Clinton -- Two years ago, James MacDonald was winning Clinton Raceways' annual harness racing drivers challenge heading into the final race when Trevor Henry pulled off a last second victory. MacDonald got his revenge a year ago, winning his first title with a decisive victory over Jody Jamieson. Henry was third. On Sunday, May 31, the trio, along with five other top reinsmen, will suit up against each other again as the 35th annual Drivers Challenge hits the track in support of the Clinton branch of the Royal Canadian Legion. "Legions are having a tough time financially across the province. Every cause is a good one, but we think this will be a nice tie-in for us," said Clinton Raceway general manager Ian Fleming. Though it's a fun, relaxed atmosphere in which all proceeds of the day, including the drivers' fees, will go to the Legion, MacDonald said the drivers don't take the competition lightly. "Everyone's really competitive," he said. "You put a bunch of egos in together and one's a winner and you're going to get people trying pretty hard. There's no favours there, that's for sure." Henry, a finalist for the O'Brien Award for Canada's driver of the year in 2014, said pride is on the line. "It's always nice to have the bragging rights," Henry said, "But it's just a lot of fun. It's a good day out." The Drivers Challenge will pit Clinton's top three drivers of 2014 -- Henry, Ryan Holliday and Bruce Richardson-- against MacDonald, Jamieson, Doug McNair and Mike Saftic from the Woodbine Entertainment Group (WEG) circuit and Canada's leading dash winner, Alfie Carroll, who turned 30 in early May, and is leading the nation with nearly 200 wins already in 2015. For the first time in its long history, the Drivers Challenge is being held at the beginning, rather than at the end of the season, to make room for the eighth edition of Clinton Raceway's biannual Legends Day classic that will close out the track's 16-race season on Sept. 6 in support of the Clinton Public Hospital. Henry, long the king of Ontario's smaller tracks and now a regular fixture on the WEG circuit, said he's a big fan of Clinton Raceway. "It's just good to go there and give back to the town of Clinton," Henry said. "They do a lot of good there. It's a good town and a nice track and a good spot." MacDonald said he likes making the trip to Clinton because the Drivers Challenge usually draws a huge crowd and, "the people there seem to appreciate it and they put on a good show." MacDonald currently ranks a close second on Canada's driver earnings list with over $1.35 million made in 2015. McNair is a close third ($1.23 million), following by Henry in fifth ($1.09 million), Jamieson in sixth ($980,000) and Carroll in eighth ($890,000). In the wins department, after Carroll, McNair currently ranks sixth in the nation with 90 wins, followed by MacDonald in seventh (88) and Henry tied for ninth (80). The eight reinsmen participating in the Drivers Challenge have more than 26,300 career wins between them and combined career earnings of around $300 million. Jessica Carnochan
London, February 22, 2015 -- The Raceway at Western Fair District in London honoured its top harness racing performers for 2014 during their annual awards night on Saturday. Among the highlights was driver Alfie Carroll taking home his first trophy as Driver of the Year, Kendal Gustav being selected as overall Horse of the Year and Natasha House being voted Caretaker of the Year. Two other awards were announced the night of the ceremony and they include Lisa Thompson who was selected as Horsewoman of the Year and the Dave Wall Outstanding Service Award which went to longtime London horseman Larry Fitzsimmons. Here is a complete look at this year's Raceway award winners: Older Pacing Horse - Kendal Gustav Older Pacing Mare - Twilight Seelster Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt - Good Side Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly - Delta Grace Tone Older Trotting Horse - Moonbeam Hall Older Trotting Mare - Thundering Ovation Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt - M C Wood Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly - Sonny With A Chance Claiming Pacer - Cat Four Claiming Trotter (Tied) - Strike A Light and Weskey Driver - Alfie Carroll Owner - Keith Cassell Dave Wall Outstanding Service Award - Larry Fitzsimmons Caretaker - Natasha House Horse of the Year - Kendal Gustav Horsewoman of the Year - Lisa Thompson Greg Blanchard
