Giesbrecht Wins 2024 Western Regional Driving Championship

Keystone Tenacious and driver Phil Giesbrecht
Published: May 11, 2024 07:18 pm EDT

Fresh off his first million-dollar season in the sport, Phil Giesbrecht now has a chance for another first in harness racing: representing Canada on an international stage.

On the strength of a natural hat trick to conclude the day, Giesbrecht edged out Mike Hennessy by one point to win the 2024 Western Regional Driving Championship (WRDC), presented by Standardbred Canada, on Saturday, May 11 at Century Downs Racetrack & Casino outside Calgary, Alta. 

Giesbrecht swept the final three races in the competition, winning the sixth leg with Short Sell Hanover, the penultimate race with Military Man and the finale aboard Keystone Tenacious (pictured above).

In an interview after the competition, Giesbrecht acknowledged that a challenge such as the WRDC is closer to a marathon than a sprint. His path to victory on Saturday is proof positive. Sitting seventh and second last after the first five legs of the competition, Giesbrecht finished with a flourish. The bulk of his 62 total points came in his three wins (45 total points there) to provide a summary that bested Hennessy, the 2022 WRDC winner, by a single point.

"It's just a good feeling right now," said Giesbrecht, who felt the back half of his Saturday roster was stronger than the front four. "It was a fantastic day, the weather was perfect and Century did a great job hosting."

A native of Manitoba, Giesbrecht, 35, cut his teeth driving on the fair circuits in Manitoba and Saskatchewan some 15 years ago, making his move to Alberta in 2008. He posted career best numbers for wins (120) and purse earnings ($1.124 million) in 2023 despite losing time with a broken wrist. Lifetime, Giesbrecht sports 1,236 wins with $8.16 million in purses. 

By finishing one-two in the WRDC, Giesbrecht and Hennessy join defending champion Doug McNair and Ontario's Tyler Borth and James MacDonald in the 2024 National Driving Championship (NDC), presented by Standardbred Canada, on July 5, 2024 at Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivières, Que.

The field of nine NDC drivers will be finalized after the Atlantic Regional Driving Championship on Saturday, May 25 at Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and the Quebec / Eastern Ontario Regional Driving Championship on Sunday, June 2 at Hippodrome 3R.

Western Regional Driving Championship drivers

(L-R): Standardbred Canada Chair Blair Corbeil, Mike Hennessy, Dave Kelly, Phil Giesbrecht, Alberta Standardbred Horse Association Executive Director Nancy Retzlaff, David Hudon, Blake Piwniuk, Scott Knight, Nathan Sobey, Kelly Hoerdt.

Here's how the action unfolded. 

WRDC Leg 1 (Race 4):

Iknowyouknow and driver Mike Hennessy picked off favoured Woodmere Arthrjane (David Kelly) in the final strides of a 1:58.1 mile to give the 2022 WRDC winner an early lead in the standings. The second choice on the toteboard, Iknowyouknow paid $6.80 to win. Kelly Hoerdt and Deo Doro completed the top trio.

WRDC Leg 2 (Race 5):

Triple Lane Mister tried to make every call a winning one for driver David Hudon, but Blue Who ($6.30) and Scott Kinight gave that rival something to cry about when all was said and done. Popping the pocket around the final turn, 2-1 choice Blue Who got up to edge out a valiant Triple Lane Mister in 1:57. Lisplaced closed well to finish third for Mike Hennessy.

WRDC Leg 3 (Race 6):

Attacking from third over, A Bettor Moment ($13.70) gave Mike Hennessy his second win of the day with an off-the-pace score in 1:56. Following AK Black Badger (Nathan Sobey) three-wide down the backside chasing pacesetter Sporty jewels (Scott Knight), A Bettor Moment stayed in the three path around the last turn and slingshotted home for the going-away win. AK Black Badger and Hard Ticket (David Kelly) completed the top trio.

