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James MacDonald wins World Driving Championship in home province

Kingston native claims victory Friday at CDP


Published on August 19, 2017

James MacDonald won the World Driving Championship Friday at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park.

©Jason Malloy/The Guardian

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It is official: Kingston native James MacDonald is the world champion of harness racing.

The 31-year-old closed out his lead in the World Driving Championship (WDC) during the final leg held Friday night at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park as part of Old Home Week racing and earned himself $25,000 in prize money for the victory.

"It's still a little surreal. It hasn't really sunk in," MacDonald said after the final race of the five-leg, 20-race competition. "Now I go to Sweden in a couple years and defend, so I'm pretty pumped. It is just an honour to drive with some of these people, let alone win the tournament."

The winning nation sends two drivers to the World Driving Championship, so MacDonald will be joined by a fellow Canuck in Sweden in 2019.

MacDonald went into Friday night's competition with a 26-point lead and had four drives to secure the world title. MacDonald finished ninth with Ameriquel in the first 11-horse field in Charlottetown then was second, but placed back to third for interference, while driving Go With It in the second WDC race of the night.

A decision by Atlantic Province's Harness Racing Commission judges was not kind to MacDonald in the third race of the competition. Pick N Scoop was on the lead at the half-mile marker then ran out into the outer flow causing interference. MacDonald finished second, but placed 10th for the infraction.

"I got set back tonight, which I should have been," MacDonald said. "The horse was on front and got scared of the people in the infield and ran out and (it) cost me a lot of points. But I had a good tournament, had a couple of breaks go my way early. After the race that I was second placed third and I said ‘Well third is still good,' then I figured if I could just get a few points and I'd be all right. Then I was second placed 10th and I started to sweat a little bit."

An eighth-place finish in the final race was more than enough for MacDonald to secure the win after dominating the leg of the competition held in Georgian Downs in Ontario and doing respectable at Century Downs in Calgary, Mohawk Raceway in Ontario and Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres in Quebec.
MacDonald is the youngest member of the MacDonald racing family with oldest brother Anthony an accomplished trainer-driver with more than 2,900 lifetime wins while Mark MacDonald is the two-time O'Brien Award winner as Canada's top driver. He is just shy of 6,000 career wins.
"If anyone knows Anthony and Mark they will just be focusing on how bad I did tonight so they won't let me enjoy winning the world championship," MacDonald laughed Friday night. "They have been messaging me all week and they are more than happy for me. We have a good family and we're always rooting for each other and that's the way it is supposed to be."

The four WDC races held Friday saw Jinglewriter capture the first mile-and-a-sixteenth division with Bjorn Goop of Sweden driving for trainer Ron Gass of Cornwall and owner Alex MacPhee of Clyde River.

Gerhard Mayr of Austria won Race 5 of the program with Keep A Secret for owner-trainer Rod Hurley of Nova Scotia. Defending world driving champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand visited the winner's circle in the second last race of the competition with Kennairn Fame for Nova Scotians Donald and Damian MacLellan.

Mark Purdon of New Zealand found victory in the final race of the championship with Painted Pony for owner-trainer Raymond White of Murray River.

The 31-year-old closed out his lead in the World Driving Championship (WDC) during the final leg held Friday night at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park as part of Old Home Week racing and earned himself $25,000 in prize money for the victory.

"It's still a little surreal. It hasn't really sunk in," MacDonald said after the final race of the five-leg, 20-race competition. "Now I go to Sweden in a couple years and defend, so I'm pretty pumped. It is just an honour to drive with some of these people, let alone win the tournament."

The winning nation sends two drivers to the World Driving Championship, so MacDonald will be joined by a fellow Canuck in Sweden in 2019.

MacDonald went into Friday night's competition with a 26-point lead and had four drives to secure the world title. MacDonald finished ninth with Ameriquel in the first 11-horse field in Charlottetown then was second, but placed back to third for interference, while driving Go With It in the second WDC race of the night.

A decision by Atlantic Province's Harness Racing Commission judges was not kind to MacDonald in the third race of the competition. Pick N Scoop was on the lead at the half-mile marker then ran out into the outer flow causing interference. MacDonald finished second, but placed 10th for the infraction.

"I got set back tonight, which I should have been," MacDonald said. "The horse was on front and got scared of the people in the infield and ran out and (it) cost me a lot of points. But I had a good tournament, had a couple of breaks go my way early. After the race that I was second placed third and I said ‘Well third is still good,' then I figured if I could just get a few points and I'd be all right. Then I was second placed 10th and I started to sweat a little bit."

An eighth-place finish in the final race was more than enough for MacDonald to secure the win after dominating the leg of the competition held in Georgian Downs in Ontario and doing respectable at Century Downs in Calgary, Mohawk Raceway in Ontario and Hippodrome Trois-Rivieres in Quebec.

MacDonald is the youngest member of the MacDonald racing family with oldest brother Anthony an accomplished trainer-driver with more than 2,900 lifetime wins while Mark MacDonald is the two-time O'Brien Award winner as Canada's top driver. He is just shy of 6,000 career wins.

"If anyone knows Anthony and Mark they will just be focusing on how bad I did tonight so they won't let me enjoy winning the world championship," MacDonald laughed Friday night. "They have been messaging me all week and they are more than happy for me. We have a good family and we're always rooting for each other and that's the way it is supposed to be."

The four WDC races held Friday saw Jinglewriter capture the first mile-and-a-sixteenth division with Bjorn Goop of Sweden driving for trainer Ron Gass of Cornwall and owner Alex MacPhee of Clyde River.

Gerhard Mayr of Austria won Race 5 of the program with Keep A Secret for owner-trainer Rod Hurley of Nova Scotia. Defending world driving champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand visited the winner's circle in the second last race of the competition with Kennairn Fame for Nova Scotians Donald and Damian MacLellan.

Mark Purdon of New Zealand found victory in the final race of the championship with Painted Pony for owner-trainer Raymond White of Murray River.

Consolation

Windsong Leo rallied from off the pace to win the $20,000 James (Roach) MacGregor Gold Cup and Saucer consolation in 1:54.2.

Danny O'Brian trains and drives for owner Everette Hanson of Maugerville, N.B.

Junebugs Baby was sent off the gate by driver Myles Heffernan to lay down fractions of 27.4, 56.1 and 1:26 before succumbing to late rallies by Windsong Leo and McKinney (Jason Ryan), who finished second in the stretch duel. Skyway Boomer (Brett MacDonald) was third with Junebugs Baby fourth.

Windsong Leo rallied from off the pace to win the $20,000 James (Roach) MacGregor Gold Cup and Saucer consolation in 1:54.2.

Danny O'Brian trains and drives for owner Everette Hanson of Maugerville, N.B.

Junebugs Baby was sent off the gate by driver Myles Heffernan to lay down fractions of 27.4, 56.1 and 1:26 before succumbing to late rallies by Windsong Leo and McKinney (Jason Ryan), who finished second in the stretch duel. Skyway Boomer (Brett MacDonald) was third with Junebugs Baby fourth.