Sintra and Anthony MacDonald
triumph in Charlottetown.
by Melissa Keith
Hot fractions are always part of the Gold Cup and Saucer, Atlantic Canada’s most prestigious race. In the 63rd edition, contested Saturday night (Aug. 20) at Red Shores Charlottetown Driving Park, winner Sintra (Mach Three–Dancin Barefoot) equalled the track record of 1:50.1h, closing in a field’s-fastest :27.3 last quarter for the going-away victory. His driver, Anthony MacDonald, is also co-founder of TheStable.ca, which set out to popularize a fractional ownership model for standardbred racehorses in 2015. The win brought MacDonald his first driving victory in the covered Gold Cup final, with a horse acquired for the purpose: Sintra is owned by TheStable.ca Sintra Group, which celebrated the fractionally-owned pacer’s third 2022 win Saturday night.
Sintra (p, 4, 1:47.2m; $1,275,464) earned his place in the final by capturing his Gold Cup Trial (elimination) on Aug. 13 for Anthony’s brother, O’Brien Driver of the Year James MacDonald. The 1:50.3h effort suggested that a chance to break Ys Lotus’ track record (1:50.1, set in the 57th Gold Cup final) was possible in the 2022 final, which welcomed back fans and bettors en masse for the first time following two years of COVID-19 restrictions. With title sponsor Atlantic Lotto elevating the purse to $100,000 (CDN) this year, plus a “Break the Track Record” incentive of $5,000 offered by sponsor Warren Ellis and family of Summerside Chrysler Dodge, a fast, competitive race was ensured.
Sintra wasn’t a sure thing, however. He had drawn trailing post #9 and was sent off as 9-5 second choice at post time, with Trial #3 winner Patrikthepiranha A (Wally Hennessey/Melissa Beckwith) the 6-5 favorite. But Sintra’s trip worked out perfectly, as an early speed duel between Ideal Perception (Austin Sorrie/Anthony Beaton) and Patrikthepiranha A took a toll on both. MacDonald said good luck and good advice helped him put 9-year-old veteran Sintra (2017 O’Brien Older Pacing Horse of the Year) in position to do what he does best.
“I think the racing gods actually looked favorably on me, because I’m usually the one mixing it up,” he told reporters in the winner’s circle, post-race. “It’s just as well that I wasn’t on the gate. The first thing that both [brother drivers] Mark and James [MacDonald] said to me was, ‘Follow the #3 out and don’t worry. Let them fight it out.’” As predicted, they did. And Sintra did the rest, earning his driver’s respect and a victorious fist pump going down the stretch by a widening five-and-a-half open lengths.
“This guy [Sintra], as soon as he smells any sort of weakness, he just switches gears,” said an appreciative MacDonald. “I truly believe this horse probably enjoyed that race as much as I did. He’s been through a lot. He’s an older horse. But in the post parade, you can tell, he’s not getting wound up, he’s soaking it all in. And he truly loves the spotlight almost as much as I do.”
MacDonald praised trainers Jamie “Smitty” Smith and Harry Poulton for their work getting Sintra ready for his quickest-ever win on a half-mile track, and paid special tribute to TheStable.ca’s Sintra group, several members of which traveled to Red Shores CDP from outside the province. Winning the coveted trophy with a fractionally-owned pacer was particular highlight for the self-effacing TheStable.ca co-founder.
“When you have so many people who are committed to buying and acquiring and racing good horses–really, horses of any kind, but good horses especially–it’s only a matter of time, and I hope that a lot of people in this industry understand exactly what it took to win the Gold Cup and Saucer, especially from a mediocre driver’s standpoint.”
No Plan Intender (Jody Jamieson/Colin Johnson) closed from far back for place. A photo decided between Rhodena Road (third for Brett MacDonald/Neil MacInnis) and Bettim Again (fourth for Redmond Doucet Jr./Jeff Lilley). Handle was a strong $484,688 for the 14-race evening card.