The biggest race of the Maritime harness racing season will run this Saturday in Charlottetown, but there won’t be any Maritime horses in it.

Paul Murphy

Paul Murphy says the Maritimes is not fielding the top harness racing horses any more. (CBC)

The tradition of the Gold Cup and Saucer goes back five decades, and the race is now attracting top horses from all across North America.

"When you have some of the best trainers in the business, and some big owners in the business, who want to come east to little Prince Edward Island to compete in the Gold Cup and Saucer, that really says something about our signature event," said Lee Drake, manager of sales and marketing at the Red Shores race track.

Drake is expecting a track record to be set this year.

Harness racing

There will be no Maritime horses in the Gold Cup and Saucer Saturday. (CBC)

While there is an excitement at the track about such fast horses coming to Charlottetown, there is also some disappointment. There used to be more local horses in the race.

Paul Murphy, author of a book about harness racing in P.E.I., said some fans don’t like to see the purse money claimed by outsiders.

"We used to have top horses, but now that doesn't exist anymore," said Murphy.

"We're not able to draw 10, 12 top horses for our Gold Cup and Saucer. We have to import them."

One Maritime horse was entered in one of the qualifier races, but didn't make it through to the Gold Cup. This year there were only six horses entered in each of the two qualifier races. Some years they've had triple that number. Those involved in harness racing say when top trainers put their horses in the Gold Cup, it does scare off locals.

Marc Campbell

P.E.I. harness racing driver Marc Campbell believes fans enjoy seeing the best horses in North America. (CBC)

While there are no Maritime horses in the Gold Cup, P.E.I. driver Marc Campbell won both Gold Cup qualifiers. He thinks it’s a good thing that the very best horses are coming to the Island.

"I think harness racing fans want to see the superstars," said Campbell.

"If these guys bring these nice horses I think it draws a crowd."

Horses from the United States and Quebec are expected to dominate the race this year.

Lee Drake says most, if not all the drivers in the Gold Cup are expected to be from the Maritimes.