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The Rookie In The Field

Published: September 17, 2018 2:22 pm ET

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Louis-Philippe Roy may be the youngest competitor in Standardbred Canada’s 2018 National Driving Championship (NDC), but in the five short years that he’s been in the sulky on a full-time basis, he’s acquired numerous honours, earned several driving titles, and has crushed track records that even veterans in the sport can only dream of.

On Wednesday, September 26, Roy will make his first NDC appearance and take a shot at the NDC title and the opportunity to wear the red and white colours in the 2019 World Driving Championship (WDC).

Despite being the rookie in the field, the 28-year-old, Mont-Joli, Quebec native doesn’t believe his youthfulness will have an impact on his performance, “I don’t think my age changes very much, I feel I have acquired a lot of experience lately and while being in Ontario, so I am not scared of the veterans competing,” Roy explained with a laugh.

The young reinsman has been driving horses for 11 years in total, devoting his younger years to the Quebec fair circuit, Hippodrome 3R and Rideau Carleton Raceway. His journey as a driver started at age 18 on the fair tracks, and he won his first race in the village of Pabos in just his second start. Fast forward to 2016, Louis secured the title as leading driver at both Hippodrome 3R and Rideau Carleton Raceway, finishing the season with 237 wins and $1.1 million in purse earnings, and landed an O’Brien Award as Canada’s ‘Future Star’.

It was late in 2016 when Roy made the move to Ontario, after catching the attention of many top trainers.

Roy continued to be a driving force on the WEG circuit throughout 2017, and just one year after receiving his coveted O’Brien bust, he was nominated as an O’Brien finalist as Driver of the Year. His ascension from Future Star to Driver of the Year in such a short period of time is unprecedented.

The 2018 season is also proving to be another successful one for Roy. He’s spent the last two years as a top driver on Canada’s premier circuit, and currently sits at the top of the leaderboard for Canadian drivers in both wins (288) and earnings ($4.376 million). He was runner-up in the Ontario Regional Driving Championship which earned him a spot in the NDC, “I am really excited to compete in the National, it would be nice to go to Sweden with James and represent Canada.”

In May of this year he drove Ron Burke trainee Rockin Ron to victory in the first edition of the $150,000 Camluck Classic in a track record time of 1:50.1. On August 11, he recorded his 1,000th career driving victory at Woodbine Mohawk Park with trotting filly Hp Titania Runner in a $98,800 Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event.

Along with these successes, Roy said his most memorable race this year was winning the $415,000 Fan Hanover with Shower Play. “I haven’t won many of the big Grand Circuit races and that was the second time I won one,” he explained. “But it was a little different driving for Rene Dion, Suzie Kerwood and Martin Leveillee from Quebec because they are from smaller stables which makes it more exciting. Because those people don’t win those big races every year it was a great feeling to win for them.”

Along with his outstanding achievements this season, it hasn’t been totally free from mishaps. Roy was involved with what appeared to be a horrific single horse spill in July at Grand River Raceway. Roy was driving Chocolatemilktoast in the evening's fifth race when the filly made a misstep, broke stride and fell. The fall launched Roy forward over the horse and onto the track. Fortunately both Roy and the horse escaped serious injury.

Unscathed but somewhat sore, he only missed one race night and was back in the bike. The young reinsman has little trepidation about competing in the National on the same track, “I have raced at Grand River since the accident. I was there [on Sept. 12] and all was good, I wasn’t thinking about what happened a month or so ago, and I don’t think I will at the National.”

Roy’s progression as a driver over the past few years is impressive, and despite being the youngest driver in the NDC, he’s hoping he can come out on top and represent Canada at the 2019 World Driving Championship in Sweden.

“I would be really excited if I won the National, I watched James last year and the whole time I was wishing I could be in his place during that week and competing in the World Driving Championship. After seeing him win, it made me want to win and have the chance to go and represent Canada.”

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