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Doug McNair: The Son Also Rises

Published: June 8, 2012 5:03 pm ET

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Doug McNair may look like your average 22-year-old, but not too many people his age have the opportunity to drive away a winner in the world's richest standardbred pacing event.

He sports blond, tussled, yet meticulously placed hair, fashioning an Aeropostale t-shirt and jeans with flip flops.

However, when he puts on his maroon, black and white driving suit this Saturday at Mohawk, McNair will be dressed for success.

He finds himself just one race away from the chance to compete in the $1.5-million Pepsi North America Cup, on June 16.

The one race that stands between McNair and his first shot at capturing the coveted Cup is this weekend’s $50,000 elimination. He'll be at the controls of Secretsoftheknight, a three-year-old son of the Ontario sire Mach Three, who is trained by his father, Gregg.

Last year’s winner, Up The Credit, was trained by Carl Jamieson and driven by his son, Jody. It was the first time a trainer-driver, father-son duo won the prestigious classic. This year, they will look to win back-to-back Cups with Canada’s reigning Two-Year-Old Pacing Colt of the Year, Warrawee Needy.

“I hope it’s me and my dad and not someone else and their dad,” quipped Doug, who has 1,409 career victories and has driven his mounts to over $14.8 million in purse earnings. “It would be pretty awesome to make it to the final with anybody’s horse, but when it’s your dad’s, it different. He is definitely one of my idols. He’s the one who got me started. I am very grateful. It would be something special.”

The resident of Guelph, Ont. made his first NA Cup elim appearance when he was 20. He drove two for his dad, OK Commander, who was fifth and Stonebridge Tonic, who finished fourth. Both failed to advance to the final.

Still, it represented a memorable moment for the young driver, especially in the final moments before the race started.

“I was definitely excited and a little bit nervous,” Doug recalled. “It was a big deal.”

This time, there are no butterflies. It’s all excitement. He thrives on the pressure, but for his dad, it's quite the opposite. “I think he actually gets nervous,” said the reinsman. “He might not act like it, but I am pretty sure he does because he’s pretty quiet.”

Secretsoftheknight, who is owned by Tony Lawrence of Hanover, Ont., Leonard Gamble of Etobicoke, Ont., John Newell of Waterloo, Ont. and Graham Hopkins of Chesley, Ont., will go into his elimination fresh off a one-length triumph in his $100,000 Somebeachsomewhere Stakes division, a key prep race for the Pepsi NA Cup.

“He has come back good this year,” offered the 51-year-old veteran trainer, who is known for his success in developing young horses. “He has raced big every start and we haven’t trained him very hard in between trips because he has raced almost every week since we started back with him.”

The colt has crafted a career record of 6-6-1 in 20 outings and $249,989 in lifetime earnings, which also included a win in his Upper Canada Cup elimination in a career-best 1:51.1 on May 19 at Georgian Downs, and a fourth-place finish in the $600,000 final one week later.

“I can’t believe how much he has come along this year,” said Doug. “My dad always liked him, but I can’t believe where he is right now. I remember not even a year ago we were racing him in Dresden and he finished fourth. It’s funny how fast things change in a year.

“He has definitely moved his way up the ranks, from the Grassroots at Dresden to the North America Cup elims... it would be really cool if he wins the final.”

And if he does, Doug could add another record to his already impressive resume. With the win, he would be the youngest driver to ever win the Cup. Drivers Trevor Ritchie, Mark O’Mara and Jody Jamieson won their respective editions at 30.

Doug, who started driving in 2008 when he was 18, has already turned heads with his confident approach in the bike. In his first year of driving, he entered the record books as the youngest driver to post a $1-million season. That same year, he guided Trail Boss to victory in the $300,000 Battle of Waterloo at Grand River Raceway.

It is a moment he hasn't forgotten. It was a family horse, trained and co-owned by his father, along with his grandmother, Gwendolyn.

Two years later, he set another mark. He was the youngest driver in history to reach 1,000 wins before the age of 21.

“I got off on the right foot,” said Doug. “There is talent involved, but I got to drive for a lot of good trainers and they have helped me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without them. It has taken the support of a lot of people to get where I am today.

“It’s a dream come true, really,” he continued. “Scotty (driver Scott Zeron) is rolling right along, too, and he is the same age as me. Most guys don’t get to race full-time at Mohawk and we are doing it already at 22. It’s a great feeling. It’s like playing in the NHL.”

Like Secretsoftheknight, Doug worked his way up to the top. After finishing 18th in 2010 and then 12th in 2011, he cracked the top five in WEG’s driver standings so far this year.

His father, not surprisingly, is quite proud.

“It’s funny, he could always make one go pretty good,” recalled Gregg. “You can’t teach that. He’s got along with horses ever since he started jogging them. We had a broom handle across [the jogger] for his feet to sit on when he was five or six years old. He’s always been good at it.”

Both father and son hope that natural talent and a premier pacer will help lead them to the winner’s circle, not only in their Pepsi NA Cup elimination, but in front of a packed house on June 16.

To view entries for Saturday night's star-studded card of harness racing at Mohawk, click one of the following links:

Saturday Entries - Mohawk Racetrack -- Saturday Program Pages - Mohawk Racetrack

(WEG)


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