Monday, the track will open its 11th season of live racing six years after McNair made a name for himself at the age of 18 when he won Grand River Raceway's signature event, the Battle of Waterloo, with a horse named Trail Boss.
"If he hadn't come along and I wouldn't have won that race that early (in my career) I don't think I would be where I am today," McNair said. "That just jump-started my career and after that I started getting between five and 10 drives a night at Grand River. It really boosted my career."
Today, at the age of just 24, McNair is one of Canada's elite drivers. He was a finalist for the nation's driver of the year award in 2013. He finished the year third in the nation in money with over $5.2 million earned. He was fourth in wins with 291.
Though he made just 70 starts at Grand River in 2013, McNair finished second in the track's money standings behind leading driverof Arthur who had four times as many starts. McNair earned over $475,000 at Grand River in 2013, largely on the strength of winning the track's two signature stakes races - the $145,000 Battle of Waterloo and the $75,000 Battle of the Belles.
Monday is the first of 48 cards of live racing at Grand River to be held through Sept. 29 on Mondays, Wednesdays and the track's popular Fun & Frivolity Friday Nights. Grand River will feature a 6:30 p.m. post throughout the summer, except for the annual Industry Day card on Aug. 4 that features a 1:30 p.m. post and the rich finals of the Battle of Waterloo and Battle of the Belles that, this year, will go for purses of $180,000 and $120,000, respectively.
Grand River Raceway opened just eight minutes from McNair's house in 2004, the same year he was in Grade 9 at Centre Wellington District High School in Fergus.
"There's a lot of things I love about that track," McNair said. "The atmosphere is fun ... I know a lot of people there and it's close to my house."
McNair was just 12 when he won his very first race at a fair in Dundalk racing against drivers as old as 60. On the same February day in 2008 that he received his harness driver's license, he won his very first pari-mutuel race at Western Fair Raceway in London driving a mare named Eagle Kay that had never won a race before and didn't win another. That year, McNair drove the winners of over $1 million at the age of 18. Today, he is closing in rapidly on 2,000 wins and $25 million in lifetime earnings; numbers he said he wouldn't have been able to compile this quickly without Grand River Raceway playing a key role in his career.
To hear more of our conversation with https://soundcloud.com/grandriverraceway(including his brave confession about the song he secretly loved in high school) check out our weekly podcast, the Harness Racing Report, produced for Grand River Raceway by award-winning journalist Dave Briggs, at
by Kelly Spencer, for Grand River Raceway