James MacDonald is riding a career-best year into the Ontario Sires Stakes post season. He will drive in all eight Grassroots Championship races at Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, Oct. 9 and is the regular reinsman for five top three point earners headed towards next weekend’s Super Finals.
“Geez, it’s been such a good year. I just keep waiting for that slump of going 0 for 100 or something and I might have one bad night or one night where I don’t win one, and I’m like, ‘Oh, here it comes,’ and the next night I win three or four,” said MacDonald. “It’s just been a special year for me and I’ve just been able to keep a hot streak going all year for some unknown reason. I’ve got so many good barns, and good trainers and owners I am driving for, and it makes my job so much easier. And I’ve been blessed with a really strong OSS group of horses to drive this year.”
With a 47 point lead on five-time Lampman Cup winner Sylvain Filion and 51 up on last year’s winner Bob McClure, MacDonald has a stranglehold on the 2021 Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) leading driver award. He has piloted 169 OSS starters to 41 wins, 27 seconds, 20 thirds and earnings of $1,710,218 for a Lampman Cup point tally of 454. (Click here for complete Lampman Cup standings.)
Overall, MacDonald’s 2021 campaign has seen him make 1240 appearances on the racetrack, engineering 231 wins, 188 seconds, 162 wins and $5,608,113 in earnings through Oct. 7, which leads all drivers in Canada.
Among the horses that have been standouts for MacDonald this summer are a trio of Gold level two-year-olds from the Millar Farms/Nick Gallucci barn, pacing fillies Prohibition Legal and Silver Label and pacing colt Betterhavemymoney. In this Saturday’s Grassroots Championships he will steer a pair of well-regarded two-year-olds from the Shawn Steacy barn, pacing filly Semi-Final winner In The Mood and pacing colt Macho Phil, and the Guelph, ON resident said both the Gallucci and Steacy operations have been key contributors to his success this season.
“Obviously Millar Farms and Nick Gallucci and I had a spectacular season together, and hopefully we’re not done and for years to come we can have more big years. And the Steacy’s, I am still driving quite a bit for Mark and Shawn. They’ve helped me grow as a driver over the years and I can’t say enough good things about them and the things they’ve done for me,” said MacDonald, who also drove a number of horses for his older brother Anthony MacDonald’s fractional ownership enterprise TheStable.ca. “We butt heads and fight all the time, but I think he’s just a terrific horseman and he doesn’t get enough credit for what he does for the industry and for racing itself. Those people for sure, but I could go on all day about all the people that have helped me have such a great year.”
While MacDonald is deeply appreciative of the people that have placed their faith in him this season, he said the most important ingredient has been the horses. One or two top horses can easily be the difference between a first Lampman Cup title or a sixth top five finish.
“Like I’ve said all year, any of the drivers at Mohawk, they’re all superstars, if you give them the horses I am driving this year their name’s going to be on the Lampman Cup,” said MacDonald. “So it’s an honour to be the top OSS driver, because there’s so many good drivers here and it’s such a deep roster of people, so to come out on top is really special and I am happy to be there.”
In addition to freshman pacers Macho Phil (Post 5, Race 5) and In The Mood (Post 7, Race 8), MacDonald will also steer two-year-old trotting filly Classic Magic (Post 6, Race 2), three-year-old pacing filly Cyclone Sister (Post 8, Race 3), two-year-old trotting gelding Marvin Hagler (Post 6, Race 4), three-year-old trotting filly Rubys Are Nice (Post 10, Race 7), three-year-old trotting gelding Four Wheelin (Post 3, Race 9) and three-year-old pacing gelding Lord Anthony (Post 5, Race 10) in Saturday’s Grassroots Championships.
Both Cyclone Sister and Four Wheelin will be looking to defend the Grassroots titles they captured as two-year-olds, a feat only five horses have been able to accomplish through the first 23 Championships.
A free program for Saturday’s Grassroots Championships is available for download here. Fans unable to attend the Championships in person can watch the live stream on Woodbine Mohawk Park’s website. The first race goes in behind the starting gate at 7 pm and the Grassroots Championships get under way in Race 2.
(Photo of James MacDonald courtesy New Image Media)
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