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As Fate Would Have It

Published: May 16, 2019 9:32 am ET

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How many times have you heard the phrase, everything happens for a reason? After a while, it becomes a repeated mantra when bad days get worse or good luck can't be believed.

For 2017 World Driving Champion James MacDonald and 2018 National Driving Champion Doug McNair, fate definitely rolled the dice in their favour as they ended up as Canada’s reps to the 2019 World Driving Championship in Sweden.

MacDonald was the runner-up in the 2016 National Driving Championship to winner Brandon Campbell of Alberta. The victory gave Campbell the opportunity to represent Canada in the 2017 World Driving Championship (WDC), but unfortunately, on August 1, Campbell was removed by SC as Canada’s representative following a suspension he received, only 11 days before the kickoff to the 2017 WDC. On August 2, Standardbred Canada announced that James MacDonald would represent Canada in the Worlds, taking place from August 12 – 18 at racetracks across the country.

MacDonald finished the cross-country competition with 211 points, 18 points ahead of runner-up Mika Forss from Finland, and on August 18, in his home province of Prince Edward Island, was crowned Champion of the 2017 World Driving Championship in front of a capacity crowd at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park. Here's a look back at the 2017 WDC.

MacDonald competes in the 2019 event as the defending champion for the International Trotting Association. This will be the first time MacDonald has ever driven in Europe.

“The WDC will be a different style of racing because it brings together drivers from around the world and the style is different from country to country,” he explained. “It’s always an honour to represent your country. I’m looking forward to doing my best and having a great time!”

Fast forward one year. On Friday, September 21, only five days in advance of the 2018 National Driving Championship (NDC), Louis-Philippe Roy contacted Standardbred Canada to withdraw from participating in the event due to some racing commitments that included driving Shower Play in an Ontario Sires Stakes Gold event. The decision came on the heels of the official draft for NDC horses.

McNair, who finished third in the Ontario Regional Driving Championship on May 16 at The Raceway at Western Fair District, was automatically offered the spot and had to agree to drive the horses selected by Roy. McNair jumped at the opportunity, and took full advantage less than a week later by winning four of the eight competition races in the 2018 National Driving Championship at Grand River Raceway to secure his spot and plane ticket to Sweden.

"It's a big thrill," said McNair of earning the NDC title not even a week after his bid for a Triple Crown with Stay Hungry came up short in the Little Brown Jug. "Racing's got a lot of highs and lows. When you have a bad day, it makes these days a whole lot better."

McNair will wear the red and white as Canada’s representative. When asked if he thanked Louis-Philippe Roy for making his spot available, he laughed, “Yes, I thanked him the night of the NDC.”

“To take part in the WDC is a huge deal! I’m really looking forward to it and I’ve been excited about it since I won the National,” said McNair. “I think the racing will be a lot harder because of the larger field sizes and different distance races.”

Let’s hope that fate, in the form of good luck, is on the side of MacDonald and McNair in the 2019 WDC and that a sixth World Driving Championship title for Canada is within reach.

The first leg of the WDC will be at Solvalla with three races on Friday, May 24 and one race on Saturday, May 25. There will be no races on the Elitloppet day on Sunday. Lindesbergs Fornaboda track will host the third leg and five races on Monday (May 27), followed by five more races on Tuesday (May 28) at Sundbyholm in Eskilstuna, then an additional five races at Dalatravet Rättvik on Wednesday (May 29). After a one day break the 2019 World Driving Champion will be crowned on Friday, May 31 after the final five races at Gävle.

If you’re planning on attending Woodbine Mohawk Park on Saturday, May 18 for Fireworks Family Night, stop by the Standardbred Canada booth and sign the Good Luck banner. Doug & James will be on hand to meet and greet racing fans from 5:30 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

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