London, January 12, 2015 -- The Raceway at Western Fair District will hold its annual awards night on Saturday, February 21 at the Carousel Room at The Raceway. The Raceway's top performers for 2014 will be honoured in a variety of categories. Awards for the three-year-olds and older horses are based on the top money earners who made a minimum of six starts at The Raceway in 2014. The claiming awards are based on the most number of claiming wins at The Raceway in 2014. The Owner of the Year award, sponsored by Standardbred Canada, goes to the owner who finished in the top 10 for money winnings and had the highest number of starts during the season. The Caretaker of the Year award will be handed out for the second consecutive year. To qualify, caretakers must be nominated by Tuesday, January 13th. To nominate someone, send an email with your reason why to one of the following: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The Raceway will also honour its Overall Horse of the Year the night of the event. Tickets will go on sale next week and will be available in both the race office and the promotions department. For more information, contact 519-438-7203 (ext. 380). The 2014 award winners are as follows: Older Pacing Horse - Kendal Gustav Older Pacing Mare - Twilight Seelster Three-Year-Old Pacing Colt - Good Side Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly - Delta Grace Tone Older Trotting Horse - Moonbeam Hall Older Trotting Mare - Thundering Ovation Three-Year-Old Trotting Colt - M C Wood Three-Year-Old Trotting Filly - Sonny With A Chance Claiming Pacer - Cat Four Claiming Trotter (Tied) - Strike A Light and Weskey Driver - Alfie Carroll Trainer - Vic Puddy Owner - Keith Cassell Dave Wall Outstanding Service Award - TBA Caretaker - TBA Horse of the Year - TBA From the Western Fair Media Department
London, December 30, 2014 -- The Raceway at Western Fair District will wrap up what has been a successful month with its annual New Year's Eve racing program on Wednesday night - the final program of the 2014 season in London. The 12-race program will once again feature the Auld Lang Syne Trot and Pace which are open to horses that last competed in a $5,000 claimer, with the oldest entrants receiving preference. The night will also feature a 'Heart of Harness Racing' calendar giveaway with program purchase (while supplies last) as well as prize giveaways, a Raceway t-shirt toss and special editions of the Fun Wheel and Deal or No Deal. On the wagering side, the early pick-4 will offer a $7,500 guaranteed pool while the late one has been bumped up to $10,000. It is also the last night for the Horseplayer Interactive (HPI) promotion where customers who wager $50 on The Raceway are entered for a chance to win one of 15 draws of a $150 deposit in their account. "We start a little bit later on New Year's Eve," said Racing Manager Greg Blanchard of the 8:00 p.m. start time. "We look to end the card just a little bit before midnight and give customers a chance to ring in the New Year with us afterwards. There will be something for everyone and this has become one of the most anticipated nights on our racing calendar." Alfie Carroll and Vic Puddy will look to end off the season on a high note as they will capture their first driver and trainer title respectively at The Raceway. Carroll had three more wins on Tuesday night to put further distance between him and Trevor Henry in the driver's race while Puddy added two more wins to his meet-leading total. Both will be in action on Wednesday night. Customers have been showing their support at the windows for the month of December with the London oval on pace to easily surpass its single-month wagering record. The handle has topped $500,000 on four different occasions, including a $700,000 night on December 23rd, and fans can expect large pools once again on the New Year's Eve. For more information and to download free race programs for Wednesday night's card, visit www.westernfairdistrict.com. From the press box at The Raceway
There was no stopping driver Alfie Carroll during the Monday evening program at The Raceway at Western Fair District, as the sulky sitter scored a touchdown and kicked the point after. Carroll had the hottest hands of them all as noted in the seven-win performance he manufactured over the course of the 14-race card. In the midst of what has been a career season, Carroll got on the scoresheet with Little Turk (1:57.3) in Race 3. He went on to win the next three races in succession thanks to wins with Monster In Law (1:56.4), Off By Heart (2:00.1) and Billy White Sell (1:59.2). To view the rest of this story click here. Driving triples for Allard-Jamieson at Woodbine The Monday evening program at Woodbine Racetrack featured a festive edition of “anything you can do, I can do better” between reinsmen Simon Allard and Jody Jamieson. The sulky sitters took turns exchanging victories on the 11-race program before each of them finished the card with three trips to the winner’s circle. Jamieson drew first blood thanks to his win with Vague Traces (1:54.1) in Race 2, and he came right back to take Race 3 with Escuela (1:54.1). Allard then got on the scoresheet thanks to his win in Race 4 behind Sky Desperado (1:51.3). He was back to victory lane in Race 7 thanks to the hard-closing skills of No Bu (1:50.4). To view the rest of this story click here.
