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Forss Dominates Second WDC Leg

Finland's Mika Forss took the lead in the 2017 World Driving Championship standings with three straight victories in the second leg of the competition on Monday evening (August 14) at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont.

Canada's James MacDonald kicked off the second leg of the five-city World Driving Championship, hosted by Standardbred Canada, at his home track with a victory in the first trotting contest of the series aboard the late-closing Mystery Bet ($7.40).

MacDonald, who entered the second leg sitting second in the standings behind The United States' Marcus Miller (50-57 points), took the lead briefly on his home turf with the win, which was his third of the tournament that began in Alberta on Saturday at Century Downs.

However, Finland's Mika Forss was a force to be reckoned with in the remainder of the leg. He arrived at Mohawk sitting sixth in the point standings, but climbed to the top of the leaderboard by the end of the night.

Forss sent pacer Dialamara ($3.60), the 2-1 second choice on the toteboard, to the lead from post six before the first turn and never looked back en route to a two-length victory in 1:53.3. It was a rare drive and just his second win on the pace for the European trotting specialist.

The Finland representative then fanned 6-5 favourite Lights Go Out ($4.70) three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark in the next race and took over command in the stretch with the pacing mare drawing off by three lengths to stop the clock in 1:54.3.

Overcoming the outside post 10, Forss won the fourth and final race of the Mohawk leg with Mego Moss ($81.40), who swept off cover turning for home and trotted away for the 39-1 upset in 1:54.2.

"I have to say, I love Mohawk!" laughed Forss, who celebrated his third victory by performing a dab in the sulky as he crossed the finish line.

Forss now leads with 95 points heading into the third leg of the WDC, which will be held tomorrow evening (August 15) at Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont.

"No [pressure] because it's a different day, different horses," said Forss. "We'll see, I'll do my best in all the races and we'll find out."

The competition featuring 11 top international harness drivers remains fierce. MacDonald ranks second, only 12 points behind Forss, while first leg leader Marcus Miller is third with 74.5 points just ahead of defending WDC champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand, who climbed three spots with a solid performance that included three runner-up finishes in the Mohawk races. Shane Graham (Australia) and Bjorn Goop (Sweden) are tied for fifth with 62 points each, followed by Gerhard Mayr (Austria), Mark Purdon (New Zealand), Noel Baldacchino (Malta), Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) and Rik Depuydt (Belgium).

Following Tuesday's Georgian Downs leg, the action will move to Trois-Rivières, Que. on Wednesday, August 16, where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg. After that, the drivers will head to Prince Edward Island's Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship on Friday, August 18, one of the major highlights of Old Home Week.

The top point-earner at the end of the five legs will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money.

The World Driving Championship – along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, to be hosted in Charlottetown – are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.

For complete results from Monday's card, click the following link: World Driving Championship – Leg 2.

For a complete recap of the first leg, click here. To view a video recap of the opening leg, click here.

2017 WDC LEADERBOARD

Rank - Driver (Country) - Points
1. Mika Forss (Finland) - 95
2. James MacDonald (Canada) - 83
3. Marcus Miller (United States) - 74.5
4. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 71
5. Shane Graham (Australia) - 62
5. Bjorn Goop (Sweden) - 62
7. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 57
8. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 52
9. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 49
10. Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) - 44.5
11. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 43

RACE RECAPS

Race 1: Canada's James MacDonald kicked off the second leg of the five-city 2017 World Driving Championship at his home track on Monday evening (August 14) at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont.

MacDonald roused 5-2 second choice Mystery Bet ($7.40) from the backfield heading into the stretch of the WDC's first trotting contest and powered past the race leaders, New Zealand's Dexter Dunn aboard Windsong Magic, to earn his third victory of the competition in 1:55.1 by one length. Dunn and Windsong Magic stayed for second while Norway's Eirik Hoitomt came on for third with longshot trailing tier starter Musical Spell.

"I got lucky, they raced pretty good up front and mine, I saw he likes to close," said MacDonald. "I've raced against him and I knew the horse a little bit going in so I knew if I could just keep him in the hunt that he'd give me a good run."

MacDonald, who entered the second leg sitting second behind The United States' Marcus Miller (50-57), took the lead in the point standings on his home turf with the victory.

"That means a lot. A lot of pressure, but like they say, pressure's good," he said. "I'm just going to keep trying to roll and hopefully keep picking up points. We've got a long way to go yet.

"We've got a big crowd out and everyone is cheering for me. I like it, it's helpful."

Race 2: Finland's Mika Forss struck in the second race of the day, scoring in front end fashion. He sent pacer Dialamara ($6.30), the 2-1 second choice on the toteboard, to the lead from post six before the first turn and never looked back en route to a two-length victory in 1:53.3. The New Zealand reinsmen rounded out the top three finish order as Dexter Dunn chased the winner home from the pocket aboard 9-5 favourite Bugger Bruiser and Mark Purdon followed next under the wire with On Golden Ponder.

It was a rare drive and just his second win on the pace for trotting specialist Forss, who previously had only driven a couple of pacers in Australia.

"The horse was really fine today," said Forss. "I didn't see anybody since the start gate...It was very easy."

With the victory, the Finland reinsman jumped from seventh to third-place in the standings behind runner-up Miller and leader MacDonald, who held their top positions.

Race 3: Mika Forss was a force to be reckoned with in the second leg of the WDC, winning back-to-back races mid-action.

The Finland representative fanned 6-5 favourite Lights Go Out ($4.70) three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark and took over command in the stretch with the pacing mare drawing off by three lengths to stop the clock in 1:54.3. New Zealand's Mark Purdon and Miss Coco Luck closed for second-place while Belgium's Rik Depuydt settled for third after Pretty Hot's first-over journey.

"The horse was really flying and the whole way my feeling was I was sitting behind a winner," said Forss in a post-race interview.

Forss continued to climb the point standings, moving into second-place, just one point behind leader James MacDonald of Canada (77-78).

Race 4: Finland's Mika Forss took the lead in the 2017 World Driving Championship standings with his third straight victory in the second leg of the competition.

Overcoming the outside post 10, Forss won the fourth and final race of the Mohawk leg with Mego Moss ($81.40), who swept off cover turning for home and trotted away for the 39-1 upset in 1:54.2. Defending WDC champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand earned his third runner-up finish during the leg with LMC Mass Oak edging out fellow late-closer Sweden's Bjorn Goop in rein to Sky Lav.

"I have to say, I love Mohawk," laughed Forss after his third victory.


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