AMHERST, N.S. – In the harness racing industry sometimes you land a stud – other times it’s a dud.
Doug Polley of Amherst is part owner of one of the pre-race favourites for Saturday’s prestigious Gold Cup & Saucer in Charlottetown. Rockin In Heaven, the six-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven, will leave the gate from the Number 1 position.
“He’s the favourite right now,” said Polley, who owns the horse in partnership with his father and Gordon McComb of Halifax. “When we bought him as yearling we were really hoping he’d be a good horse, and he’s been very good so far.”
Trained by Springhill native Teesha Symes, Rockin In Heaven went into the Old Home Week at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park on a bit of a roll after a strong performance at the recent Preferred Pace at Woodbine Mohawk Park in Ontario.
“We’re hoping for a win in Charlottetown,” Polley said. “You don’t go into these things to lose. We have a heck of a horse. He’s got the rail, the best place you be. It would be good to start there and finish there.”
Rockin In Heaven has seen action at some of North America’s premiere race tracks and events, including the Little Brown Jug in Ohio, the Prix d’Ete in Quebec, the Confederation Cup and Molson Pace in Ontario.
Polley wasn’t sure if the horse would compete at the Gold Cup & Saucer, but after storming back from the three-quarter pole to win at Mohawk the decision was made to head for Charlottetown and Atlantic Canada’s most prestigious race.
For Symes, who worked for years with Dr. Ian Moore in Florida before deciding to stick with Rockin In Heaven when Moore’s share in the horse was bought out, it’s a chance to compete close to her native Springhill.
Symes told Justin Fisher of Standardbred Canada that training the winner of the Gold Cup & Saucer has long been a dream of hers. It’s special for her to able to race around her friends and family, who don’t normally get to see her in action.
“Having a horse going into the Gold Cup & Saucer is exciting, but with him in the shape he's in is so exciting. He's already given me so many memories to last a lifetime and taken me so many places. I literally had to pinch myself at the farm this morning. ‘Is this real life? Is this happening? This is happening,’” Symes said in an article on Standardbred Canada’s website (http://www.standardbredcanada.ca/notices/8-10-18/oh-places-you-ll-go.html). “It may sound corny, but this is a dream come true...this is my home, it's always been my dream of being in it, and with him racing like he is, I’m speechless...just get in the final, a fourth, a third, a second, I’d be ecstatic...Just get in the final.”
Symes has been with Rockin In Heaven through most of its life.
For Polley, it’s a second shot at the Gold Cup & Saucer. A previous horse, finished fifth in the trails approximately 20 year ago and didn’t make it to the Saturday finale.
The Polley family has been in the harness racing industry for 60 years, something it was honoured for during a ceremony last year in Charlottetown. His grandfather, Jim, started in 1958 while Polley’s father, Doug Sr., and uncle Buster have also been heavily involved.
The horse will return to Mohawk early next week.