Day At The Track

Gold Cup & Saucer 1st elim to Midway Island

06:45 AM 12 Aug 2019 NZST
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8-10-19 Midway Island, with Travis Cullen in the bike, won The Guardian Gold Cup & Saucer Trial 1 Saturday at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park. - Jason Malloy photo.jpg

CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI — Blasting off the gate from the start, Midway Island and driver Travis Cullen carved out a perfect trip to hit the winner’s circle Saturday night in The Guardian Gold Cup and Saucer Trial 1.

Leaving from Post 5 in the $12,500 race at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park, Midway Island left hard and struck the front before releasing race favourite – and defending champion – Somewhere Fancy (Marc Campbell) to the front at the first quarter of 28.1. Midway Island then rode the two-hole through fractions of 55.4 and 1:24.2, before powering past in the stretch to win by one-and-a-half lengths in 1:52.1.

Somewhere Fancy finished second with Bettors Fire N (Ron Cushing) third and National Debt (Gilles Barrieau) fourth to secure spots in Saturday’s big race.

Levis Day (Robert Shepherd), Doctor Royal (David Dowling) and Czar Seelster (Kenny Arsenault) finished fifth to seventh, respectively, while Make Some Luck (Jody Jamieson) made a break at the half-mile marker and was eighth. They will race in the James (Roach) MacGregor Gold Cup and Saucer consolation on Friday night.

Trained by Miltonvale Park native Rachel Andrew, Midway Island is a new acquisition for the trainer, who co-owns the horse with boyfriend Travis Cullen of Dundas, Ont. Midway Island arrived at their Ontario farm a week before the race in Charlottetown, from his former Pennsylvania home of the Ron Burke stable.

“Looking at the program, I figured I could leave out and Marc Campbell would keep coming, so that was the best trip to just make the final,” Cullen said after Saturday’s race. “We’ve only had the horse for a few days and Rachel has done a tremendous job with him. I’ve had nothing to do with him. He couldn’t get a better trip.”

When the horse arrived in Ontario, Cullen trained the horse over his half-mile farm track and Midway Island made a break in the final turn.

“I had a 62-inch hopple on because we always like letting their hopples out with a new horse but then he made a break,” the driver said. “So, I said, ‘We better not do that’. He raced tonight with a tight hopple on and was terrific, so we’re not worried about that.”

A native of Manitoba, Cullen admits the Gold Cup and Saucer is not as big of a deal to him as it is to his partner.

“It doesn’t mean as much to me as it does Rachel, but, at the same time, it does because of Brian,” Cullen said of Andrew’s late father and the master of Meridian Farms, who passed away in December. “Growing up, I always watched big races like this. I don’t have grand circuit horses so, for the horses I race, this is as top as it gets.”

Fittingly enough, Cullen was at Meridian Farms Saturday before the race and realized he forgot a long sleeve shirt to wear under his suit.

“Just wear this,” Rachel said while tossing him a sweater.

Cullen put it on and said, “Yeah, it’s OK. Where did you get this?”

“It was my dad’s,” Rachel responded.

“He was always like a second dad to me,” Cullen said during the interview Saturday night. “He was always looking out for you.”

Cullen is adamant if Midway Island finds the winner’s circle in the final it will be all because of Rachel and in memory of her father.

“I just kinda let her do her own thing,” he said. “She puts so much time into them. You couldn’t ask for someone to do a better job.”

by Nicholas Oakes, for the Journal Pioneer

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