by Melissa Keith
Each year, only nine coaches move behind the starting grid at Red Shores Charlottetown for the Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer. This year, that meant adding a third elimination (Gold Cup Trial) to decide between the talented group of 18 horses and geldings entered. Ten years ago (2011), three Gold Cup events were required for the last time.
Two tries on August 14 determined the bulk of the Gold Cup and Saucer field, in eliminations won by reigning 2020 champion Time to Dance (1: 52.3h, in line with Marc Campbell) and Ideal Perception. (1: 51.1h, for Gilles Barrieau). Last Monday (August 16), the 2018 Gold Cup and Saucer winner Somewhere Fancy (rider Marc Campbell) won the fastest Trial (1: 50.4h), just short of the record of 1:50, 1h established during the 2016 Cup final by Ys. Lotus. And this year, time matters more than usual.
There has never been a sub-1: 50 mile at Charlottetown Driving Park; they remain a relative rarity on half-mile tracks, with the 1: 49.2h from Somebeachsomewhere at Flamboro Downs and the 1: 49.1h from This Is The Plan at the 3R Hippodrome the only examples among the records Canadian track. As an incentive, a sponsor encouraged the Gold Cup and Saucer finalists to “Smash the Track Record for $ 5,000”: the winning owner would receive the cash prize from Warren Ellis and the Summerside Chrysler Dodge family, if their horse won by 1: 50 or more.
Gail MacDonald | Smooth Lou (Robert Shepherd) won the 62nd Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer in 1: 51.1 just after midnight Saturday (August 21) at Red Shores Charlottetown.
The nine finalists had the collective speed to do it, but none had set a previous personal best of less than 1:50 in a half. The conditions were right: Daisy River (Jason Hughes) edged out male and female track record holders Freddie and Cheeky Little Minx to rewrite the overall track record in 1: 56.1h Colonel Dan Trot.
Marc Campbell received the 2021 Francis McIsaac Memorial Trophy, earning 163 points over Old Home Week. It is awarded annually and named in honor of the late horseman who won the title ten times during his career. Sadly, Campbell’s intern Time to Dance landed the No.8 Gold Cup and Saucer job, making the prospects of a repeat statistically unlikely.
In the spotlight, in front of a smaller but nonetheless large crowd, the field moved to the post office after midnight.
Five horses started aggressively, but Somewhere Fancy rail horse took the lead for Dave Dowling. # 2 Legion Seelster (Richard Simard) called in the pocket; a first on # 5 Smooth Lou was quickly brought down to fifth place along the pylons by Robert Shepherd, throwing himself again as Vance Cameron called out the “Boom!” Just like that! “: 27.1 first quarter. Shepherd’s horse won steadily up to: 56.1 halftime, towing second No.7 Ideal Perception (Gilles Barrieau) in the chase, while No.1 Somewhere Fancy maintained control up front. At 1: 24.1 three quarters, Smooth Lou was shooting clear, opening more than five lengths on the wire. Ideal Perception was the runner-up, ahead of the # 6 Legion Seelster. The winner was returned $ 10.50 as second pick among bettors Favorite Somewhere Fancy finished fifth, behind No. 3 Racemup.
The winning time of 1: 51.1h broke no record, but it was not necessary. It ended a long wait for coach Patrick Shepherd. He told HRU: “It’s a little different this year. We spent a lot of money and talked to a lot of places (to find the right horse)… It’s just a dream come true.
He praised Smooth Lou (p, 5, 1: 48.4s; $ 137,381 before tonight’s start) and the connections that helped him land his first Gold Cup champion: “Ron [Burke] and Mark Weaver, without them I wouldn’t be here right now. They rode this horse for me and sent me a list [of potential horses for the big race]. Things went really well. Mark Weaver told me he always wanted a Sweet Lou to win the Gold Cup.
The five year old Smooth Lou gelding (Sweet Lou — Smooth Silver) was bred by Brittany Farms LLC. It was his seventh victory in 2021. He is owned by Triple S Equine with Robert and Ronald Woodburn, ON.
Smooth Lou will now enjoy a brief vacation: “We’re just going to give him a little break now and see how he comes back, and take it one step at a time,” his coach said.
Patrick choked on describing what the race meant for his family and how winning with his brother Robert in the sulky was the icing on the cake. “Well that’s what matters most to me. It’s been a while since my brother pulled a rope on my horse’s back, so it’s great that we’re together again. It’s been a good few weeks.
How long has Patrick wanted to win this race?
“I’m 29 years old. I think I might have walked when I was 2-3 years old, so ever since,” he said.
Robert Shepherd expressed concern after the race that he may not have made the front with Smooth Lou, but the two remained calm and focused on the patient overland trip.
“A little,” he laughed as he walked over to the winner’s circle. “Somewhere Fancy is a beautiful horse.”
The importance of victory cannot be overstated for the horsemen born and raised on the island like the shepherds. “We grew up in it, and we are far away [competing in Ontario], but we come home every year for this race, ”said Robert.
The fact that Smooth Lou was based at Hoosier Park until the end of July did not worry his driver:
“Patrick said he had trained him more than halfway, and Ron Burke said he was excellent on any size track. He’s a great horse with great pace.
And now he’s the 2021 Gold Cup and Saucer Champion, for a grateful PEI family.
The total handle for the 13-run card was $ 313,482.