BY Doug Harkness
One of the biggest harness racing weekends of the season is scheduled for Charlottetown Driving Park Entertainment Centre when the region's top horses compete in the Atlantic Breeders Crown events.
Champions will be crowed in four $25,000 races for the Atlantic Sires Stakes two and three-year-old pacing colts and fillies on the 13-dash Saturday afternoon card. (Post Time 1:00 p.m.).
The top two and three-year-old Atlantic Sires Stakes trotters will battle in $6,000 invitationals while the Ingham Palmer Memorial Invitational for aged pacers has attracted eight starters for the $3,500 event. Six mares are entered in the $2,500 Open.
The Sunday showdown will be missing two of Atlantic Canada's top performers of the 2007 season, Southview Special and Dunachton Gale. Maritime champion Southview Special had to be euthanized after breaking her leg in a three-year-old filly stake at Truro last Sunday. The daughter of Southview Matt, which set a Maritime record for sophomore fillies with a 1:55.1 win at Charlottetown, was the reigning two-year-old filly champion and favoured to win this year's final for co-owners Elwood Lawton and Tyler Shea.
Dunachton Gale had ruled the Maritime invitational ranks until he chipped a coffin bone while winning the Joe and Jennie Chippin Memorial at Fredericton on Sept. 9th. The injury, although not career threatening, put the Island-bred stallion son of Drop Off out of action for the balance of the season.
The loss of both horses opens up their divisions.
Forceful Hope, a late-blooming Force Of Life filly purchased for Ontario owners by Anthony MacDonald, drew the rail in the three-year-old filly final and looks like she'll be the one to beat. Marc Campbell, who has been training the filly, gets the driving assignment as well.
Hilo, a four-year-old Grinfromeartoear gelding owned by veteran Nova Scotia owner Paul Gray, will be taking a four-wins streak into the Palmer Memorial, including a victory in the Johnny Conroy Memorial. He drew Post 3 for Danny Romo.
Gold Cup and Saucer finalist Rigio Hanover, a winner last Saturday at the CDPEDC, drew the rail in this one for owners Allan and Andrew Moore and driver Marc Campbell.
While veteran Phil Pinkney won't have Dunachton Gale in the weekend action, "Mr. October" has three legitimate contenders. Force Ore Finesse, a son of Force Of Life owned by KPD Standardbreds of Truro, is the defending pacing colt champion and is currently on a four-win streak. He drew Post 5 in the three-year-old colt division that sees Island-bred Mr Sundin, a half-brother to Mr Domi, leaving on the rail for Gilles Barrieau. Western Dexter, the Maritime Breeders champion with a season's best of 1:55.4, drew Post 6 for Gilles Barrieau.
Pinkney has another legitimate contender in the two-year-old filly ranks with Dube Finesse, a Western Paradise half-sister to Force Ore Finesse. She leaves from Post 2 in her division that sees Paul Gray's Grayland Becky on the rail for Bernard McCallum.
His other contender is two-year-old pacing colt Absolom, a son of Largo who is owned by the same connections that own Dunachton Gale. Absolom will face a couple of tough rivals in seasonal leader Imps Finesse (1:57h) with Bernard McCallum and Accelerated Force, a Force Of Life colt driven by Gilles Barrieau.
Consolation events in the Atlantic Sires divisions take place on the Saturday afternoon card.
As well as the top horses, all of the top Maritime drivers will be taking part in the weekend action, including Gilles Barrieau, who will be making his last CDPEC visit before heading for Australia-New Zealand to represent Canada in the world drivers competition.
After Sunday's race card, the racing fraternity will move off to Gingerwood Equestrian Centre for the Atlantic Classic Yearling Sale. Trotters sell Sunday night with the pacers going under the auctioneer's hammer on Monday morning.
BY Doug Harkness