Charlottetown Driving Park hosted a double-header of PEI Colt Stakes on Saturday with the two-year-olds featured during the afternoon card and three-year-olds front and center in the evening. Gilles Barrieau, Clare MacDonald and Mike Stevenson each won three of the stakes divisions, which ranged in purses of $5,400 to $6,300. Barrieau pulled off the biggest upset of the day when he catch-drove Landed Alien to a 1:57.4 triumph, converting from the pocket to defeat heavy favourite Lovineveryminute at odds of 11-1. Jackie Matheson trains the sophomore filly, who earned her first stakes victory and a new lifetime mark. Barrieau also drove two-year-old winners Dixeland Band (1:59) for trainer Kevin MacLean and filly Jann Down (1:59.3) for trainer Stephen Mason. To view the rest of the story click here. Emotional win at Kawartha Downs It was an emotional night at Kawartha Downs tonight for the Boyd family, who buried family patriarch Ross Boyd this afternoon. They then travelled to the track to watch grandson Nick record two victories on the card including one with a horse he owns and trains. Boyd went gate-to-wire with his own colt, two-year-old Rise Against, who won in 1:58.3. Boyd, of Guelph, Ont., also trains the youngster, who was notching his first lifetime win in just two starts. Boyd was also in the winner’s circle following the third race thanks to a 1:57.2 effort by Lucky Regal. “We buried my grandpa this afternoon and tonight down the lane it was like he was helping me across the wire,” Nick said following the win. To view the rest of this story click here. Accident mars Alberta stakes Mothers Melody and Shark Festival were victorious in the $10,000 Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Filly Stakes for three-year-olds on Saturday afternoon at Alberta Downs, but the final division was marred by an accident at the top the stretch. Charismatic Art (J.F. Gagne) was leading the fillies around the final turn in the second division when she broke stride causing interference to Rummys Command (Jim Marino) in behind and Blue Star Escape (Kelly Hoerdt), who fell in the backfield. The rest of the field was able to get around the breaker with Shark Festival (Keith Clark) closing off cover for the 1:56.3 victory. Favourite Rollin Deep (Travis Cullen) finished one and a quarter length behind in second with Great Desire (Philip Giesbrecht) back in third. Marino was up on his feet quickly after being dumped from the sulky. Hoerdt told Trot Insider he was doing okay after the race, but headed to hospital to have his left ankle x-rayed. Both drivers booked off their remaining assignments after the 10th race accident. To view the rest of this story click here. Hat Trick for Sparling at Leamington Hockey season may not have started yet, but Rob Sparling Jr. scored three wins on the Saturday afternoon card at Leamington Raceway. Starting in the third race with an impressive two-year-old Bettors Delight filly, Passion Delight ($3.70), "Spar" made it look easy, winning in 2:04.3 over the "good" track for trainer Andrew McCabe and owner Glenview Livestock Ltd. of Guelph-Eramosa, Ont. The time of the mile was a track record for freshman fillies. His next win with DS Surprise ($4.10) wasn't so easy as he battled tooth and nail with St Lads Top Model and Alfie Carroll, ending up in a dead-heat for win in 2:00.3. DS Surprise is owned by Archie and Janice McEachern of Alvinston, Ont., with Janice handling the training chores. Sparling's third win was memorable as well, as he drove three-year-old filly Blissfullannmarie ($25.10) to a maiden win in 2:04 for trainer Catharine Gaudreau and owner Don Wilkins of Bothwell, Ont. With the 2014 election campaign just underway, Lakeshore mayor Tom Bain didn't need the winner's circle platform to announce his candidacy as no one in Lakeshore dare run against the popular mayor. Still, he was in the winner's circle with his trainee Wallet Sniffer, catch-driven by Alex Lilley for owner Don McMurren of South Woodslee, Ont. and parked the mile in 2:02.3. The handle for the Saturday afternoon card was $9,153. To view Saturday's harness racing results, click on the following link: Saturday Results - Leamington Raceway. (With files from Leamington Raceway)
Alfie Carroll wasted no time in hustling Account Rollover to the front in Monday’s $7,000 Preferred pace at Grand River Raceway, and the public’s wagering favorite was able to lead from start to finish. Account Rollover sliced Cutting fraction of :29, :59.3 and 1:28.1, Account Rollover then kicked in a :28-second last quarter mile for Carroll to win by one half length in 1:56.1 over F Twenty Two with J M Jet Set third. Bob McIntosh trains the three-year-old son of Rocknroll Hanover-All Accounted For for the Robert McIntosh Stables Inc, C S X Stables and Al McIntosh Holdings Inc. The homebred, who was unraced as a two-year-old, posted his seventh career win and has earnings of $57,000. (With files from Grand River Raceway)
Trainer Keith Cullen enjoyed a perfect night at the the track on Saturday with his starters going three-for-three during Hiawatha Horse Park's 10-race card. Cullen's trainees won three straight races mid-card using the same racing strategy. Royal Sir ($9.60) kicked off the stable streak winning the fourth race for $3,000 claiming colts and geldings in 1:56 with Jeff Mayhew working out the winning pocket trip. In the next race, Marvelous Mario ($4.20) and Tyler Borth prevailed in 1:54 off a pocket trip of their own, although the pacer was claimed from Cullen for $6,000 in the race. Coffee Black ($6) also converted off a two-hole trip to win the following $4,000 claiming trot in 2:00.2 with Alfie Carroll aboard. To view the rest of this story click here.
