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McKinnon Breaks Maiden

Published: October 22, 2008 10:36 am ET

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Charlottetown native Jonathan McKinnon got his first taste of victory Friday, October 17 at Summerside Raceway, as he notched his first-ever driving victory. The successful steer came in what was the first pari-mutuel drive of his budding career.

McKinnon's captured the event with four-year-old Drop Off gelding Mullet Man, owned by Patrick Shepherd of Stratford, PEI.

Mullet Man's regular driver Harold Shepherd was in Ontario to see his son Robert compete in the Ontario Regional Drivers Championship. Harold decided to give Jonathan McKinnon a shot in the driver's seat in his absence.

Shepherd left McKinnon some simple advice. "I just told him to drive him like you own him."

McKinnon explained that he didn't become nervous until he set foot on the racetrack for post parade. He became more nervous when he went behind the starting gate. McKinnon left from Post 4 with his charge. The duo had gone off as the 2-1 second choice and the pair made the front easily. "I knew I was good then," said McKinnon.

The 22-year-old driver then brought the field through fractions of :29, :59.3, and 1:29. McKinnon felt some first-over pressure at the half-mile mark by Southview Magic (driven by Marc Campbell).

"My plans were to get to the half a little slower, but Marc was coming and I didn't want him to get past my wheel," McKinnon said.

Mullet Man then began to open up his lead. "When I saw I was opening up I just kept going. I knew I had it."

The time for the mile flashed to life in 1:58.4 with Mullet Man winning by 10 lengths.

"Pulling up, all seven drivers were congratulating me. I also got a few words of encouragement from Gerard Smith (the starter)."

Fellow driver Brian MacPhee -- who finished second in the race with Lonestar Fighter -- had nothing but praise for McKinnon's drive. "He rated his horse well. I'd have to say he did a tremendous job."

Harold Shepherd was surprised with the horse's performance. "He was dropping a class. I figured he'd win but I didn't think he'd go that fast."

McKinnon says he hasn't set any concrete goals yet.

"Just take one race at a time. If it takes me 20 or 30 more races [to get another win] then that's fine."

Looking back on what is still a very young driving career, McKinnon said that he would've done one thing differently when he was earning his points for his license.

"I wouldn't have won in 1:58 in a qualifier with Senator Seelster (putting a new lifetime mark on the pacer) and made my brother Mark look so bad. Hopefully their's room in this family for two top drivers," McKinnon said with a laugh.

Mullet Man is entered to race again tonight at Summerside Raceway with McKinnon in the bike. The pair have drawn Post 7 in Race 14, which features an eight-horse field. McKinnon and Mullet Man are the fifth choice in the morning line odds, having been assessed early as a 5-1 shot.

To view the entries for the Summerside card, click here.

(Nicholas Oakes is a Journalism student at Holland College, and a columnist with Atlantic Post Calls)

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