The OLG Ontario Women's Driving Championship is returning in 2022, after a very successful first season at both Hanover Raceway and Dresden Raceway.
This year the championship will add three additional race tracks, with Grand River Raceway, Leamington Raceway and the Raceway at Western Fair District all hosting a stop in the Championship.
OLG is returning as the title sponsor, as part of the its ongoing commitment to the horse racing sector in Ontario.
“We're proud to help showcase some of Ontario's amazing female drivers as an example of the growing diversity of talent we are seeing enter the sport," said Tina MacMillan, OLG's Vice President of Horse Racing and Casino Operations. "Promoting greater inclusivity within the industry builds on our efforts to create a sustainable future for horse racing across the province.”
Ontario Racing is also returning to sponsor the event, after supporting the inaugural edition last season.
“Ontario Racing is proud to support the OLG Ontario Women's Driving Championship taking place at five Standardbred racetracks in Ontario,” said John Hayes, Chair, Ontario Racing Board of Directors. “Thank you to Hanover Raceway, Dresden Raceway, Leamington Raceway, Grand River Raceway and The Raceway at Western Fair for their innovative approach to creating more opportunities and awareness for the women in Ontario Standardbred racing.”
Each race track will have five races on a race card as part of the series. The Championship will also add two additional drivers this season, providing additional driving opportunities to more female drivers.
Natasha Day, last year's winning driver, is glad to be back and sees the bigger picture of this event helping to foster women drivers at the highest level.
“It's great to help support local tracks and great that they are now coming on board to support women drivers of Ontario," said Day. "Hopefully this is the beginning of a long-standing relationship with sponsors and tracks to help promote women of harness racing and we see a champion driver of the future come through the ranks because of this competition.”
2021 Ontario Women's Driving Champion Natasha Day (centre), flanked by runner-up Marie-Claude Auger (right) and third-place finisher Julie Walker (left).
The series will be a fundraiser at each stop for Harness The Hope, a breast cancer charity founded by the Dustin family 17 years ago, that has deep roots within the harness racing community.
Each driver will donate their driving earnings for the series to the cause and each race track will have individual fundraising initiatives onsite to contribute to the cause.
Kristy Dustin, the co-founder of Harness the Hope, is very grateful to be involved as the charity recipient of the OWDC.
"The strength and generosity of these participating drivers, hosting race tracks and industry participants is nothing short of astonishing," said Dustin. "We are beyond humbled to be the recipient of this year's OLG Ontario Women's Driving Challenge, which will directly help those who have to face a cancer diagnosis through support programs, awareness and research in Ontario."
Driver Maggie Jones is looking forward to returning and being part of the series, as well as helping raise much needed funds for Harness the Hope.
"Being able to support and raise awareness for such great causes is wonderful," said Jones. "As someone who went through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in the past year, being able to give back and perhaps also give a ray of hope to anyone experiencing something similar is very rewarding."
Last season, Hanover Raceway founded the event, and partnered with Dresden Raceway to execute it. Hanover Raceway General Manager Steve Fitzsimmons is thrilled to add more racetracks this summer.
"The opportunity to put more spotlight on and showcase many of the best female drivers in the province and to encourage more equality and inclusion in our sport is very important to us and we're proud to be playing a role in doing so," said Fitzsimmons. "Last year's event was very successful, and we look to follow it up with another great Driving Championship this season,"
One of the additional tracks in 2022 is Grand River Raceway.
"Grand River Raceway is pleased to host a leg of the 2022 OLG Ontario Women's Driving Championships,” said Jamie Martin, Raceway Manager at Grand River Raceway. “We are excited to showcase Ontario's top women drivers while sharing the great fundraising efforts of Harness The Hope to our audience and community.”
Participating Drivers in 2022
The OWDC Schedule
- Marie Claude Auger
- Natasha Day (Returning Champion)
- Marielle Enberg
- Pam Forgie
- Samara Johnson
- Maggie Jones
- Brittany Kennedy
- Debi O'Brien-Moran
- Julie Walker
- Hanover Raceway - Saturday, July 16th
- Dresden Raceway - Sunday, July 17th
- Grand River Raceway - Friday, August 12th
- Leamington Raceway - Sunday, September 25th
- The Raceway at Western Fair District - Friday, October 14th
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