It's been a long winter here in London, Ontario... Stormy weather conditions have caused multiple cancellations, thus far, on the race meet and we haven't even experienced our 'spring-thaw' conditions yet. We know it's just around the corner, though, so we're hoping it comes and goes by fast.
With less than three months remaining until our signature event - we have been meeting bi-weekly to discuss plans of making our Camluck Classic even bigger and better this season. The event will now move back to its traditional Friday night time slot, on May 31st, after switching to a Saturday night last year. The $150,000 Invitational Pace will highlight a powerful undercard which will include the Ontario Sires Stakes for three-year-old pacing fillies, a quartet of City Of London Series finals and several Preferred races.
Our Camluck Classic defending champion and track record holder, Rockin Ron, has recently qualified back and we'll look for him and some other big names to strut their stuff in the upcoming Levy Series at Yonkers.
Rankin Still 'At It And To It'
It would be just over 12 years ago - at The Raceway, in London - where Don Rankin Jr. would be involved in a spill (by far - the worst accident of his racing career) that would put him out of commission for the better part of four months. Injuries would include deep bruising to both lungs, a collapsed lung and a broken sternum bone (which connects the rib cages). He also sustained a five-stitch cut to the chin, plus extensive cuts and bruises in the mishap.
I can remember Port Hood, Nova Scotia-native Ron Graham making his way east, from Alberta, to help out with his good friend's stable during that time... Rankin returned to the bike during that summer of 2007 and would come back to pick up his second, of two, $1M seasons in the sulky in 2009 (his first $1M season had been in 2003).
Rankin re-located from the Maritimes, to a home-base at Windsor Raceway, almost 30 years ago. Now, at age 59, Rankin has down-sized his Amherstburg, Ontario-operation to a handful of racehorses in On The Take, Out Think Em, Phone In and recent addition Mollie Z Tam - all are currently Raceway regulars for him in London.
Rankin began his 'licensed' harness racing career during the mid-70s in Sydney, Nova Scotia. He's gone on to train over 1,700 winners - good for $9M in earnings and he's driven 4,690 winners - with almost $19M earned in the bike... Rankin still 'at it and to it' in south-western Ontario!
MacDonalds On A Big Run
The father-son team of trainer Ron MacDonald and driver Brett MacDonald would bring their 'A' game to The Raceway recently combining for 3 wins during the Tuesday, February 26th program. Grey Bell, Ideal Space and Dapple Apple would all hit the winner's circle for the MacDonald duo, with Brett also scoring with Beary Yu Von to make it 4 wins in the bike on this night.
Now going into his 5th season of driving - Brett, a native of P.E.I., began his sulky-sitting career on Island matinee tracks - a path once taken by drivers like O'Brien Award winners Mark MacDonald and Marc Campbell. Brett, the 2017 Rising Star O'Brien Award winner, is coming off his career-best year for driving in Ontario with 190 trips to the winner's circle and $1.2M earned - that's almost double the money he earned in 2017!
*Ron MacDonald now leads all trainers in wins at The Raceway in 2019... From just 35 starters - he's sent out 17 winners for a sparkling UTRS of .537... You've read that right - he's winning at almost 50%!
Drew Neil Nabs Ontario Driving Win
Young Drew Neil picked up his first Ontario driving win recently and in just his 3rd drive up this way, as he guided Blue Eyed Cowboy to a 15-1 upset, coming from off the pace at Flamboro Downs on March 7th.