Goodbye, Taxi

Fred
Fred MacDonald
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MacDonald was a legendary horseman with a big heart

I got a phone call Wednesday night from Horace MacKay in Tyne Valley and the news about our old pal “Taxi Dan” MacDonald was not what we wanted to hear.

The legendary horseman and sports gambler was a “one-of-a-kind” individual who raced a big stable here in the Maritimes from the 1960s onwards with partner Jack Brown. He owned numerous bars and nightclubs in the city, gave to various city sports teams travelling to Maritime and national tournaments, was the first with the big screen TVs and had the forerunner of what we would call today — sports bars. He bet so much money that one year on the eve of Old Home Week he sold a bar, one of the biggest in the city, and blew it all on the ponies during the big week.

He bought and sold horses and trucked them throughout the Maritimes, Blue Bonnets, Woodbine, Mohawk and into New England tracks like Foxboro, Yonkers and The Meadowlands.

Everybody has a funny Taxi story. He had a heart that was as big as the outdoors, an enjoyable and likeable character that comes along not too often in a lifetime.

Goodbye Taxi, you’re going to a place where your horses always win. To all connected, my condolences.

Harness racing

In up country racing, Bolt The Duer and driver Mark MacDonald won the $130,000 Cleveland Classic at Northfield, Ohio, last Saturday in 1:51, beating Pet Rock, Thinking Out Loud and four others.

MacDonald is off until next Monday but will most likely return next Thursday at Yonkers.

In Ontario, simulcast racing from Flamboro this afternoon and Woodbine and Georgian Downs tonight.

At Yonkers, Proven Lover posted his second straight at the New York track winning this past week in 1:51:4 for driver Jason Bartlett and owner Casey Gavin of Tignish. Proven Lover has the eight-hole at Yonkers tonight in the $26,000 class and should finish in the top three despite the outside post.

Kingdom Come, the top three- year-old campaigned here by Jack Hynes and Evan Ford, was to go Friday night at Dover Downs but scratched sick. Charlottetown native Jason Ryan has moved from Sudbury to Georgian Downs with a trainer that has 30 head, including 15 yearlings and about a dozen race horses. He’ll drive the race horses and break the colts, so he’ll be busy.

Islanders Paul MacKenzie, Robert Shepherd, Tyler Moore and James MacDonald all posted driving doubles at either Georgian, Flamboro or Western Fair last week.

Newfoundland’s Brad Forward posted five winners on the Thursday card at Rideau Carleton, while Scott Coulter, who drove here in the Gold Cup and Saucer, posted five wins at Georgian on a single card.

Stacking the deck?

The Charlottetown Noontime Hockey League, which operates out of MacLauchlan Arena, staged its annual Christmas championship two-game, total-goal series this past week.

Mike (Willis) Hennessey not only serves as league commissioner (he’s both Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr) but also balances the teams so his Reds squad has a better chance of beating the Whites.

In the first game last Tuesday, former UPEI Panthers goalie Jamie Cudmore was outstanding as was Corey Gray for the Whites in a wide-open 2-2 tie.

Thursday, the Reds’ defence of Mike Devine, Nickel MacDonald, Gerry Moore, Lee Gauthier and Sandy MacDonald left Cudmore on his own far too often and the Whites won easily 8-4.

Keith (Bim) Ford had a pair for the winners, as did Terry McKenna with single goals coming from Barney Hannam, Blair Smith, Steve MacIsaac and Fred Younker. As for Hennessey, who had one assist in a losing cause, he is said to be trying to land ex-NHLer Alan MacAdam for the second half of the season.

Some guys will do anything to win.

Pigskin Picks

The National Football League schedule is headed into the homestretch and right now it’s difficult to decide the five most important games this weekend.

Ten of the matchups have playoff implications, and one of those will be played in Toronto, where the “hometown” Buffalo Bills (for this week only) entertain a very good Seattle Seahawks club. There’s a group from P.E.I. headed to this game, including brother Tex and his boys, so let’s hope they see a great game.

The Seahawks (8-5) vs Buffalo (5-8) - The Seahawks are solid on both sides of the ball and they’re playoff bound as long as they keep winning. Russell Wilson is the real deal at QB and so are the tough Seahawks, but the Bills are very dangerous — hot one game, awful the next. C J Spiller, who averages 6.6 yards per carry, is the feature back for the Bills, replacing Fred Jackson. I’ll still bet Seattle by a field goal.

Green Bay (9-4) at Chicago (8-5) - Packers QB Aaron Rogers is hot right now and the Bears could be without QB Jay Cutler (game-time decision), middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the team leader on D, as well as star safety Tim Jennings. After a fast 7-1 start, the Bears have lost four of five and count Sunday as another loss. Green Bay is an easy winner here.

New York Giants (8-5) at Atlanta (11-2) - The Falcons cannot beat contending teams when it counts the most in December and January. The Giants save their best for meaningful games and this is a big one. The boys from Gotham will pressure Falcons QB Matt Ryan all afternoon and will force turnovers. The G-Men are coming off a big rout of New Orleans, while Atlanta played like dogs in the loss to Carolina. Enough said, G-Men by at least four points.

Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6) at Dallas (7-6) - The loser of this game will likely miss the playoffs, that’s how big this game is. The Steelers thought all they had to do last week at home was show up against San Diego and they suffered a crucial loss. With the season on the line, look for the Steelers’ defence to step up and for QB Big Ben Roethlisberger to have a great game against a soft Dallas secondary. Take the Steelers to win outright.

Denver (10-3) at Baltimore

(9-4) - Peyton Manning gets my pick as MVP and one should never bet against Peyton or Tom Brady. Outside of Manning, Denver has a questionable running game and an untested defence. Baltimore is another one of those teams like Atlanta and Houston, good but how good? I’d bet Denver by a field goal because I can’t bet against Peyton.

There’s another game, but it’s likely not on anyone’s “must-see” list. Who wants to watch the New York Jets at Tennessee game? Rex Ryan’s mother and the legislative assembly’s Steve MacLean, who still clings to playoff hopes for his Jets. Steve wishing for a Jets playoff appearance is like wishing for a balanced budget from Wes Sheridan. It ain’t gonna happen!

As always, pay the mortgage first. The picks are for fun.

Fred MacDonald’s column appears in

The Guardian each Friday. He can be

reached at fiddlersfacts@hotmail.com.

Organizations: Seattle Seahawks, Buffalo Bills, Reds Pittsburgh Steelers Charlottetown Noontime Hockey League New York Jets National Football League New York Giants

Geographic location: Yonkers, Maritime, Tyne Valley New England Ohio Ontario New York Charlottetown Sudbury Atlanta Newfoundland Green Bay Dallas Toronto Baltimore Denver Seattle Chicago New Orleans Carolina San Diego Houston Tennessee

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