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It's All In The Family For James MacDonald

Published: October 26, 2012 10:30 am ET

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Driver James MacDonald is looking forward to bringing his brother act to the Breeders Crown, one of standard racing's most prestigious events, boasting over $6 million in purse earnings this Saturday evening at Woodbine Racetrack.

The MacDonald name needs no introduction in harness racing circles. Mark, James’ older brother, is one of the leading drivers in the sport, with over $70 million in purse earnings, while brother Anthony is a top driver in Canada.

It truly is a family affair.

James’ other brother, Curtis, although not directly involved in racing, is the Racing Products & Solutions specialist for OnTrack Media, which provides graphics at many standardbred and thoroughbred racetracks in North America.

MacDonald’s parents, Fred and Gail, have a longtime affiliation with the sport in Prince Edward Island. Fred was a breeder, past racing secretary and sports columnist, while Gail continues to be the Charlottetown Driving Park track photographer.

James MacDonald, a native of Cornwall, P.E.I., is hoping to make the most of his first Breeders Crown opportunity when he begins with Jet Wash from Post 10 in the $492,700 final for three-year-old pacing fillies.

Although the filly will be a longshot in Race 4, the thrill of being part of the classic has begun to sink in.

“You watch the Breeders Crown all the time growing up and always hope to be in it one day. Sometimes that’s all it is, is hope, but miracles do happen, I guess,” James said. “It’s quite an honour. I’m very thankful for (trainer) Jeff Gillis to give me the opportunity and hopefully, we can make the most of it.”

He knows he'll have plenty of people in his corner.

“I’ve been very fortunate enough to have both Mark, Anthony and my entire family there to support me and offer me advice,” James said. “Mark has won a ton of big races, including the Breeders Crown, North America Cup and Little Brown Jug, so I’m pretty lucky to have him there. Anthony is very knowledgeable and has a great work ethic and has been a great influence on me. We are a die-hard racing family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Considering James didn’t get his drivers license until he was 22 years of age, he’s quickly making an impact on the Canadian scene. Now 26, he's celebrating a career year with 264 wins and $2.4 million in purse earnings in just his third full year of driving.

After attending Holland College in P.E.I. for one year in the Marketing and Advertising program, James went to work for Anthony for the summer in Ontario, who had roughly 60 horses at that time. His plan was to return home to resume college, but when the time came, he had one thing on his mind.

“I wasn’t going anywhere,” laughed James. “We had a pretty successful stable going and I met a lot of great people here in Ontario and it’s where I wanted to be. It sure isn’t an easy lifestyle, but it was something I wanted to pursue.”

When MacDonald first got his driving silks, the loyalty of his older brothers was showcased once again.

“They were very similar to Anthony’s with his blue and white colours, but I had some yellow in there as well because Mark’s colours are yellow,” MacDonald said. “I ended up changing them because a lot of people, at times, couldn’t tell the difference between Anthony and I on the track. Mark even called me one day and offered to pay for me to get new ones. If anyone knows Mark, that’s a big statement,” James said with a chuckle.

Anthony, the oldest MacDonald brother, who participated in his first Breeders Crown last year at Woodbine, has plenty of praise for his youngest brother.

“I think James is as talented as any driver around,” Anthony said. “He’s smart, he uses his head and he’s got a great set of hands.”

Anthony, who has banked over $20 million in purses as a driver, made a big comparison.

“He’s Mark,” Anthony said. “There’s not a better way to describe him.”

There's no doubt MacDonald has come a long way in a short period of time.

“I wouldn’t be able to speak if we won,” he said of his initial Breeders Crown experience. “It would be a dream come true. “To be in the race, let alone win it, is just unheard of. I’m just grateful of the opportunity.”

To view the harness racing entries for Saturday at Woodbine, click the following link: Saturday Entries - Woodbine Racetrack.

Please note that first-race post time on Saturday is a special 6:30 p.m.


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