Elora, ON --- A total of seven $16,740 Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series divisions for 2-year-old colt and gelding pacers were featured on Monday night (July 21) at Grand River Raceway and they saved the fastest split for last as Single White Sock toured the half-mile oval in 1:56. With Scott Coulter at the lines, Single White Sock was in front through fractions of :27.4, :58, and 1:27.3. Single White Sock turned away a big three-wide bid by Twin B Scandal (Joe Hudon) past three-quarters, and he then kicked clear in the lane to prevail by 2-1/4 lengths. Twin B Scandal wound up second with Pan Street USA (Bob McClure) back in third. It was the second win in three starts for Single White Sock, a Badlands Hanovercolt trained by Barry Treen for owner Len Gamble. Tanya Prescott bred Single White Sock, who was purchased for $24,000 at the 2013 Canadian Yearling Sale. Single White Sock, an earner of $17,281, is the fifth foal out of the Apaches Fame mare Love You Dear, making him a half-brother to millionaire and former Ontario Sires Stakes winner Ramegade Bruiser. Camluck, the long-time stalwart sire of the Ontario Sires Stakes program, had a pair of winners with Big Moment winning the second division in 1:56.1 with Alfie Carroll handling the driving assignment and Mike's Powerhouse picking up a 1:56.4 victory in the third section for driver Trevor Henry. Big Moment broke his maiden in his second attempt for trainer Bob McIntosh, who also bred the colt with CSX Stables. McIntosh and partner Max Newham own Big Moment, the fourth foal out of the No Pan Intended mare Breathtacular. Breathtacular is related to two six-figure earners in Breathdefying and Lucky Encounter. Mike's Powerhouse, who is out of the Artsplace mare Michelle's Jackpot, making him a full brother to the likes of 2012 Little Brown Jug champion and millionaire Michael's Power and millionaire Michelle's Power, is trained by Casie Coleman for owner-breeder Jeff Snyder. Mike's Powerhouse was victorious at first asking after finishing fourth and first in two qualifiers at Mohawk Racetrack. Coleman was right back in the winner’s circle in the next race after Mike's Powerhouse’s victory as her Sportskeeper (Jody Jamieson) romped to a an 8-1/4 length decision in 1:56.3. Coleman also bred and co-owns Sportskeeper, a Sportswriter colt, with partner Merlin Howse. Sportskeeper, who was also making the initial start of his racing career, is the third foal out of the Nuclear Flash mare Keeper Flying, which means Sportskeeper is a half-brother to former Ontario Sires Stakes competitor Keepers Destiny (Intrepid Seelster, $702,855). Sportswriter had another siring credit with Half A Billion, who was a 1:57.3 victor in the sixth Grassroots flight. Mike Saftic drove the colt for trainer Marcel Barrieau. Half A Billion is a homebred for the Hudson Standardbred Stable and he is a perfect two-for-two in his career and in Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series competition. Half A Billion, the fifth foal out of the Western Hanover mare Racey Miss, is a half-brother to multiple OSS winner Racey Miss ($214,571) and Petite Courageuse ($195,733). Also picking up victories were: Bridge Of Stone, a Stonebridge Regal-Dreamlands Sachi (Western Hanover) gelding, who halted the clock in 1:57.3 for driver Scott Coulter, trainer Carmen Auciello, and owners Denarben Stables and Rocco Auciello. He has won both of his Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series tries The Fire Within, a gelding by Whosurboy and out of the Big Towner mare Mollie Hanover. The half-brother to Illusionist ($893,246) picked up his second win from three attempts for driver Jody Jamieson and breeder/owner/trainer Fred Drouillard. The next time the 2-year-old colt and gelding pacers of the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots Series will be in action is August 15 at Mohawk Racetrack. For full results of Monday’s night’s events, click here. From the Ontario Sire Stakes
