Ontario Women's Driving Championship Expands

Racing action from the 2021 Ontario Women's Driving Championship at Hanover Raceway

The OLG Ontario Women's Driving Championship (OWDC) is returning in 2022, after a very successful first season at both Hanover Raceway and Dresden Raceway.

This year, the OWDC will add three additional racetracks, with Grand River Raceway, Leamington Raceway and The Raceway at Western Fair District all hosting a stop.

OLG returns as the title sponsor, with Ontario Racing back as a significant sponsor.

“Supporting the OLG Ontario Women's Driving Championship for a second straight year is an important part of OLG's ongoing commitment to the horse racing sector in Ontario,” said Tina MacMillan, OLG's Vice President of Horse Racing and Casino Operations. “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. Promoting greater inclusivity within the industry builds on our efforts to create a sustainable future for horse racing across the province.”

Also, Graham's Racing Silks has signed on as a sponsor, providing a custom summer set of colours as a prize for the winning driver of the series.

“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 racetrack will have five races on a race card as part of the series. The OWDC 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 a great feeling to be asked back to participate in this year's Women's Driving Championship," said Day. "As always, it's great to help support local tracks and great that they are now coming on board to support women drivers of Ontario. 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.”

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.

"It is a huge honour to be included in this event," said Jones. "The competition will be tough -- these women are all accomplished horsewomen and fierce competitors.

"Being able to support and raise awareness for such great causes is wonderful. 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."

Action from the 2021 Ontario Women's Driving Championship at Hanover Raceway

"We are excited to return and expand the footprint of our event to three additional racetracks," commented Hanover Raceway General Manager Steve Fitzsimmons, the founder of the event. "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. Last year's event was very successful, and we look to follow it up with another great Driving Championship this season."

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 racetrack 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 racetracks 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."

"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 are:

  • Marie Claude Auger
  • Natasha Day (Returning Champion)
  • Marielle Enberg
  • Pam Forgie
  • Samara Johnson
  • Maggie Jones
  • Brittany Kennedy
  • Debi O'Brien-Moran
  • Julie Walker

The OWDC series schedule is:

  • Hanover Raceway - Saturday, July 16
  • Dresden Raceway - Sunday, July 17
  • Grand River Raceway - Friday, Aug. 12
  • Leamington Raceway - Sunday, Sept. 25
  • The Raceway at Western Fair District - Friday, Oct. 14

(Hanover Raceway)