CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - David MacKenzie said sponsoring the Gold Cup and Saucer Race was a chance to come home.
The regional president for P.E.I. for the SaltWire Network, which owns The Guardian, spoke at a press conference Tuesday where post positions were drawn for the annual Gold Cup and Saucer Race. The newspaper has begun a three-year partnership with Red Shores as title sponsor of the biggest harness racing event in eastern Canada.
“We’re thrilled to partner and bring together two long-standing traditions on P.E.I.: the newspaper and the Gold Cup and Saucer, the greatest show in harness racing,’’ MacKenzie said.
The Guardian’s sister newspaper, The Evening Patriot, which ceased operating in the 1990s, had acted as the title sponsor for years. On Friday, Aug. 19, 1960, Dee’s Boy with Lloyd MacAuley at the reins, won the first ever Evening Patriot Gold Cup and Saucer in 2:06. Bill Hancox, publisher of The Guardian and The Evening Patriot, approached Charlottetown Driving Park race secretary Frank (Duck) Acorn in the summer of 1960 with the idea of sponsoring an invitational race during Old Home Week.
MacKenzie said when The Guardian started talking with Red Shores about bringing back that partnership, the newspaper stepped forward for three reasons.
“One was the past and the history The Guardian has with this race,’’ MacKenzie said. “The second reason was the future, that harness racing is an important component of this province. It’s both an industry, a life blood and a hobby for people of all ages and is also an important component of the tourism industry.’’
The third reason was the sheer professionalism exhibited by Red Shores and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation.
“The whole group is top-notch, and we wanted to partner with a group that we felt we could manage our brand and manage their brand and do a fantastic job of elevating both.’’
Old Home Week kicks off on Thursday while the two Gold Cup and Saucer trials go Saturday and Monday.
Adam Walsh, Red Shores race manager, said new to this year’s Gold Cup and Saucer race is the trophy. The winning driver will be honoured with the Michael MacDonald Memorial Trophy, named after the five-time winner of the race who died in June at the age of 70.
Coun. Terry MacLeod, representing the City of Charlottetown, said he remembers printing the race programs as a teenager. He calls the CDP the “Kentucky of Canada’’.
Heath MacDonald, minister responsible for harness racing, said he still gets chills when he hears the voice of race caller Vance Cameron.
“I think there’s almost a connection with every family on P.E.I.,’’ MacDonald said, referring to Old Home Week and harness racing. “It’s part of our culture; part of our history.’’