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SPORTS SCENE – By Lyle Carter: Saluting harness racing’s Atlantic Grand Circuit Week

Stanfield fillies and drivers' showdown should be a great combination

Published on July 14, 2017

Ontario reinsman Mike Saftic will take part in driving showdown at Truro Raceway.

BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Harness racing fans from all over the Maritimes will visit Truro Raceway during the next eight days.

Several outstanding race cards are scheduled as part of Atlantic Grand Circuit Week, kicking off tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m. with some good racing and the celebration of 250 years of harness racing.

Tuesday, at 7 p.m., the top Atlantic Sire Stakes two-year-old pacing fillies and the two- and three year-old trotters will be featured. The Atlantic Sire Stakes two-year-old pacing colts will be in town Thursday night, while Saturday night’s card is outstanding and features the Atlantic Sire Stakes three-year-old pacing colts and the fastest horses in the Maritimes going head to head in the Lindsay Construction Exhibition Cup.

On Sunday, July 23, the AGCW closing card has a tremendous combination with the Frank and Beth Stanfield Memorial for three-year-old pacing fillies and the ‘Team Ontario Verses Team Truro’ drivers showdown both taking place.

“The Frank and Beth Stanfield Memorial is one of the most prestigious and lucrative stake races in the Maritimes,” Kelly Mceachern, of the raceway, said. “Named in honour of the Stanfields who loved harness racing and did so much for the sport, along with the four drivers coming in from Ontario to compete against our local drivers, this should make for a great closing race card for this year’s Atlantic Grand Circuit Week.”

It’s been more than 20 years since Ontario Jockey Club star driver Mike Saftic last drove at Truro Raceway. The winner of the prestigious Gold Cup & Saucer with Nuclear Flash at Charlottetown in 1994, Saftic spoke highly of returning to Truro and competing in the ‘Team Truro Verses Team Ontario’ drivers’ showdown.

“Yes, I’m really looking forward to getting back to Truro,” Saftic, winner of more than 5,200 races and $98.5 million in purse earnings, said. “When I pitched the idea to drivers here in Ontario, they were more than happy to take part. It will be a fun, competitive afternoon of racing between Team Truro and Team Ontario.”

Besides Saftic, also making the trip east will be Paul MacDonnell, who drove world champion Somebeachsomewhere, veteran reinsman Rick Zeron and Nova Scotia native Carl Jamieson who’s had a stellar career in Ontario racing as a driver, trainer and owner.

Team Truro brings a lot of experience in drivers Danny Romo, Clare MacDonald, Dave Carey and Bernard “Pooker” McCallum.

“I think it’s a great idea getting the drivers’ challenge back after being absent for quite a few years,” Carey, 66, the winner of more than 3,000 races, said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Carl Jamieson and the Ontario drivers.

Being from Nova Scotia and enjoying a great career in harness racing, Carl has a lot of fans in these parts. Add Paul MacDonnell, Mike Saftic and Rick Zeron, that’s a good representative from Ontario.”

Carey emphasized that harness racing needs all the help it can get.

“The latest promotion is good,” said Carey. “ The people working for AGCW are doing everything they can to bring harness racing back. We need to get more young people interested in the sport, that would really help.”

McCallum, stabled at Truro Raceway for more than 40 years, feels that the combination of the Stanfield fillies and the driver showdown should make for a great race day.

“And having Carl (Jamieson) return to Nova Scotia where he started his driving career, this is nice to see,” McCallum, 58, who has operated a public stable since age 17, said. “Wanting to draw more people to Truro Raceway, things have been looking up some lately. The new manager is really trying, let’s hope for a great week of racing. In the future we have to get young people out and new people attending; I know they would enjoy harness racing and that they would come back.”

Christina Gillis, originally from Bible Hill and a third-year psychology student at the University of Guelph, has been the main organizer of the driver showdown.

“Some of us just felt that bringing drivers in from Ontario to compete against Truro drivers, like they did several years ago, this should add interest in Atlantic Grand Circuit Week.”

Christina dates Mike Saftic’s son. Like a number of other people we talked to, they’re both looking forward to attending AGCW at Truro Raceway.

Lyle Carter’s sports column appears Saturdays in the Truro Daily News. If you have a story idea, contact him at 902 673-2857.