Duke does it

Ryan
Ryan Cooke
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Ottawa-based horse takes Exhibition Cup in track record-matching time

TRURO – “He’s ahead by four lengths, five, six! Duke Did It, down the stretch now!”

 

Track announcer Joe Kelly, the longtime voice of Truro Raceway, made the call with an excited yelp, as the spectators leaned over the railing a little closer.

Through the final turn, driver Todd Trites had the horse riding near record time. With nobody close, Trites cracked it to the tired horse to maintain pace. As Duke crossed the line, the crowd remained still, eyes fixated on the board in the centre of the field.

The win was never in doubt for Duke Did It, who took a commanding lead from the start, and fought off the only hint of pressure from the Darren Crowe-driven Prosecco Brut at the halfway point. Now seconds after the race ended, anxiety hinged on the track record.

The board flickered as the time came through – 1:53.2, a dead tie on the eight-year-old record.

As Trites rode Duke Did It to the winner’s circle, the horse began kicking and acting up. A loud clang rang out as the horse connected with a kick to the bike. As trainer Richard Sullivan turned around to check the commotion, Trites already had the pun in mind.

“Duke did it!”

The win comes two months after Trites, the Penniac, N.B., native, picked up his 2,000th career trip to the winner’s circle. Trites has picked up several of those wins at Truro Raceway, including the 2010 Exhibition Cup, where he finished in 1:53.4 with P H Bestman.

“I love this track and I love this race,” Trites said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win here before, and I was fortunate to be driving this horse tonight.”

Trites came into the race having never seen Duke Did It before. He read up on the horse beforehand, but hadn’t actually sat behind him until 10 minutes before the race in the post parade.

“I thought if I could eliminate some traffic and put him on top, he’d be kicking home pretty good,” Trites said. “I thought he was the probably the best in there. It was a good field of horses, but we didn’t have to worry about any traffic trouble.”

After getting out in front, Duke wouldn’t look back. Truro’s Darren Crowe made a push at the half-mile marker, but Duke Did It quickly re-established his lead after the next turn and kept building on it.

“I knew by the three-quarter poll that we were dusting right along,” Trites said when asked if he knew how close he was to the record. “But my fella was getting tired in the lane and he had every right to be… You can’t eat track records, so the main thing was to just get the job done.”

Red Rock, driven by P.E.I.’s Gary Chappell, finished in second place, while the 8-1 Touch of Lightning came in third, driven by Earl Smith.

No stranger to the track record, Trites finished second behind Phil Pinkney and Dunachton Gale at the 2006 Exhibition Cup, the night the mark was set at 1:53.2.

The 26th running of the Exhibition Cup Invitation drew in the largest crowd of Atlantic Grand Circuit Week. Parking was backed up Main Street as fans filed into the Raceway to take in the action.

Other racing action saw Bernard McCallum, Crowe and Clare MacDonald place first in three A-division Atlantic Sires Stakes races, while Danny Romo took both B-division races. In the final of the Harris Home Hardware series for four-year-olds and younger, Jason Hughes and Say it Again Sam held off Ryan Ellis and Fedora to capture the horse’s ninth straight win.

 

 

 

Geographic location: Ottawa, Red Rock

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