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Star Driver To The Island

Published: March 6, 2009 11:47 am ET

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One of Ontario's star drivers will be guest speaker at the Prince Edward Island Standardbred Horse Owners Association's annual dinner and awards banquet, which is set for this Saturday, March 7. Tickets are still available.

The event will be held at the Dutch Inn in Cornwall, PEI. The reception will be at 6:00 p.m. and the banquet at 7:00 p.m.

Paul MacDonell is a lifetime winner of over 4,400 races, $90 million in purse earnings and was the recipient of the 2008 O’Brien Award as Canada's Driver of the Year. He was more than thrilled to get the invite.

"I was a little humbled. I thought it was a nice gesture and I was only too happy to do it," MacDonell told Nicholas Oakes.

'Big Mac' has only been to PEI once before, for a driver’s championship in the mid-'90s. He said he enjoyed it.

"We were treated royally. The hospitality was great, I had fun driving, and we did a little golfing."

Islanders can be found in every nook of harness racing in Canada, which means MacDonell has had to deal with his share of them, but the mild-mannered driver doesn’t mind.

"Islanders I’ve found to be some of the nicest people and the most cordial I’ve dealt with in the business. I’ve dealt with Ian Moore, and Ian Smith, of Rumpus Hanover fame, and I’d still call him a friend today."

MacDonell has driven greats like Peaceful Way and Invitro, but had to think when asked what was the best horse he ever sat behind.

"Ummmm let me think, I don’t know. Somebeachsomewhere," he said with a laugh.

MacDonell was the regular driver for the Somebeachsomewhere, a world champion and winner of over $3 million.

"He’s heads and tail above anything I’ve ever driven. Not to diminish the other horses I’ve driven, they’re great in their own right."

His favourite horse was a trotter he co-owned called Was It A Dream.

"He was a special little horse. He made me a lot of money as an owner, but I can’t discount ‘Beach.’ He was a fun horse and he made memories that will last a lifetime."

Through it all, MacDonell enjoys driving horses.

"It’s obviously my job but it’s more than a job. It’s a challenge every night, you’re up against other drivers that are obviously top quality drivers. It’s just a way of life for me and I don’t know if I could do anything else more successfully."

PEISHOA president Tom Clark is very excited to have MacDonell on hand for the night, and credits Gail MacDonald with securing him to come.

"It's very exciting to have one of the true stars from our sport attending," Clark said. "An individual who is still a young man, but seems to have been a fixture at the upper echelon of the sport for such a long time. His name invariably draws a similar response, that of class."

There are a number of awards to be handed out, recognizing the best of the 2008 racing season, not only for horses but for the human participants as well.

"Not to take away from the accomplishments of our equine stars, and all their connections, but this year we have a wonderful slate of extremely deserving award winners in our people categories."

This year will also see the induction of the new Owner of The Year category, sponsored by Standardbred Canada.

Tickets are $25 and are available at the Charlottetown vet clinic and from any PEISHOA director. You can also contact Tom Clark at [email protected].


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