Day At The Track

Who is Georgian Downs leading reinsman?

04:07 PM 15 Jun 2011 NZST
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Anthony Macdonald driving Isthatallyagot Anthony Macdonald with his wife Amy Anthony Macdonald Anthony Macdonald studying the form Anthony Macdonald's 3-month-old daughter
Anthony Macdonald driving Isthatallyagot
Anthony Macdonald with his wife Amy
Anthony Macdonald with his fiance Amy McIntyre
Anthony Macdonald - with his 3-month-old (June 2011) daughter Ava.
Anthony Macdonald studying the form
Anthony Macdonald's 3-month-old daughter - all helmeted up
Anthony Macdonald's 3-month-old daughter Ava all helmeted up
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Georgian Downs leading driver in 2011 - Anthony Macdonald - will always be grateful to the harness racing fraternity for the way they have, and still do, support him with drives. The 34-year-old said he had experienced both highs and lows in his career and never ever took driving for granted.

"If people put me on their horses I'm always very grateful to drive for them," said Macdonald, who won 194 races and $1.8 million last year. "I'm very appreciative to everyone who has given me a chance. It really helps out and gives you a lot of confidence.

"I'm very thankful to be a driver and make a living in this business. I’ll never take it for granted. There are a lot of people who would like to be doing what I'm doing, I can guarantee you that," Macdonald told Harnesslink.

Up until 2007 Macdonald was a trainer-driver who at his peak worked a team of 55 at Guelph in Ontario. But these days he concentrates solely on being a reinsman, driving at up to nine and 10 meetings a week.

“I race every day and twice a day to three times a week. For example tomorrow (Wednesday June 15) I’ll be driving at Flamboro Downs and then Grand River Raceway at night and then the following day I’ll be at Flamboro again and then at Georgian Downs in the evening.

“It can be a tough grind but there are worse jobs out there and I love the competitive side of racing. Every win is a thrill,” Macdonald said.

Georgian Downs is where he has encountered the most success this season. As at June 11 he led that track’s driving premiership with 36 wins, 33 placings and $199,737 in purses from 151 drives. His UDR strike rate sits at a healthy .344 reflecting a 23.8% winning strike rate.

“I like Georgian Downs. The track has been kind to me. I drove another four winners there today (Tuesday June 14). In fact this May just gone I experienced my most successful day at both Georgian Downs (6) and Flamboro (4) where I drove 10 winners.

“It’s days like that you never forget and they make you more enthusiastic about your job,” Macdonald said.

All up Macdonald has driven 1,743 winners and won a tick over $14 million in purses since 1997. His most successful year was 2009 when he reined home 266 winners and won just over $2 million.

As a trainer he has won 364 races and $3.2 million with 2007 being his most successful year nailing 148 wins and $1.5 million in stakes.

It was also the year bad luck forced him out of full-time training.

“It became a double edge sword and with driving so much the training suffered. In fact it was a positive return on the worst horse in my barn which convinced me to give training a big team away.

“The horse had foot problems and sadly I had to rely on others to treat it while I was away driving. The positive depressed me a little but on hindsight I believe everything happens for a reason. It was a part of my life and a big learning curve,” Macdonald said.

He said he now only trained his own horses, which these days includes a team of five. His former training base is now run by his younger brother James (25) and his training partner Terry Hunter. They work about 35 standardbreds.

Macdonald hails from a harness racing family. He is the older brother of Mark (32) – one of Canada’s leading reinsman and the winner of 4,889 races and $64,659,336.

Their father Freddy owned a small breeding farm on Prince Edward Island and their mother Gail was the photographer at Charlottetown Driving Park when the young Macdonalds were growing up.

“Racing has been in my blood for as long as I can remember. I never went to College. In fact after High School I followed Mark to Mike Macdonald’s stable in Windsor. He was about 16 when he went to the stable and I must have been about 18.

“Then I had stints in Detroit and PEI in the summer before settling in Montreal several years ago. This has been home ever since,” Macdonald said.

"My career has all happened so quickly," added MacDonald, who lives in Guelph. Even today he described his career as being "surreal”.

“I’ve had so many highs in the sport without winning any big races or driving any notable champions. But I definitely know the biggest thrill in life - the luckiest thing for me -- has been meeting my fiancé Amy and having our baby daughter Ava, who is three months old.

"I'm pretty pumped about that. It's a shining point in my life so far, for sure," Macdonald said.

“I’m especially delighted today because this was the day my divorce came through,” he added.

Macdonald said it was too early to tell if he had any big drives this season.

“I’ll have more of a handle on the two and three-year-olds in a month or so but at this stage I can’t say that any standouts have come my way – just a lot of good horses without being spectacular.

“I am lucky though that I drive for the best trainer in the country at the moment – Rene Allard and my brother puts me on a lot of his horses too. I’m lucky I have so many trainers and owners who support me,” Macdonald stressed.

Asked what his most memorable race was, he replied:

“I think it would have been behind the horse named after my father and the horse he bred called The Big Fred. It was in a $70,000 race at Georgian Downs (2005) and he wasn’t fancied.

“I broke the horse in and he won at a time when money was tight. He was a tough trotter who earned every nickel the hard way. He ended up making money for us. I’ll never forget him.”

s for his own diluted team Macdonald said to keep tabs on 3-year-old un-raced Angus Hall colt Oaklea Tyson and 3-win 4-year-old Duke Of York trotter, Duke Maccullum.

By Duane RANGER (editor)

(1) In the sulky with Anthony Macdonald – January 20, 2011:

(2) The Goodnight Montage – Grand River Raceway (June 13, 2011) featuring Anthony Macdonald.

(3) Reign Of Fire and Anthony MacDonald world record in 2007 Xtreme Challenge at Georgian Downs:

(4) The MacDonald brothers promo:

(5) Gus Q and Anthony MacDonald winning at Georgian Downs July 14, 2007:

ends.

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