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DOWN THE BACKSTRETCH: Charlottetown to host first harness races in Canada

The gates swung open for the first race of the season Saturday at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
The gates swing open for the first race of the 2019 season at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park. - Jason Malloy
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. —

If we have learned anything over the past couple months, it is the that situation is fluid in this pandemic.

Racing on P.E.I. is slated to start again on Thursday, June 4, and it would have been a safe assumption, at the time of the announcement, that we would have a monopoly on the simulcast airwaves for at least a week or two, but that will not be the case.

We will be the first harness track to open in Canada on that Thursday evening, but Ontario tracks are slated to open back up the next day. Assiniboia Downs, a thoroughbred track in Winnipeg, will be the first horse racing in the country, starting in late May. In the U.S., racing in Ohio begins again this week, while New York is slated for a June 1 start date.

Still no word on opening dates for tracks in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine and Massachusetts along with Canadian jurisdictions Alberta, Quebec and B.C.

The first round of qualifiers will be held on Saturday afternoon at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) with no fans in attendance, but all the action will be streamed live at Redshores.ca so fans can watch in the comfort of their own homes. Qualifiers will also be held Thursday, May 28, as well as Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31.

A face returning to the driver’s colony will be Brodie MacPhee, who has not driven in a race since August 2014. His last win came Aug. 3 of that year in Summerside aboard Makes Me Stupid for trainer Tom Weatherbie. A winner of 527 races and more than $1 million in purses, MacPhee will need to successfully drive in five qualifiers to end his nearly six-year hiatus.

There are even more new equine faces to add to the ranks this season with more sure to come.

Payback (11 wins, $76,224 earned, mark of 1:56.3 at Flamboro Downs) is a newcomer for trainer Thane Arsenault of Summerside. The seven-year-old son of Mach Three was racing in the $7,000 claiming ranks at Flamboro Downs in Dundas, Ont., before making the trek east.

Top Cop (eight wins, $56,776, 1:55 at Georgian Downs) has come to the Elton Millar stable of Tyne Valley after racing the claiming ranks at Kawartha Downs in Peterborough, Ont. The Sportswriter seven-year-old last started in June 2019.

Lyons Jennilee (14 wins, $159,080, 1:54.1 at Yonkers Raceway) has come to race the mares ranks for the Heffernan stable of Summerville. The five-year-old Somebeachsomewhere mares has been racing the fillies and mares preferred ranks in Ontario for trainer Rachel Andrew, a native of Milton Station.


Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at nicholasoakes@hotmail.com.

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