JULY 6, 2014 (DRESDEN) – Chris Johnston was the man to beat at Dresden Raceway today as he scored three winners. The Sombra, Ontario horseman notched his first winner in the fifth race while driving WALLET SNIFFER. Johnston guided WALLET SNIFFER from off the pace for a win in 2:01.2.The five-year-old CAMOTION horse is owned by Don McMurran of Woodslee and trained by Tom Bain. Johnston’s second trip to the winner’s circle was in the eighth race behind PRETTYSHEISSHEIS. The seven-year-old MILIONDOLLAR CAM mare is owned by Lisa Spenser of London while Johnston is the conditioner. PRETTYSHEISSHEIS went wire to wire in 1:59.4.Johnston wrapped up the card of racing with his third win of the day at the controls of BRANDON CS. The five-year-old CHOCLATIER gelding is owned and trained by Janice Annett of Wyoming and co-owned by Marjorie Simmons of Chatham. BRANDON CS paced the mile in 2:02.1. Alfie Carroll had two winners on the day with BILLY WHITE SELL and CAT FOUR. About 800 people were at the track today and the total handle was $17,760. TRACK TIDBITS...STREAKING...EE BAY has won two in a row at Dresden Raceway for driver Nick Steward...SPEED DEMON...STIMULUS SPENDING turned in the fastest mile of day pacing the mile in 1:58 flat in the opening race...MONEY MONEY MONEY...The fourth race triactor was the biggest payout of the day as the 6-7-3 combination paid $1,219.50...BIG BUCKS...Five of the 10 races on the card had winners that paid over $10...UP TO DATE...DRESDEN RACEWAY is over 140 years old but are modernizing as streaming is available to hear the races live every Sunday as well as Dresden Raceway is on FACEBOOK and TWITTER! By Gary Petterson
JULY 1, 2014 (DRESDEN) – Dresden Raceway kicked off its 2014 season with a bang today! Almost 2,000 people swarmed to the local oval for a great family day of harness racing and celebration. Just a few short months ago the death bell seemed to be ringing for the small half mile track in Southwestern Ontario but it was alive and vibrant today. “I was really happy with opening day, I wasn’t sure what to expect coming here, ” said Greg Blanchard, who is in his first year as General Manager of Dresden Raceway, “ I knew the history here at Dresden, I knew there was a rich tradition of harness racing and a big fan base.” Blanchard added, “It was validating and I think it bodes well for the summer.” Patrons flocked to the windows and bet a total handle of $30,360 which is ranks among one of the best opening days in the past few years at Dresden Raceway, The 10 race card in the community that has had harness racing for 140 years highlighted a great Canada Day celebration including giveaways, rides in the r curious patrons and a 6’x 4’ Canadian Flag cake. Alfie Carroll, Robert Sparling Jr and Scott Wray all cashed in driving doubles on the day. Carroll opened the card by driving COFFEE BLACK to the winner’s circle and then struck again in the ninth race with TWIN B SHASTA. Sparling scored his first victory in the second race aboard ELECTRICINTENTSIONS and won again in the 10th with UNIQUE SHUFFLE. Wray went wire to wire with SACHERTORTE in the fourth race for his first win of the day then capped the double in the sixth race with KESONS REIGN. Dresden Raceway has always been owned by the Dresden Agricultural Society but has been operated by Windsor Raceway for the last 20 years until this year when the Ag Society took control back. Blanchard said “We’ve got some promotions planned for the track this year and we hope to set a benchmark that will keep people coming back with quality racing and family friendly giveaways all season long.” Dresden Raceway will race every Sunday until Labour Day except the Civic Holiday and Lanour Day weekends in which case they race Monday. Post Time all summer long at Dresden Raceway is 1PM. by Gary Patterson, for Dresden Raceway
The three-year-old pacing filly Her Own Land and driver James MacDonald kicked off the Kin Pace elimination round on Sunday afternoon with a 1:55 track record performance at Clinton Raceway. MacDonald also drove Skippin By to victory lane in another $8,000 elimination while driver Doug McNair doubled up with a pair of homebred fillies Can Art and Born To Dream. With the inside post advantage in the afternoon's opener, favourite Her Own Land set up shop on the front end and carved out panels of :27.4, :57.4 and 1:26.2 before holding off the late-rallying Shadows Wonder (Trevor Henry) for the half-length victory. Haute Couture (Alfie Carroll) finished seven and a half lengths behind in third. Fresh off a career-best 1:54 victory in her last start in the Ontario Sires Stakes Grassroots at Mohawk Racetrack on June 19, Her Own Land now has two wins in six starts this year. She is trained by David Menary and owned by Hutt Racing Stable of Paoli, Pennsylvania. Her Own Land was just a $2,000 Canadian Yearling Sale purchase, who now boasts $27,660 in purses and is the favourite heading into next weekend's $65,800 stake final. To view the rest of the story click here.
