MacDonald Wins 2024 National Driving Championship

James MacDonald with Sophie Mongeon (L) and Darryl Kaplan (R)
Published: July 5, 2024 03:52 pm EDT

James MacDonald of Guelph, Ont. will represent Canada in the 2025 World Driving Championship after emerging victorious in the 2024 National Driving Championship (NDC) on Friday, July 5 at Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivières, Que.

The 2017 World Driving Champion and three-time O'Brien Award winner as Canada's Driver of the Year, MacDonald — pictured above with (L) Quebec Jockey Club President Sophie Mongeon and (R) Standardbred Canada President & CEO Darryl Kaplan — finished the eight-race tournament with 66 points to top the leaderboard, ahead of Tyler Borth of Ingersoll, Ont. with 53 points and third-place finisher Robert Shepherd of Mirabel, Que., also with 53 points but fewer first-place finishes than Borth. 

The bulk of MacDonald's points were earned through his first five drives of the competition, as he notched three wins and one second-place finish to account for 55 of his 66 points. MacDonald's victories came aboard Rec Time (1:57.4; $2.10) in the second NDC race, Bonfire Bash (2:00; $3.30) in the fourth NDC leg and American Zestar (1:56.1; $2.70, pictured below) in the fifth race of the challenge.

American Zestar and James MacDonald

"It's the best," said a triumphant MacDonald on his emotions after the NDC victory. "Paige [MacDonald, James' wife] and I talked about it a few times. I said, 'You know, I'll probably never get a chance to wear the red and white again.' And it's kind of a tough topic because it's such a great experience. I wish everyone could experience it.

"I'm just so thrilled I get to go to New Zealand and wear the red and white. I love my blue and yellow [MacDonald's traditional colours in his driving suit], but there's nothing better than a whole country cheering for you."

MacDonald praised his fellow drivers and expressed his sincere gratitude to the host track in Trois-Rivières for conducting a top-notch event. Hippodrome 3R played host to the National Driving Championship for the first time in 2024.

"There's no experience like a national driving championship. And I can't say enough about the job they did at the track today. The track was amazing. The crew was amazing. The whole Standardbred Canada staff, they did a great job, and it's just a terrific event."

Presented by Standardbred Canada, the National Driving Championship is the culmination of four Regional Driving Championships to help determine our country's representative in the World Driving Championship. Drivers must earn their way into the National Driving Championship by finishing first or second in their respective Regional Driving Championship. 

The leaderboard from the 2024 National Driving Championship is as follows:

  1. James MacDonald - 66
  2. Tyler Borth - 53
  3. Robert Shepherd - 53
  4. Stephane Brosseau - 50
  5. Phil Giesbrecht - 44
  6. Mike Hennessy - 43
  7. Redmond Doucet - 36
  8. David Dowling - 31

2024 National Driving Championship competitors

The 2024 National Driving Championship competitors: (left to right) Tyler Borth, James MacDonald, Phil Giesbrecht, Mike Hennessy, Redmond Doucet, David Dowling, Stephane Brosseau, and Robert Shepherd.

Here's how the action unfolded in the 2024 National Driving Championship:

NDC Race 1 (3R Race 2):

A slick pocket pop from Tyler Borth approaching the half-mile marker was the winning move as the Ontario represenative forged out to an early lead in the 2024 National Driving Championship. Borth had favoured Mach Play ($3.70) sitting second behind Perfect Romi (David Dowling) heading to the midway point of the mile but moved swiftly to avoid getting locked in by first-over challenger On Cruise Control (Mike Hennessy). That decision proved beneficial as Borth and Mach Play were never headed en route to a 1:59.2 score. Classic Jim recovered tremendously from an miscue to finish second for driver James MacDonald, edging out Perfect Romi for place.

NDC Race 2 (3R Race 3):

James MacDonald took control of the second NDC race and the NDC leaderboard with a wire-to-wire win with 1-9 shot Rec Time ($2.10). MacDonald left to get the front and never had a serious challenge after that point, winning in 1:57.4 over Whitemountaincammy (Robert Shepherd) and Shes Got The Luck (Mike Hennessy).

