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MacDonald Carries WDC Lead To PEI

Canada’s James MacDonald padded his World Driving Championship (WDC) lead with a win, a second-place finish, and a third-place finish in four tournament races on Wednesday evening (August 16) at Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivières, Québec.

His victory came behind Federal Strike ($6.10) in the evening’s second WDC event, and it took some crafty driving to overcome post 11 in the mile-and-a-sixteenth affair for trotters. The pair established second-over position behind Swedish driver Björn Goop and Abundasass nearing the midway stage, were caught in a blind switch by the three-wide Crown Point (Gerhard Mayr, Austria), but worked into the pocket on the far turn before finding room at head-stretch and lifting to a going-away win.

MacDonald began the evening with a second-place finish aboard Ninoscredit behind American Marcus Miller and Maracasso ($6.60), who emerged second-over out of traffic before sustaining a belated rally to the fore, and he concluded the card with a third-place finish up the open stretch with Winoc Jimmy behind Maltese driver Noel Baldacchino and Tidewater Tomahawk ($16.30). His lone off-the-board finish came in the night’s third tournament race, which saw Finnish driver Mika Forss reclaim second in the standings with a victory aboard ten-year-old veteran Shanghai B G ($6.10).

The fifth and final leg of the WDC is scheduled for Friday evening (August 18) at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island. MacDonald’s 192 points give him a comfortable 26-point lead over Forss (166), while Miller (162.5) remains a close third. Defending champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand (131) and Baldacchino (120) lifted one position each into fourth and fifth respectively, while Shane Graham (Australia), Goop, Mayr, Eirik Høitomt (Norway), Rik Depuydt (Belgium), and Mark Purdon (New Zealand) round out the field with four races remaining.

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 Wednesday's card, click the following link: World Driving Championship – Leg 4.

2017 World Driving Championship Leaderboard (after four of five legs)
Rank - Driver (Country) - Points

1. James MacDonald (Canada) - 192
2. Mika Forss (Finland) - 166
3. Marcus Miller (United States) - 162.5
4. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 131
5. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 120
6. Shane Graham (Australia) - 113
7. Björn Goop (Sweden) - 111
8. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 109
9. Eirik Høitomt (Norway) - 108
10. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 85
11. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 83.5

RACE RECAPS

Race 1: American Marcus Miller teamed up with joint favourite Maracasso ($6.60) to capture the night’s first tournament race, sliding second-over on approach to the far turn, rallying off cover to catch Eataam Whosurboy and Austrian Gerhard Mayr, and evading a late bid from Ninoscredit and tournament leader James MacDonald of Canada for a 2:06.1 victory over a mile and a sixteenth.

Maracasso secured the pocket on the first turn behind early pacesetter Ninoscredit but was relegated to third as Imagine Speed and Dexter Dunn of New Zealand pushed clear past a :27 first quarter. After being shuffled mildly through the middle stages, Miller slid Maracasso second-over to chase the cover of Eataam Whosurboy on approach to the far turn, collaring that rival in upper stretch, and keeping Ninoscredit at bay. Eataam Whosurboy saved third after his extended uncovered bid.

“The horse on the front got worked over pretty good getting there,” commented Miller, who reclaimed second spot in the standings with the win. “He was tired, so I was able to slide out, I had a little cover up the backside, and it worked out perfectly. It was about as smooth a trip as we could have had.”

Race 2: Canadian James MacDonald used some crafty driving to overcome post 11 with Federal Strike ($6.10) in the night’s second WDC race, splitting foes in traffic on the third turn, and working into the pocket behind the middle-moving Abundasass and Sweden’s Björn Goop before pouncing off the home turn for a 2:08.1 win over a mile and a sixteenth.

MacDonald established a live second-over trip with Federal Strike nearing the midway stage, but was caught in a blind switch by the three-wide Crown Point (Mayr, Austria). As the first-over Abundasass worked clear of tiring pacesetter Kim Sopel (Rik Depuydt, Belgium) a quarter from home, MacDonald was able to work his charge into the pocket, angling out when room availed at the eighth pole and lifting to a going-away victory. Abundasass held second, while Chinnys Wings and Finland’s Mika Forss finished third.

“I never thought something like that would work out, but I landed behind Björn Goop,” said MacDonald following the win, which saw him increase his lead over American Marcus Miller to 25-1/2 points. “I knew the Scandinavian style – parked the whole way, big fields – if anyone knew what to do, he’d be the one to follow. It just worked out perfectly.”

“I knew up the backside I had lots of horse; it was just whether or not I could get some room somewhere," MacDonald continued. "Björn kept his live the whole way; he opened up in the last turn, and I was able to get out. When I got out, the horse did the rest.”

Race 3: Finnish Mika Forss reclaimed second spot in the standings – albeit by half a point – with a pocket win aboard Shanghai B G ($6.10) in the night’s third tournament race. The pair tracked pacesetter Jolts Prayer and New Zealand’s Dexter Dunn throughout, angled off the pegs well after first-over challenger Orator (Noel Baldacchino, Malta) faded up the far side, and narrowly reached in the final stride for a 2:06.2 victory. DaVinci Seelster (Miller, USA) used a ground-saving trip to overcome a second-row start and claim third.

“The horse was feeling really good the whole time, and on that last turn, I got the feeling we could win, but on the last turn my bench (on the racebike) was broken,” commented Forss following the race.

“I wasn’t sure I won!” the Finnish driver quipped with respect to the closeness of the photo finish.

Race 4: Maltese driver Noel Baldacchino enjoyed a pocket trip with eleven-year-old veteran Tidewater Tomahawk ($16.30) in the evening’s final tournament race at 3R, stalking an extended duel between Danzig Moon (Eirik Høitomt, Norway) and Appleby Hanover (Goop) before finding room to vacate the pocket at head-stretch.

Tidewater Tomahawk sprinted to the fore a sixteenth from home, overtaking a breaking Danzig Moon and sprinting away to a 2:05.3 win over a mile and a sixteenth as the pace collapsed, while Hard Rock (Dunn, New Zealand) mounted a four-wide rally off the home turn to take second. Winoc Jimmy (MacDonald, Canada) emerged out of traffic up the open stretch to finish third.


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