London, May 6, 2014 -- Horse people are advised that the draw for Friday's program at The Raceway at Western Fair District is being held over until tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m. The Raceway will be hosting the Ontario Regional Driving Championship on Friday night, with first post at 7:05 p.m. "We need a few more horses to round out the fields." said Racing Manager Greg Blanchard. "It's important for the fairness of the competition that we have full, competitive fields and we want to put out the best betting product we can on a night where there is going to be so much on the line." Eight of the provinces best drivers will be competing for two spots in the National Driving Championship later this summer in Charlottetown. Local reinsman Alfie Carroll was forced to pull out of the competition due to a concussion suffered in a racing accident at Flamboro Downs on Saturday. Paul Mackenzie accepted the offer to take his spot in the competition. The eight drivers will be on hand in the track lobby to meet fans and sign autographs Friday night, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Fans can take part in The Raceway's Facebook contest, which is now underway and there will be a contest Friday night for on-track patrons with the winner receiving a $100 gift card from Rona. by Greg Blanchard, for The Raceway
Harness racing driver James MacDonald comes from quite the racing family. His mom, Gale is the track photographer in Charlottetown, PEI and his dad, Fred, owns broodmares. His brothers Mark MacDonald races in the USA and Anthony is a Woodbine and Mohawk circuit veteran. There's Curtis who designs simulcasting graphics for various horse tracks throughout North America. "Curtis is a sharp cookie" says James. "Curtis learned a lot of that from my other brother Lloyd." Lloyd is in the same line of work as Curtis and there is Bobby who is a blacksmith in PEI. With his family deeply involved with horses, James 28 didn't take to horses until he came to Ontario to work for his brother Anthony ten years ago. James feels no pressure as the younger brother of successful drivers; instead James will make his own footprints in harness racing one step at a time. "You just need to work hard and respect the horse" says James. "Drive every horse accordingly depending on the race and what the situation is. There are lots to think about and I don't expect big things, I think if you work hard and people like your driving then you can catch on." "When you watch the top drivers in the world, the Tim Tetricks, the John Campbells (and Mark MacDonalds), you have to drive every kind of horse." James adds, "There are three very different styles, there is the front end, first up and off the pace... You need to be good with them all, if you end up in a spot where you are first up you need to be able to keep the horse going. You need to be able to race any horse off the pace and I think that's what all good drivers do very well." "I try to not have a style and drive the horse as the race comes to me" says James. Speaking with James, I get the feel he is the 'visionary' type of person who can anticipate what goes on during a race ahead of time. "It doesn't matter how much you study the program or how much you know the horses, anything can happen when the gates open." James says. Anthony Macdonald considers James a lot like Mark MacDonald when it comes to driving horses. It's very natural and appears effortless. "Horses will let you know what they are comfortable with" says James. "It's getting a feel for the horse and the more you drive competitive horses you can feel out what a horse is like. You might tell someone a horse doesn't like the front and then it will go out and win on the front. So it's not always full proof that's for sure." James doesn't train horses but he does have some babies along with a couple of race horses at the barn. "My wife, (Jenna) and I along with Johnny McKinnon have five babies here right now and some race horses.... We break in the babies, Johnny and Jenna do the brunt of the work and I come in and jog them and help them out." James credits his brother Anthony and Jamie Smith for helping him out when he first arrived in Ontario. "They showed me the ropes and what the do's and don'ts are when training horses" says James. "I actually trained a few for a couple of years. Mark and Anthony are equally helpful, if I do something on the track they think is wrong, they're very helpful. They won't scream or shout, they will show me the right way to do it." "Also a lot of people, who don't know me, will put me down to drive because they have had good luck with Mark or they had good luck with Anthony." James notes. A good point James brings up is there are so many good trainers and drivers in the harness racing industry sports fans never get to hear about. People within the horse industry can attest to countless people who deserve praise for their work as trainers or drivers. Unfortunately because they haven't had that break out horse to add a spotlight