Down The Backstretch: Island brothers get caught up in race accidents

Nicholas Oakes
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Anthony MacDonald hopes to be healed up in time for run at Ontario politics

It has been an accident- filled week for Ontario horse racing and some Island horsemen got the worst of it.

Saturday night at Woodbine Racetrack in Mississauga, Ont., Kingston native James MacDonald was front and centre in a four-horse pileup. While driving In Commando, James tipped his charge first up past the half in the $34,000 preferred pace before catching a shoe and going down, taking drivers Doug McNair, Billy Davis Jr. and Rick Zeron with him.

James, 27, was taken off the race track via stretcher by the EMS crew and was treated for a fractured and dislocated ankle, while the other drivers escaped serious injury. He is back at home in Guelph now and expects to be back in the bike in three months time.

At the time of the accident, James was second in Canada for wins and was in the top ten for all reinsmen in North America.

There are plenty of  months in Ontario racing that go accident-free, but January 2013 was not finished yet as a three-horse spill hit Western Fair Raceway in London, Ont., Tuesday, sending drivers to hospital.

Then Wednesday at Flamboro Downs in Dundas, Ont., Kingston’s Anthony MacDonald, James’ older brother, had his horse go down in Race 11. Anthony and his horse Thats The Life were going around the final turn on the outside and dropped to the ground. Driver Brad Forward got involved in the wreck as Justalittleluck was unable to get by the downed Thats The Life.

Forward was sent to hospital and underwent surgery for a broken ankle. Anthony fared a little bit better.

“My hip is bruised,” Anthony said from his Ontario home Thursday. “I can’t walk but considering what happened to James and Brad I’m pretty lucky.”

Anthony still is unsure what exactly happened in the race.

“My horse got in on the last turn and started touching a knee and hooked a shoe or something, I’m not really sure,” the 36-year-old driver said. “I didn’t think there was anyone still behind me by then, but Brad was and he tried to miss me but ended up hooking my wheel. I wish he had of just hit me from behind. I don’t think I would have been hurt any worse and he probably would be driving today.”

The driver says his return is up in the air. He missed drives Thursday night at Woodbine and does not expect to drive there tonight. Saturday, he has more drives at Woodbine at night and is slated to attend his Progressive Conservative candidacy training in the afternoon, as he is running for election in the riding of Guelph in the next Ontario provincial election.

“I don’t know how I’m going to get to that, but I’m going to have to try,” he said. “I’d like to say I’ll be driving Saturday, but I may not be driving for two weeks. Nothing is for sure.”

He hopes to be healed up for his election battle, as he is currently missing time canvassing with the Ontario election expected in late spring or early summer.

“It could not be until October but that’s unlikely. I’m working under the idea that I have to be ready for May.”

In talking to residents of Guelph, Anthony said he has seen great displeasure with the scandal ridden Liberal government that have been battling mismanagement with tenders for new power plants, as well as alleged massive misspending in health care being just the tip of the iceberg.

“The Liberals have been in power (in Guelph) for nine years but with what has transpired in the last few years it is enough to shake even the most stout of supporters,” Anthony said.

Aside from the incumbent Liberal candidate, he will also face opposition from the NDP as well as the leader of the provincial Green party who will run against him in Guelph.

The horseman was vaulted into action after the decision by the Ontario government to axe the lucrative slots at racetracks program, which will end on March 31. But Anthony said it has become much more than just about harness racing for him.

“The people of horse racing represent the hard working people of Ontario,” he said. “The Liberals are going to see 55,000 people (in horse racing) unemployed. We can’t afford to unemploy anybody else especially people who are going to have a hard time finding work.”

For now, the career winner of 2,431 races will have to put politics on the back burner as his main concern will be struggling to walk under his own power.


Who’s hot

Wednesday night at Pompano Park in Pompano Beach, Fla., Waiting On A Woman kept his winning streak intact winning his third race in a row since relocating to the United States.

The five-year-old son of Northern Bailey captured the $11,000 Open trot in gate to wire fashion, with Kevin Wallis in the bike, after laying down fractions of 27.1, 56, 1:25 and 1:54.4 en route to a half-length victory at odds of 5-2. Travis Kolaczynski trains Waiting On A Woman for owners New Jenneration Llc. He was bred by Mitchell and David Tierney of New Haven.


Nicholas Oakes’ column appears in

The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at

Organizations: EMS, Western Fair Raceway, NDP New Jenneration

Geographic location: Ontario, Guelph, Iceland Kingston Mississauga Canada North America.There London, Ont. Dundas Guelph.The Pompano Park Pompano Beach United States New Haven

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