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McElroy Milestone Imminent


Published: March 8, 2009 11:12 am ET

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He’s persisted through the peaks and valleys of the racing business and Don McElroy still says there’s nothing else he’d rather be doing as he closes in on the personal milestone of 4,000 lifetime winning drives.

“When I got hurt at Grand River Raceway close to five years ago I was out of the loop for almost three years and that sets a catch-driver back a long ways in this day and age,” said McElroy, a career winner of $18.4 million in purses and 3,997 races. “It takes a while to get back into the regular rotation but even that offers no real guarantees. You take the current meet which started at Western Fair last October; I was the leading driver in the early weeks. But now getting these last few wins to get to the four thousand mark seems to be taking a long time.”

The resident of Ingersoll, ON has some well known career influences. His late mother, Thelma, was a sister to Jack Kopas, enshrined in the Hall Of Fame in both the United States and Canada.

“My uncle Jack really helped me learn about horses and horsemanship during the time I worked for him,” Don explains. “People have forgotten though that my Dad, Ken, was a great driver in his time. He was a great influence on me for the driving side of things. Dad retired from driving in 1985 but at age 75 he’s still going strong. In fact right now he’s on a Florida vacation with Alice and Jack (Kopas).”

Among Don McElroy’s career conquests have been three wins in Western Fair’s marquee annual event, The Molson Pace.

“The first one you always remember with a special memory in your heart just because it was your first time to get to the top of the mountain, so to speak, at your home track” McElroy says of his 1995 win with Armbro La Bamba. “2001 in the Molson Pace was also special too because it was with Intrepid Seelster. He was one of the nicest horses I’ve driven in my career and it’s always a conversation piece to look back on that picture since it was the last year Western Fair had a hubrail.”

McElroy is also a two-time winner of the Lampman Cup, awarded annually to the top driver on the lucrative Ontario Sires Stakes (OSS) trail.

“Since the accident at Grand River my left hand and wrist were rebuilt in London by Dr. Ross at the St. Josephs Health Care Centre Reconstructive Surgery Clinic," Don says. "About the only effect left over from accident is that the hand can get cold first. Dr. Ross had a jigsaw puzzle of broken bones and fragments in that wrist and hand to work with and he basically saved my career and my life in racing. It was a long way back with multiple surgeries and then rehab to get my strength back. I’m fine even in Winter racing with the improved gloves we have now and the shortened post parades."

McElroy was also asked about the new future goals he's been forced to set.

"Even though I’m over 50 I think I’m still relevant and drivers don’t suddenly forget everything they knew about horses overnight," Don says. "I haven't been in the top 20 drivers in the Ontario Sires Stakes since 2004 and that's something I miss the most. Towards May I hope the phone will start ringing as the stakes season approaches. I’d like to start a new streak of being in the top 20 drivers in the Ontario Sires Stakes.”

On March 21st ‘We’re Betting On Brad’

The National Driving Championship (NDC) coming up at Fraser Downs on March 21st has been embraced by Western Fair Raceway’s Marketing Co-Coordinator Jan White for a unique promotion. As part of the ‘March Madness’ promotions that Saturday card is themed “We're Betting On Brad” in Western Fair’s main floor simulcast centre.

The day will of course feature the live simulcast of the action from British Columbia and the London crowd will be treated to a free lunch from a redeemable coupon to come out and cheer on Brad Forward in the competition.

He was Western Fair’s driving champion in 2006 and 2008. Last December, his status as a fan favourite in London was further enhanced when he donated a full program’s driving fees of $1,173 to the Salvation Army Children’s Toys Christmas Fund. Brad won the right to represent Ontario at the NDC in the Provincial final last Fall at Grand River Raceway. In last week's NDC profile on the Standardbred Canada website Forward stated Western Fair is his favourite track.

Over the next two weeks a giant poster will be displayed in the main lobby at the track for patrons and well wishers to sign in support of Brad Forward. The poster will then be sent to Fraser Downs for the March 21st staging of the NDC event.

March Madness, London Style

The March 9 afternoon program at Western Fair is ‘Money Monday.’ Non-winning wagering tickets can be deposited in the second chance drum in the front lobby and cash draws will be made after the ninth, 10th, and 11th races. Other ‘March Madness’ promotions at Western Fair will include the ‘Be Seen In Green’ day on the 17th, a free Western Fair program on the 23rd and ‘Twoonie Tuesday’ on the 30th.

Through June, post time at Western Fair each Monday and Tuesday afternoon is 3:35 p.m. and every Friday evening at 7:05 p.m.

(Western Fair Raceway)

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