It took the very last harness race of the competition for Guy Gagnon to nip Sylvain Lacaille by one point, 68 to 67, to win the Quebec Eastern Regional Driving Championship Tuesday evening at the Hippodrome 3R.
Sylvain Lacaille actually had the lead going into the nine race, the last of eight championship division, 57-53 over Gagnon but it took a Hockey Bum to bring victory to Gagnon.
Hockey Bum, the race horse that is. Guy Gagnon’s last drive in the competition was aboard Hockey Bum from the rail and the betting favorite and Gagnon were perfect together. They left from the rail, gave perfect two-hole cover to Lacaille and Fire Luck, but in the end it was Gagnon that had the luck as they wired the field by a half length in 1:58. Lacaille was second.
But as the competition goes, both drivers, the top two point earnings in the championship, now move on to the finals that will be held on August 26 at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park on PEI.
The series started off with Pascal Berube winning the first division with Androvers Touch ($3.60) in 2:01.3. Then Gagnon got into the hunt with his first win aboard Tommy Abe ($11.20) in a lifetime best of 2:01.2 in the second division.
Gagnon then looked like the early runaway winner in the competition as he won again in the third division, guiding Sophies Duke ($3.20) to a lifetime mark of 1:56.
Then it was Lacaille coming back in the fourth division, winning with Force Of Fire ($23.70) in 1:59. The fifth division was won by Lil Orphan Cam ($8.40) and driver Stephane Gendron as Lacaille was second drew a little closer in the point standings to Gagnon.
Then the tote board nearly exploded in the sixth division as Sylvain Lacaille not only won the race with Show Business in 1:58.3 to narrow the gap against Guy Gagnon, but they were not only the longest shot on the tote board in the race, but the highest payoff of the season at Hippodrome 3R, going off at odds of 97-1.
Show Business paid a whopping $197.30 to win in her first victory of the season in four starts. She was in the middle of the pack coming for home but with most of the horse fanning out for the drive home, Lacaille moving right up the passing lane for the upset score.
Then in the seventh division Guy Gagnon finished out of the money but Sylvain Lacaille did not and he took the lead in the series 57 to 53. Denis St. Pierre won the race with SOS Grappa ($7.60) in 1:56.4.
So it then came down to the final race and try as much a Lacaille did, they could not catch Guy Gagnon by the finish.
“I am very happy to represent my region at the National Championships,” said Guy Gagnon, “but I would like to thank all the owners of horses that have allowed us to participate in this event. We always have fun in any driver’s tournament.”
“Even though I finished second by a "nose",” said Sylvain Lacaille, “It is a great reward for me to go to Charlottetown. My early season was difficult, but here's a nice compensation.”
The overall winner of the Canadian Championship at Red Shores will then represent Canada in the World Driving Championship in Australia in 2015.
But the racing action was far from over after the competition was finished as in the last race on the program, a track record was set.
Starting from post five in the $6,000 feature trot, Margarita Bi, the only mare in the field against seven male rivals, and driver Denis St Pierre went right to the lead and never looked back.
They cut fractions of :29, :58 and 1:27.3 before winning by one and one-half lengths in 1:57.2. That time shattered the 2012 record of 1:59.1 that was held by Oh Sweet Baby.
It was the fourth win this year for Margarita Bi, a five-year-old mare by Andover Hall, who is trained by Tiffanee Staley and is owned by Denis St Pierre. She paid $14.40 to win.
From the Quebec Jockey Club