A maximum number has not been set for this year yet.
“If the (current) restrictions were to ease, we do have a plan in place right now and we’re looking at further announcements if the plan was to expand,’’ Drake said.
Pending approval from public health, Red Shores is looking to split people into separate pods in the grandstand, outside on the tarmac and across the track at the old judge’s stand.
“Last year, we had restrictions in the Top of the Park in terms of capacity. And we didn’t have the grandstand open.’’
Following the big race in 2020, the grandstand was reopened to reduced capacity for the rest of the harness racing season. Drake expects that will be the case when the season resumes in May and continue into Gold Cup and Saucer week.
In the meantime, the focus is getting the Atlantic bubble reopened on April 19 so that the season can get started on May 8.
As for horses that would come in from outside the bubble to take part in Gold Cup and Saucer week, under the current guidelines, an animal is permitted to be trucked in from outside Atlantic Canada but only under strict protocols. Only the horse is allowed to enter. If anyone accompanies the horse, he or she would have to follow the usual guidelines of self-isolating for 14 days.
Despite the lack of people on the grounds last summer, wagering was up 14 per cent from 2019, thanks to online betting and a variety of off-track Gold Cup parties at places such as Olde Dublin Pub, Mill River and Peakes Quay. All establishments were also operating at reduced capacities.
Drake said even if restrictions don’t ease, Red Shores will simply follow its playbook from last summer.
While the Gold Cup and Saucer week is proceeding with plans for this summer, there is still a lot of uncertainty around Old Home Week.
Strothard Rodd, president of the board of directors for Old Home Week, said a decision has not been made yet but did say holding Old Home Week under the current public health restrictions would be a significant challenge.
Sandra Hodder Acorn, the event manager for Old Home Week, is cautiously optimistic.
“We hope to have some sort of presence,’’ Hodder Acorn said. “What that is going to look like I’m not 100 per cent sure.’’
Following are key dates for The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer week for 2021:
• Race week, Aug. 12-21.
• Gold Cup and Saucer Trial 1, Saturday, Aug. 14.
• Gold Cup and Saucer Trial 2, Monday, Aug. 16.
• Gold Cup and Saucer Race, Aug. 21.
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