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From Rideau To The O'Briens

Published: January 18, 2017 9:15 am ET

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The 2016 O'Brien Award Gala marks the fourth year for the Future Star Award and this year’s nominees, Brett MacDonald, 20, of Embrun, Ont., and Louis-Philippe Roy, 27, of Mont-Joli, Que., are no strangers to one another.

The pair regularly compete against one another at Rideau Carleton Raceway, and will now battle off-track for the future star title and O’Brien honours.

In just his second season of full-time driving, Brett MacDonald drove 102 winners and horses to more than $511,000 in purse money.

“I have had an unreal season, the amount of drives that I have gotten throughout the year and all the support and trust that the owners and trainers have given me has been amazing,” said MacDonald.

The past year was an outstanding one for the young reinsman, as he finished second in the Quebec / Eastern Ontario Regional Driving Championship at Hippodrome 3R to earn his way into the National Driving Championship. In the National he held his own against some of the country’s top veteran drivers, recording a victory in the eight-race competition and managing a solid fifth-place finish overall.

Brett MacDonald and Tuscans Memory with representatives from Ontario Racing after winning a leg of the 2016 National Driving Championship

MacDonald was also involved in the ‘Drivers Spotlight Night', organized by the National Capital Region Harness Horse Association, pitting MacDonald against Roy on December 18 at Rideau Carleton. The challenge concluded with Roy emerging as champion, while MacDonald managed an excellent night recording a hat trick.

Adding to MacDonald's year of accolades is his O’Brien nomination.

“Some people go their whole career without being nominated for an O’Brien, I couldn’t believe it when Kathy [SC's Manager of Industry Marketing Kathy Wade Vlaar] called and told me I got the nomination. It is still early on in my career, so the call was really exciting for me.”

The 2016 season marked Louis-Philippe Roy's third year as a full-time driver. The talented reinsman put together some impressive stats, winning 237 races and driving horses to earnings of more than $1 million.

“2016 has been more than I could have expected in just a short lapse of time. At the end of 2015 I went from someone driving as a hobby in Trois-Rivières and Circuit Régional (fair circuit) to competing with the best drivers in Canada on the WEG Circuit at the end of 2016 and doing what I love to do. I couldn’t dream of a better turn out.”

Roy was the leading money-winning and dash-winning driver at Hippordrome 3R and topped the charts for wins at Rideau Carleton Raceway. Roy’s most memorable victory of the season came guiding Ys Lotus to victory in the prestigious Sobey’s Gold Cup & Saucer Final at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park.

“Winning the Gold Cup & Saucer is certainly one of my biggest moments of 2016," said Roy. "From what I have done so far in harness racing, Old Home Week is my favorite happening and winning the Gold Cup was the icing on the cake.”

When asked who he can owe his seasonal success to, Roy replied, “The horses; I think that’s the same for everybody. I have also been fortunate to have people like Yves Tessier, Francois Morin, Rene Allard and so many more that had confidence in me to drive their horses.”

In late December, Roy became a familiar face at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, where he would pick up four or five catch drives a night. More recently, he’s been driving both at Woodbine and Rideau. He will attend his first O'Brien Awards Gala.

“When I first got the call I didn't realize how big it was, but then with all the people congratulating me and talking about the O'Briens, I realized how big it is. I’m thrilled to be going the O'Brien Awards!”

The 2016 O’Brien Awards are scheduled for Saturday, January 28 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel. Canada’s harness racing champions will be announced at the Black Tie Gala.

For a full list of O'Brien Award finalists, click here. For details about the Black Tie Gala and how to purchase tickets, click here.

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