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MacDonald Reclaims WDC Lead

Canadian driver James MacDonald propelled himself back to the top of the 2017 World Driving Championship standings, overtaking Finland’s Mika Forss after winning two of Tuesday night’s (August 15) five tournament races at Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont.

MacDonald, who entered the third leg of the Championship in second place behind Forss, drew first blood in the evening’s first tournament event, reaching from the pocket with Shemars Lulu ($7.60) in 1:59 after stalking duelling leaders through the middle stages of the race. He also teamed up with Walk The Plank ($5.20) in the night’s third Championship race, clearing, yielding, and pulling from a clear pocket on approach to the far turn before powering to a decisive 1:55.1 victory.

In addition to his pair of wins, MacDonald notched a pair of minor placings, finishing second with Art Of The Deal behind James And Morgan in the night’s penultimate event, and saving third with Im The Man in the evening’s last race as Hetties Honey circled up from behind a contested pace to win.

James And Morgan ($40.80) gave Norwegian Eirik Høitomt his first win of the Championship, drafting in the pocket behind MacDonald and 25-1 pacesetter Art Of The Deal before reaching up the pegs in 1:57.

Hetties Honey ($15.90) took advantage of sustained pace pressure afore in the finale, circling three-wide up the far side to overtake a stalled Ken Kan Win and wear down co-favourite Waikiki Hanover (Marcus Miller, USA) for a 1:57.2 victory under Australian Shane Graham.

Forss, who slipped from first to second in the standings, was first past the post with A Boy Named Suuzz in the evening’s second tournament race, but was disqualified behind Jansen Hanover ($28.20, Miller, USA) after committing a pylon violation on the second turn.

MacDonald reclaimed command and opened up a 144-130 lead on Forss through the third leg of the five-city Championship, while American Miller closed the gap behind the top pair, with 123.5 points heading out of Ontario. Graham (97) gained into fourth spot over defending champion Dexter Dunn (93) of New Zealand, followed by Noel Baldacchino (Malta), Høitomt, Björn Goop (Sweden), Gerhard Mayr (Austria), Mark Purdon (New Zealand), and Rik Depuydt (Belgium).

The action shifts 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 Tuesday's card, click the following link: World Driving Championship – Leg 3.

2017 World Driving Championship Leaderboard
Rank - Driver (Country) – Points
1. James MacDonald (Canada) - 144
2. Mika Forss (Finland) - 130
3. Marcus Miller (United States) - 123.5
4. Shane Graham (Australia) - 97
5. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 93
6. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 90
7. Eirik Høitomt (Norway) – 89.5
8. Björn Goop (Sweden) - 86
9. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 83
10. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 69
11. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 68

RACE RECAPS

Race 1: Canada’s James MacDonald drew first blood at Georgian Downs, capturing Tuesday night’s (August 15) first of five World Driving Championship (WDC) races in Innisfil, Ont. with Shemars Lulu ($7.60) in a thrilling five-horse photo finish.

After pressing the pace from the pegs and yielding to the pocket with a circuit to go, MacDonald and Shemars Lulu tracked an extended duel between Scarlet Saphire (Marcus Miller, USA) and I C Anastro (Rik Depuydt, Belgium) through the middle half. MacDonald was able to wedge out of the pocket in upper stretch as I C Anastro faded off the final turn, and not only lift to the lead, but hold off a bevy of stand-side challengers for a 1:59 triumph. Action Royal Grin, whom Finland’s Mika Forss drove into the runner-up spot, rallied best of any after fanning seven-wide off the home turn, and Acefourtyfouramber also closed from far off the pace, reaching third spot with Maltese driver Noel Baldacchino.

“I was lucky to get out, but when I got out, she responded,” MacDonald commented. “You get good horses in this—there’s some great drivers in there who haven’t won any races yet. It’s no knock against them; you need the right horse in the right spot. I’ve been very fortunate.”

Race 2: Jansen Hanover ($28.20) and American Marcus Miller were elevated to first after enjoying a pocket trip behind pillar-to-post pacesetter A Boy Named Suuzz, who was disqualified from a 1:55 victory for a pylon violation on the second turn.

Mika Forss, who comes off a treble at Mohawk Racetrack, controlled the terms with A Boy Named Suuzz, outpacing his ten foes through splits of :27.4, :56.4, and 1:25.2 while tracked throughout by Jansen Hanover and Miller. While Forss and A Boy Named Suuzz maintained a length of clearance over Jansen Hanover to the winning post, the pair were demoted to second – behind Jansen Hanover – after committing a mid-race pylon violation. Adamncam and Noel Baldacchino of Malta finished third. Odds-on favourite Chief Talkalot (Gerhard Mayr, Austria) finished fourth.

Race 3: Canadian James MacDonald doubled up in the night’s third tournament race with Walk The Plank ($5.20), splitting leavers to assume early command, yielding, and pulling pocket with just over five-sixteenths of the mile remaining en route to a decisive 1:55.1 score.

Walk The Plank yielded control to Cheeky Monkey and defending WDC champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand after controlling a :28.2 first quarter, drafting through the middle stages before angling and powering clear on approach to the final turn. Federal Army and Norwegian Eirik Høitomt sustained a gradual first-over bid into second, while American Marcus Miller was able to shake free with Angels Kid on the far turn and stay on for third spot.

“He can be a bit of a handful, so I was hoping I could get there easily and get left alone, but that didn’t happen,” MacDonald said of the eight-year-old Mutineer gelding after his lifetime mark performance. “He came back to me, and when I popped him out, he was serious. I knew I had a big lead, but he was starting to lose his gait a little bit. Luckily, he pulled away by enough that it wasn’t any danger.”

Race 4: Norwegian Eirik Høitomt rode the pocket to a 19-1 upset with James And Morgan ($40.80), just reaching up the pegs to collar 25-1 pacesetter Art Of The Deal (MacDonald, Canada) in 1:57 in the night’s penultimate WDC event.

For Høitomt, the victory was his first of the tournament, closing the pocket with James And Morgan with a circuit to go and finding a seam up the inside to just nab the tiring longshot pacesetter in the final strides. MacDonald held second with Art Of The Deal, while Belgian Rik Depuydt stayed on for third with Nomatterwhen after sustaining first-over progress.

“Everything was perfect,” commented Høitomt, who has quickly adapted to driving pacers through the WDC. “It’s a little difficult, but after some races you begin to know how it works.”

Race 5: Australian Shane Graham and Hetties Honey ($15.90) circled three-wide up the far side to overtake a stalled Ken Kan Win (Forss, Finland) and wear down co-favourite Waikiki Hanover (Miller, USA) for a 1:57.2 victory in the night’s final WDC race.

After stalking comfortably from mid-division, Hetties Honey emerged up the far side and edged clear of pacesetter Waikiki Hanover upon cornering for home. Allies Gift and Noel Baldacchino of Malta stayed on wide of rivals for second, while Im The Man and Canadian James MacDonald were only able to save third up the pegs after being compromised for room on the far turn.

August 16, 2017 - 12:37 pmAttaboy Jimmy!

Tim Bates SAID...

Attaboy Jimmy!


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