CHARLOTTETOWN, PE – Fending off Gilles Barrieau in a driving competition takes skill but that is exactly what Adam Merner did in the Paul MacDonald Memorial Driver’s Challenge Saturday afternoon at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
The competition was part of Horse Person’s Day sponsored by the P.E.I. Standardbred Horse Owner’s Association with eight drivers competing in eight races on the Saturday program.
Merner finished the day with 62 points for his first MacDonald Memorial win with Barrieau finishing two points back in second and Corey MacPherson finishing third with 56 points.
Barrieau started off the action winning the first leg in a 2:01 romp with Dilans Mustang with Merner finishing second. Merner finished second again in the second leg as David Dowling and Good Lucky Kathy clicked in 2:01.2. Southfield Sassy would give Merner his first taste of the winner’s circle in the MacDonald Memorial challenge as edged out Mach An Angel (Driven by Dowling) by a neck in 2:01.4. Merner snagged a fifth place finish in leg four but still keep second place Barrieau at bay as the New Brunswick driver finished sixth. Barrieau attempted to close the gap winning with Casimir Obama in 1:59.1 in the next leg but Merner kept close with a second place finish behind Casimir Nunzio. Outrageous Spirit supplied Barrieau with his third win in the challenge with a mile time of 2:01.2 while Merner and Cougar Gal faded to fifth. Mach Of Ballykeel then supplied a surge up the passing lane in leg seven for driver Merner while Barrieau finished fourth to give Merner a four point advantage going into the eighth and final leg. Merner’s lead was near squandered in the final dash of the competition as Hemingway made a break past the half-mile marker and provided interference to other horses. Hemingway finished fifth and was placed eighth but Barrieau was unable to capitalize with Loves A Challenge as he finished sixth and did not close the point gap.
Also in the challenge David Dowling finished the day in fourth place with 53 points, with a three-way tie in fifth place at 48 points between Ambyr Campbell, Ron Matheson and Mike McGuigan while Kenny Arsenault finished eighth with 45 points.
Rollwithitharry and Barrieau captured the $2,500 Preferred 2 pace in 1:58.4 for trainer Jackie Matheson and owner Woodmere Farms of Marshfield, P.E.I.
The $2,350 Fillies and Mares Open pace saw an upset with Killean Finale and Ken Murphy winning in 1:58.4 for trainer Clifford Murphy and owners Dr. Mary McNiven and Pacemaker Stable of Nine Mile Creek, P.E.I.
By Nicholas Oakes