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James MacDonald Takes WDC Title

Canadian harness racing driver James MacDonald of Guelph, Ont. clinched the 2017 World Driving Championship (WDC), and its $25,000 top prize Friday evening (August 18) at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park, Prince Edward Island.

In a night to remember, a capacity crowd witnessed the hometown triumph of MacDonald, the first-ever Canadian to claim the international title on home turf.

“It’s just been a real honour to drive with these guys. They’re some of the best drivers from all over the world," said MacDonald after the tournament. "When I found out that I was going, I was just elated to be on the same racetrack. I never, ever, in a million years, would have dreamed of winning, so it’s a pleasant surprise, and I can’t say enough good about all the drivers. They’re all new friends. It’s been a great tournament.”

MacDonald entered the fifth and final day of competition with a 26-point lead over Finland's Mika Forss. Without a win in the first three races to clinch the overall points lead, MacDonald sealed his claim to the WDC title in the night's final of four races by earning four points for an eighth-place finish with Instant Shadow.

The Canadian reinsman amassed a total of 211 WDC tournament points, ultimately besting overall runner-up Forss, who completed his drives with an accumulated 193 points for second. Marcus Miller, from the United States, tallied 181.5 points to round out the top three WDC drivers.

The 31-year-old Prince Edward Island native returned to his home province as the only one of the 11 WDC contestants to have won at least one race at each track leading up to the final leg of the tournament. MacDonald won two of five heats at Century Downs in Alberta on Saturday (August 12), teaming up with Lucky Lucka and Barossa Blue Genes, before prevailing with Mystery Bet on Monday (August 14) at his current home base of Mohawk Racetrack in Ontario. He went on to double up again at Georgian Downs on Tuesday (August 15), reaching the winner's enclosure with Shemars Lulu and Walk The Plank, before earning his sixth WDC win at Québec's Hippodrome 3R on Wednesday (August 16) aboard Federal Strike.

"I haven’t had time to reply to half of the messages I got last week," noted MacDonald. "But I’ve seen it and I like it...I thank everyone for reaching out, and I appreciate it.

"I wish my brother Curtis was here, but his wife’s about to have a baby," said MacDonald, surrounded by family in the winner's circle. "I wish my mom would put her camera down, and come over here and celebrate with me!"

Hosted by Standardbred Canada, the World Driving Championship is held every two years in conjunction with the World Trotting Conference. The 2017 editions of the events coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.

MacDonald is now the fourth Canadian driver to win the World Driving Championship, the first to do so on Canadian soil. Hervé Filion won the inaugural edition in 1970; his nephew Sylvain Filion won in 1999; and Jody Jamieson won the 2001 and 2011 editions of the WDC.

2017 World Driving Championship Leaderboard (final)
Rank - Driver (Country) - Points

1. James MacDonald (Canada) - 211
2. Mika Forss (Finland) - 193
3. Marcus Miller (United States) - 181.5
4. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) - 166
5. Björn Goop (Sweden) - 152
6. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) - 148
7. Eirik Høitomt (Norway) - 136
8. Shane Graham (Australia) - 135
8. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) - 135
10. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) - 124.5
11. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) - 107

RACE RECAPS

Race 1: Björn Goop (Sweden) scored impressively in the first of four World Driving Championship (WDC) 2017 final races. The 1-1/16-mile pacing event saw him take Jinglewriter ($3.70) to the front by the :27.3 quarter-mile mark, guiding the mare around early leader Maudail Mac, piloted by Marcus Miller (USA). On the way to the :58.1 half, Goop and Jinglewriter easily kept two lengths between themselves and first-up attacker Ameriquel, driven by WDC points leader James MacDonald (Canada). Goop would only extend his advantage through a 1:27.4 clocking at the three-quarters, and a going-away victory at the 1:57.2 mile mark. Jinglewriter was the easiest of winners in the 1-1/16 mile event in 2:05 flat over late-charging runner-up Jays Little Spark (Mark Purdon, New Zealand), who left from post #11 in the second tier, and took the place-photo decision over show finisher Formidable (Shane Graham, Australia).

Goop called his mare "the best horse in the race", with "gate speed and plenty of stamina", adding "I wanted to win, for sure."

