Day At The Track

Alexander (Alex) Robert McDonald dies at age 68

06:45 PM 19 Jul 2013 NZST
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Alex McDonald
Alex McDonald

The harness racing community mourn the loss of Alexander (Alex) Robert McDonald who passed away at Invercargill Hospital on Wednesday night aged 68.

McDonald, who was Mosgiel bred and raised, had been a long time supporter of the industry not only as a breeder but also as an owner and trainer.

His greatest achievements in the sport came through two of his foundation mares Lento (15 wins, $240,000) and Rockne Del (four wins).

Lento, a top mare who McDonald trained himself, was purchased as a weanling for $1000, while Rockne Del was purchased as a yearling for a mere $1500.

Back in 2011, McDonald told the Southland Times that he didn’t have a thousand bucks to spend on Lento, only five hundred.

“Lorraine Coutts (wife of Keith Coutts) said she would add another five hundred for her half share and we raced her together.”

McDonald trained her for 12 wins, including two in Australia. Henry Skinner trained her for three wins. McDonald later bought Lento outright. He and Mrs Coutts had gone foal about, McDonald breeding Whanau. Lento was later sold to Robert Famularo of Cavalla Bloodstock.

Whanau, a daughter of Sands A Flyin, won 10 races and 137,726; her biggest win came in $100,000 Nevele R Fillies Final. She was trained by Henry Skinner and on that occasion was driven by Peter Jones.

Through Lento grew the relationship of Alex McDonald and Clark Barron, who drove the bonny mare to numerous victories.

“I have been involved with Alex for the last twenty years,” said his good friend and long time racing partner, Clark Barron.

Although it was Lento who ignited the McDonald and Barron partnership, it is McDonald’s other foundation mare, Rockne Dell, that has given them the most success of late.

“I trained Joyfullbelle (Road Machine – Lento) to win eight races ($58,798) for Alex and then later bought a share in both her and Whanau for breeding,” said Barron. “We race horses together under the Miracle Lodge Syndicate,” he added.

Joyfullbelle has been a great producer for both McDonald and Barron in recent years, having produced the likes of multiple Group winner Joyfuljoy and the 2011 Southland Oaks winner Jumpforjoy.

“We had two starts with Joyfuljoy, before John Curtin (JC International) bought her for Ian Dobson for $100,000.”

Joyfuljoy was then placed in the hands of Mark Purdon, of who she won 11 races and $339,612 for, before being on sold by JC International to J Alfen of North America.

Jumpforjoy, however, raced out her career with Clark Barron and as well as winning the Southland Oaks, won six other races and placed third in the Harness Jewels. She is now in foal to Somebeachsomewhere.

“You never really think about what you are going to say in interviews like this one,” said Baron. “He has certainly had a huge impact on my career.

“He was a very genuine fella, and was straight up and down. He said what he thought.”

“Through all our dealings, very few bad words were said between one another,” Barron added.

Although McDonald has passed, don’t expect his breed too.

“We promised him we would carry the breed on so hopefully we can produce a few more good horses yet. We will certainly be doing our best,” concluded an emotional Barron.

As well as a passionate harness racing enthusiast. McDonald was also a former farmer, shearer and meat worker.

His funeral will be held on Monday (July 22) at 2pm.

Mitchell Robertson

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