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Island racing has returned to Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP), but one of the leading trainer-drivers finds himself stuck in New Brunswick for the time being.
O’Brien Award-winning horseman Gilles Barrieau has been a regular on the Island circuit since 2013 but returns to his home base in Saint John, N.B., for the winter. Barrieau had made the decision this would be his last winter in Saint John and would move permanently to P.E.I. with his wife, Kelly, in 2020 before the current coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic hit.
He waited patiently for some movement in restrictions and then sent in his application in early May to come over with his stable a few weeks later on May 28.
“I sent my application in a few weeks ago,” Barrieau said from Saint John. “On the form, you have to put the day you want to come across. So, I had last Thursday at 4 p.m. I waited and didn’t hear a thing, then I just heard back last Thursday that I was denied. Harness racing wasn’t essential. I already sent all my horses over thinking I was fine. Anyway, I did everything I was supposed to do and still got denied.”
Barrieau had hired commercial trucker Chuckie Symes to take seven of his horses to Randy Van Meer’s farm in Mount Herbert, where Barrieau usually is based in the summer, with them leaving last week. With pacing mare Sodwana Bay already on the Island with Barrieau’s staff, that meant eight horses on P.E.I. and just two rookie Maritime-bred colts left in Saint John. As he was getting ready to leave with the last two horses, he received word his application was denied for the time being.
“I was going to get right over there and stay put,” Barrieau said. “I knew I wouldn’t be allowed back to Saint John, so I stripped the barn down and everything. There is barely anything left here. I had people that were going to drop off groceries. I’d just like to get my 14 days in then I could start going to work. If things had gone my way, I would have had a week in by now. It’s just a waiting game.”
Racing at the CDP is taking place Thursday and Saturday at 6 p.m. this week, and next week the track switches to a Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening schedule.
There are some more new faces to add to the healthy horse population on the Island. Cooking The Speed (four wins, $70,655 lifetime earnings, mark of 1:57.3 at Trois Rivieres) is a newcomer for trainer Earl Watts and owners Allard Racing and Michel Allard of Saint Esprit, Que. The four-year-old So Surreal mare had raced the stakes circuit in Quebec last season and was entered for her Island debut on Thursday evening.
Kingofbrokenhearts (seven wins, $57,463, 1:54 at Pompano Park) was acquired by trainer Leith Waite of Summerside in the winter in Florida and qualified last week in Charlottetown. A five-year-old Western Terror gelding, Kingofbrokenhearts is owned by Leith, Spencer and Les Waite.
Mittcent Van Gogh (12 wins, $160,842, 1:52.2 at Mohawk) is now trained by Brady Sweet for owner Tyra Perry of Tignish. The nine-year-old Major In Art pacer has not raced since September in Pennsylvania but qualified recently in Charlottetown and will make his debut Saturday.
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.