Free-legged Bignprecious broke stride before the start for Mika Forss (Finland).

Race 2: Austrian driver Gerhard Mayr sprung a 20-1 upset in the antepenultimate heat of the World Driving Championship (WDC) on Friday evening (August 18) at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island, staying alive while parked the mile and a sixteenth with Keep A Secret ($42.90).

After floating just behind the front flight on approach to the first turn, the seven-year-old Galantine Hanover gelding was parked, but would cede to second-over position behind Dilans Mustang and Australian Shane Graham up the far side. After losing cover following a :27.4 first quarter (Dilans Mustang pushed clear of Elm Grove Kaptain and Sweden’s Björn goop before yielding immediately to that rival), Keep A Secret would again find cover at the halfway stage, this time yielding to Caughtfoolinaround and Finland’s Mika Forss. Caughtfoolinaround pushed clear of a tiring Elm Grove Kaptain with a quarter mile to go, but Keep A Secret sustained to a mid-stretch lead en route to a 2:06 victory over the added distance.

Go With It and Canada’s James MacDonald reached second up the open stretch after a traffic-troubled journey, but were disqualified to third behind Caughtfoolinaround after inconveniencing that rival at the midway stage.

Race 3: Dexter Dunn of New Zealand circled four-wide up the backstretch with Kennairn Fame ($15.60) to take the penultimate WDC race, covering a mile and a sixteenth in 2:07.3.

Pick N Scoop (MacDonald, Canada) dueled early from the pole position with Rising Fella (Forss, Finland), but yielded up the backstretch before being exerted to reclaim command three-eighths of a mile into the journey. Nearing the half-mile split in :58.3, Pick N Scoop raced erratically and drifted off the pegs, enabling Rising Fella to scoot up the pegs to reclaim the lead and causing interference to multiple horses in the outer tier.

Meanwhile, Kennairn Fame — who was relegated to third-over position in the middle stages – was caught in a blind switch by Quick Mad (Graham, Australia) on the third turn. With just over a quarter to go, Dunn swung Kennairn Fame to the four-path, and the pair were able to reel in Rising Fella in the final sixteenth. Pick N Scoop re-emerged to finish second past the post, but was disqualified to tenth for the aforementioned mid-race interference. Electric Syl and Maltese driver Noel Baldacchino were elevated to second, and the gathered-in Rising Fella was elevated to third.

As a result of the tenth-place finish in the penultimate race, MacDonald is guaranteed no less than a share of the WDC title. For Forss to share the title with MacDonald, the Finnish driver must win the last race outright while also needing MacDonald to finish eleventh.

Race 4: New Zealand’s Mark Purdon, who spent the duration of the week among the back markers of the WDC field, ended the tournament on a winning note with Painted Pony ($65.10), circling four-wide on approach to the home turn to overtake the front flight and sprint clear in the straight.

Painted Pony left from the extreme outside and was parked second-over on the first turn, only to be caught behind a three-way battle through a :57.1 first half which included Bowyer Hanover (Mayr), Fly With Max (Forss), and All Turain (Rik Depuydt, Belgium). With just over a quarter mile remaining, Purdon angled the eight-year-old SS Sand Dollar gelding four-wide around the tiring Fly With Max and All Turain, neither of whom saw cover at any point. Painted Pony flew off at once, completing the mile and a sixteenth in 2:04.2.

Artners In Crime and Norwegian Eirik Høitomt mounted a stand-side rally to lift into second over Saulsbrook Quick (Goop), who chased from astern to take third.

MacDonald, who drove Instant Shadow from the second row, was locked in for the entire journey and could only muster an eighth-place finish, while Forss and Fly With Max ultimately faded to ninth.

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

August 22, 2017 - 9:52 pmMy first visit to CDP and

ron francis SAID...

My first visit to CDP and Gold Cup and Saucer, as well at WDC. Weather was mediocre at best, but, a fab racing experience. Racing is as important to the Charlottetown dynamic as theatre. Congrats James, your win enhanced the overall atmosphere.

August 22, 2017 - 8:11 amCongrats James. You made us

Congrats James. You made us proud to be Canadian horse people. Respect earned is respect given. Cheers.

August 19, 2017 - 4:34 pmCongrats to James ......

Congrats to James ......


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