NDC Race 3 (3R Race 4):

Under a patient first-over drive from driver Tyler Borth, Delgero ($4.70) found his best stride turning for home for an impressive 1:57.3 score to place the orange and brown-clad reinsman back in the lead of the National Driving Championship. Pulling from fourth at the half, Delgero started to apply pressure to pacesetter Granite Beach (Robert Shepherd) and got the job done with an impressive 1:57.3 effort. Granite Beach held second over Butterfly Catcher (David Dowling).

NDC Race 4 (3R Race 5):

A post seven start for James MacDonald and Bonfire Bash ($3.30) was not an issue in the fourth NDC leg, as the 2017 World Driving Champion prevailed for the second time on Friday at Hippodrome 3R. Forced three-wide into that opening turn, Bonfire Bash worked hard to clear stablemate Cleveland Moneyka (Stephane Brosseau) but eventually cleared before a :28.3 quarter. Backing down the middle half through fractions of :58.4 and 1:29, Bonfire Bash was on "vapours" in the lane according to MacDonald but got the job done with the mile timed in 2:00. Cleveland Moneyka nosed out La Bromontoise (Tyler Borth) for second.

NDC Race 5 (3R Race 6):

After two wins on the engine, James MacDonald changed up the tactics and won the fifth NDC leg after a first-over grind with 1-5 choice American Zestar ($2.70). Proberts Legacy (Phil Giesbrecht) fronted the field through panels of :28.3, :58.3 and 1:27.2, but faced pressure from American Zestar from the half-mile point. Those two dueled to the wire with American Zestar a neck the best in the 1:56.1 mile. G A Speed Joey (Robert Shepherd) completed the triactor.

NDC Race 6 (3R Race 7):

Sitting sixth and stuck on the rail, seemingly out of contention at the half, Mybitcoin ($6.50) made a furious last half rally for driver Mike Hennessy to pick off favoured Jimbelina (Phil Giesbrecht) in the late stages of the sixth NDC leg for a Century Downs-esque finish to the 1:55.4 mile -- a new lifetime mark for the daughter of Betting Line. Better Kissthe Men (Stephane Brosseau) rallied for the show spot.

NDC Race 7 (3R Race 8):

Last Try ($3.70) might have been the 4-5 choice on the toteboard, but looked every bit a 1-9 shot with an extremely confident performance to give hometown favourite Stephane Brosseau his first NDC leg win of the day. After making the top from post five, there wasn't an anxious moment for the sophomore son of My MVP, pulling away to a maiden-breaking 2:01.3 score. Drinklikehenry (Mike Hennessy) finished a solid second with Style Of Elegance (Robert Shepherd) rounding out the top trio.

NDC Race 8 (3R Race 9):

Seemingly locked behind a fading PLD Needy (Tyler Borth) heading to the three-quarter mark, Redmond Doucet found room to angle Albert Alpha ($8.40) clear and haul down CL Big Beach in the final strides to close out the National Driving Championship with a 1:55.3 win. Rays Kredit (Stephane Brosseau) rounded out the top trio.

On the eve of the 2024 National Driving Championship, Standardbred Canada presented the NDC Driver Showcase, which took place at La Maison de Débauche in Trois-Rivières, Que. Hosting the NDC Driver Showcase for Standardbred Canada, Mark McKelvie interviewed all eight drivers live to preview the competition. 

Upon their arrival at Hippodrome 3R on Friday, all eight drivers will took part in a meet-and-greet with children and their families who are a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition, the drivers guided some of those children a trip around the track with horses on a double-seated jog cart.

In partnership with Make-A-Wish Foundation, a raffle was held in the foyer of Hippodrome 3R on Friday for a prize package consisting of NDC exclusive merchandise, with all proceeds going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Prior to the card, drivers participated in an autograph session and photo opportunity for the fans in attendance.

For results from the 2024 National Driving Championship card of harness racing, click the following link: Friday Results - Hippodrome 3R.


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

Number of Starters: 7

14 (1), 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 (5) 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 (1) 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)

Have something to say about this? Log in or create an account to post a comment.