to their efforts, they go unseen by the general public and that's disappointing. "This is all I want to do" says James. "I love horses, I love racing horses and I love driving horses. There are so many good drivers... it's a tough game." What's good for the game is promotion of the sport and James agrees that what Jeff Gural at the Meadowlands is doing can only result in positives for the industry. "I think he's great for the sport. Clearly he's helped out the Meadowlands and built a beautiful new facility, whatever he's doing is working and he's trying. He's putting in the effort that is for sure." "I think this is a great sport and it deserves a lot of praise." James says. "Jody Jamieson can walk anywhere in Ontario and people won't have a clue who he is. Any top 20 driver in Ontario walking in Prince Edward Island or the Maritimes and everybody knows who you are because it's huge out there (in the Maritimes). The money isn't great but they love the sport down there." Harness racing offers so much in terms of fan appeal with opportunities to meet drivers and trainers, getting autographs and even going for tours of the paddocks at some race tracks. In what sport does the average fan have the opportunity to go behind the scenes to see how it really is? To date James has driven in some big races such as the Breeders Crown, Maple Leaf Trot and many Super Finals. "The experience has been great driving against guys like Tetrick and Sears. I haven't been able to win a big one yet. They are all intense and that's when you got to shine." James explains. When it comes to being on the track with other top drivers, James is keenly observing everything they're doing with their horse. James doesn't choose to pick their brain as a professional courtesy. "They're here to drive and do a job. I would but it's out of respect." On May 9th at the Raceway at Western Fair, (London, ON) James along with fellow drivers, Alfie Carroll, Jody Jamieson, Scott Coulter, Billy Davis Jr., Trevor Henry, Doug McNair and JR Plante will square off in the 2014 Ontario Regional Driving Championship. The top two drivers of the eight race competition will compete against the top two drivers from the three other regional's taking place in Canada for the National Driving Championship. The National Champion will represent Canada in the World Driving Competition taking place in Australia. "The top eight (drivers) in wins, in Ontario were selected and I actually ended up 11th because I missed a several of months with a broken leg. I was off three months and was set back because I was having a good start to the year." James explains. "There were three drivers that opted out, because it is time consuming" explains James. "It's tough to book off drives and you had to be willing to commit and book off time if you won. Since three guys turned it down I was selected." James broke his leg during a race at Woodbine racetrack. His horse made a break and fell resulting in James' broken leg. Throughout the recovery time James remained positive with the help of his family and friends. "It's such a great industry, I had people pop by the entire time and my friends were always over to see me and my wife was always there." One thing is for sure, horsemen and women always stand firmly behind one another during difficult times, such as coping with various injuries. Whether or not you're related, if you are a part of the harness racing industry, you are considered family. By: Roderick Balgobin www.supernovasportsclub.comTwitter: ScSupernova
There’s been no touching Twin B Wrangler in the Preferred ranks in recent weeks at The Raceway at Western Fair District, and Monday’s edition of the class was more of the same. The Victor Puddy pupil rushed to the top and kept on trucking en route to posting a 1:56.2 victory – his fourth in his last five attempts against the top pacers at the London, Ontario oval. Alfie Carroll was parked past the quarter pole in :28.3 with Twin B Wrangler, but once they cleared to the top it was game over for the others. Middle splits of :58.1 and 1:27.1 were thrown down by the 11-time winner who then used a :29.1 closing quarter to seal the deal. He was 2-1/4 lengths better than runner-up Smokin Bear. Ja El Pocketrocket was third. To read the rest of the story click here.
The field for the 2014 Ontario Regional Driving Championship scheduled for Friday, May 9 at The Raceway at Western Fair District in London, Ont. has been confirmed. The participating drivers are: • Alfie Carroll • Scott Coulter • Billy Davis Jr. • Trevor Henry • Jody Jamieson • James MacDonald • Doug McNair • J.R. Plante The top two drivers from the eight-race competition will join six other drivers at the 2014 National Driving Championship scheduled for Tuesday, August 26 at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park. Several drivers declined invitations to take part due to other commitments, including Sylvain Filion, Canada’s Driver of the Year for 2013, Randy Waples and Scott Zeron. To read the rest of the story click here.