WRDC Leg 4 (Race 7):

Scott Knight picked up his second win the WRDC legs, with a five-star drive on 6-5 favourite Five Star Dragon ($4.60). Knight positioned Five Star Dragon second over at the half behind a parked-the-route Matchmakers Pick (Kelly Hoerdt), then quickly shifted three-wide with Yenoh Who (David Hudon) making gains behind him to angle into the four path. Five Star Dragon and Yenoh Who cleared pacesetter Big Boy Mallow (Phil Giesbrecht) and Matchmakers Pick heading into the far turn, with Five Star Dragon pulling away to win by three in 1:56.2. Yenoh Who finished second, with Iyam A Vertical (Mike Hennessy) nabbing show dough.

WRDC Leg 5 (Race 8):

Moonstruck ($5.60) delivered as the 9-5 choice to give Kelly Hoerdt his first leg win in the WRDC. Sitting third for the first half after opening splits of :28 and :57,, Moonstruck was asked to attack a resolute pacesetter Goodbye Ceia Later (Nathan Sobey) and those two mares traded blows through a 1:25.1 third station and around the far turn. In the lane, Moonstruck said adios to Goodby Ceia Later and pulled away for the 1:53.4 decision. Goodbye Ceia Later finished second, with Jamaica Move (David Hudon) nabbing show dough.

WRDC Leg 6 (Race 9):

Under a confident and patient drive from Phil Giesbrecht, Short Sell Hanover ($2.80) delivered at 2-5 to win the sixth leg of the Western Regional Driving Championship. Cenalta Flash (Mike Hennessy) made the early speed on the lead, carving out panels of :28, :57 and 1:26.3. At this point, Hennessy was under siege from an amped-up Short Sell Hanover, three-wide and gaining at that point. As the tight field turned for home, Short Sell Hanover found the straighaway to her liking and sprinted off for the 1:57.1 score. Baby Badger (Scott Knight) edged out Donoharm (Dave Kelly) for second.

WRDC Leg 7 (Race 10):

In a thriling three-across finish, Military Man ($6.40) and Phil Giesbrecht held off a hard-closing Needabankloan (David Kelly) and Tajmania (Nathan Sobey) in a lifetime best 1:54.1 mile. Military Man came first up at the half on pacesetter Bay Street Buddy (Dave Hudon) and the horse responded with the mile of his life to create a very competitive final leg with the majority of the drivers still in contention. 

WRDC Leg 8 (Race 11):

Phil Giesbrecht clinched the Western Regional Driving Championship thanks to trainer Travis Ellis' third winner of the day, Keystone Tenacious. The nine-year-old pacer went road the down and the 6/5 co-favourite repelled all rivals with a confident 1:53.1 score over Tin Can Timmy (Dave Kelly and) and Redstone Arsenal (Mike Hennessy).

Here's the official WRDC leaderboard:

  1. Phil Giesbrecht - 62
  2. Mike Hennessy - 61
  3. Scott Knight - 56
  4. David Kelly - 52
  5. Nathan Sobey - 49
  6. David Hudon - 43
  7. Kelly Hoerdt - 42
  8. Blake Piwniuk - 11

For the results from Saturday's card of harness racing, click the following link: Saturday Results - Century Downs.


The Regional Driving Championships and the National Driving Championship will adopt the point system utilized in the World Driving Championship. Points will be awarded on the order of finish as follows:

Number of Starters: 8

15 points (1st), 10 (2), 7 (3), 5 (4), 4 (5), 3 (6), 2 (7), 1 (8).

Number of Starters: 7

14 points (1st), 9 (2), 6 (3), 4 (4), 3 (5), 2 (6), 1 (7).

In the event of a scratch, the driving rep drawn to a horse shall drive the ‘also eligible’ horse.

In the event of a horse being scratched or where no horse is available, five points shall be awarded to the driver concerned. If a horse is disqualified or a horse and driver fail to complete the race, they will receive one point.

In the event of a dead heat for any placing in any race, the points for the horses involved will be added together and divided equally among the drivers concerned (eg. If there’s a dead heat for third between two horses, the points for third and fourth place will be added and divided among the drivers).

(Standardbred Canada)

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