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McNair On His Hot Start To 2020

Published: February 9, 2020 1:15 pm ET

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He notched 180 victories and steered his drives to $4.72-million in purses in 2019, but the season left a bad taste in the mouth of reinsman Doug McNair. He promised himself he would come back bigger and better in 2020. The proof has been in the pudding thus far, and the Woodbine Mohawk Park driving colony has been forced to deal with his wrath.

From 166 starts so far in 2020, McNair has tallied 38 wins, accrued a UDR of .354, and has guided his charges to $508,910 in purses. Canada’s 2017 driver of the year is currently riding a high that has taken him to the top of the standings at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Things are definitely clicking, but McNair isn’t taking it for granted.

“It just kind of rolls like a snowball when you get rolling like that,” McNair told Chad Rozema on Saturday night (Feb. 8) during the ‘Woodbine Racing Live’ broadcast. “Everybody wants to use you (when you’re hot). That’s what you need if you want to be one of the leading drivers: you need to drive for all the guys, not just the top guys, but any ‘small time’ guys that bring good, live horses in here. You just want to get listed on them first or backup on them. If you get on the right horses, that’s definitely what’s set me ahead of the rest of the guys this year: I’ve just been on live horses and it really helps.”

What has also helped is McNair’s refocus when it comes to his sulky craft. He’s racing like he has something to prove – to himself, if no one else.

“I didn’t have a huge year last year. I made some mistakes on and off the track. I was off in January and then I was off for another six weeks in November and part of December, so I made a few mistakes and I’m just happy to be back on the right track.”

McNair went on to say, “I’ve actually been going to the gym quite a bit for the past couple of months, more than I have in the past. I took a month off of drinking… so just to focus more on racing, sort of block everything else out and focus on one thing. I think that really helps when you’re driving racehorses: to stay in shape mentally, and physically, too, because I really think that weight makes a pretty big difference.”

Doug McNair, pictured victorious at Woodbine Mohawk Park.

Post position has been a renewed topic of discussion at Mohawk as of late, and McNair answered a viewer question in regard to starting spots at the Campbellville, Ont. oval. When asked whether Post 1 is a positive or negative at Mohawk, McNair opined that it is the latter if you want to get your horse involved in the race early.

“You can make the front off the rail,” said McNair, “but you have to go as hard as you can from the time you get out of the turn to the time you get to the first turn. So, I’d take [Post 1] over the nine hole, but it’s a tough spot to get out of, especially with a young trotter or a tricky-gaited horse. You’ve really got to watch in the first few steps, because the gate comes back and then jumps ahead, but [if you’re looking to get away in the] middle of the pack it’s not a bad spot.”

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