His methamphetamine demons are well and truly behind him and top Prince Edward Island harness racing driver Mike Stevenson says he has his family, friends, fellow horsemen and Catholic faith to thank for being able to be back doing what he does best - reining home winners.
Stevenson was suspended for five years after his urine tested positive for the controlled substance at Summerside Raceway last October. However he successfully appealed the sentence and it was decreased to nine months.
Stevenson was also suspended for 127 days by the Maryland Racing Commission after returning a positive in 2000.
But the 46-year-old was back driving at Northside Downs in North Sydney last Saturday (July 9) and won in his first drive back. He had two drives and was successful behind the Wayne Bell trained Pictonians Souwest who led from wire to wire.
He then saluted the judge the following day behind another Bell runner – Plugging Along at Summerside Raceway.
Then for good measure Stevenson drove another two winners at yesterday’s (Monday July 11) Summerside meeting behind Onehotvett and Johnny J.
He has another full book of 10 drives at today’s (Tuesday July 12) Summerside meeting.
“It’s just so good to be back doing what I love doing. I have had the support of so many horsemen, family and friends and I will be forever grateful for that.
“I have also returned to my faith and am a regular church-goer now. My demons are behind me and I no longer have any more cravings. All I want to do is be a successful driver and deep in my heart I now know that I am certainly back on the right path to achieving that,” Stevenson told Harnesslink.
“I’m at peace now. I have a lovely home here in Montague and as I speak to you now I look across St Mary’s bay. Life here is great and the people are great. I have no reason to resort back to my demonish ways. Where I live is so beautiful – it’s the Kentucky of Canada. I am loving life drug-free,” he added.
Stevenson said he now intended speaking to school children about the woes of drugs.
There’s no doubting the former St John driving champion was one of the best reinsman in the Maritimes before he lost his license.
Stevenson would more than likely have won both the Summerside and Charlottetown driving titles last year had he not tested a positive in October.
At that stage he had won 115 races and $270,589 in purses.
Prior to 2010 Stevenson’s best year was in 2004 when he won 103 races and $112,663. Stakes-wise he did however bank $350,165 in purses in 2000.
All up the Fredericton native has saluted the judge 1,245 times (495 in the USA) since 1981, placed on 2,187 occasions and amassed just over $3.5 million in stake money.
He’s also trained 240 winners ($714,044) since 1992 – the last being his last starter before being suspended - Pictonians Souwest on October 10 last year at Truro Raceway.
“That 3-year-old gelding is the best horse in our stable at present,” said Stevenson who trains a team of five 2-year-olds and five three-year-olds with Belle River-based Wayne Bell.
“We have nothing but stakes horses and when they finish their 3-year-old season we pass them on. I love racing babies.
Pictonian Amanda - a full sister to Pictonians Souwest (– Southwind Sasha) is a nice 2-year-old filly. She won her only start at Summerside on July 6 and is back in again on Wednesday,” Stevenson said.
He also liked2-year-old colt Onward Finesse, who won his only start at the same Summerside meeting last week and will line up there again on Thursday.
Lil Miss Abbie (By Bo W) has also had one start for one win. That 2-year-old filly was the third stable runner from the Bell - Stevenson team to win last Wednesday and she will line up on the same track today (Tuesday July 12).
Stevenson was born into a harness racing family. His father Bob still trains in Delaware, while his mother is the program director at the Meadowlands. For good measure his sister Jan married renowned American horseman Eddie Davis Jr.
“I have been around standardbreds all my life. I jogged my first horse when I was five and from that moment all I wanted to be was a driver,” Stevenson said.
He worked for his father briefly when he left school and then relocated to George Harp’s stable in Florida for a year.
“I would have stayed longer but I was involved in a race accident and separated my shoulder so I went and stayed with my mother who was the clerk of the course at Foxboro at the time.
“I stayed there and when my injury healed I set up my own small stable and got back in the sulky again.”
Stevenson then trained about 15 for Peter Blood before going home to Fredericton for a couple of years. He then returned to Foxboro and remained there until that track sadly closed in 1998.
He then went back to Delaware for a couple of years before reuniting with Blood again in Florida for a couple of years. Then after stints at Saratoga and Delaware Stevenson went back to Canada and set up in St John in New Brunswick for three years.
“I came to Montague near Charlottetown in 2006 and it is the best move I have ever made. Like I said before I absolutely love it here and have no intention of leaving.
“I still rate Cup N Saucer week in August as a harness racing show second to none. It’s the place to be and it is so well promoted. It gives you goose bumps and almost brings you to tears. I can’t speak highly enough of it,” he said.
He rated the Blood trainedpacer - has the best horse he had driven.
And outside harness racing Stevenson said God, his girlfriend Mary Ellen Harrison, his family, golf, and fishing were his other greatest loves.
By Duane RANGER (editor)
(1) Mike Stevenson winning at Truro Raceway on October 10, 2010 – his last day’s driving before being suspended:
(2) Mike Stevenson winning the 2009 Norman McPhail Memorial with Porthill Alf:
(3) Mike Stevenson winning at Truro Raceway in July 2010 behind Politicians Souwest:
(4) The now extinct Foxboro Raceway where Mike Stevenson used to drive. Sadly the track closed in 1998.