Guelph’s McNair dominant in National Driving Championship

ELORA – Doug McNair of Guelph was in dominating form Wednesday as he captured the Canadian harness racing national driving championship at Grand River Raceway.

Such was McNair’s dominance that he had the title wrapped up with two races to go in the eight-race championship.

“It’s a big thrill,” McNair said of winning the national title during the meet broadcast. “Racing’s got a lot of highs and lows. When you have a bad day, it makes these days a whole lot better.”

Last week McNair’s ride Stay Hungry was scratched from the final of the Little Brown Jug at Delaware County Fair after being penalized for interference in the first turn of his heat race. They were placed fourth to gain a berth in the final.

McNair won four of the eight races in Wednesday’s National Driving Championship.

Canada’s driver of the year in 2017, McNair has won more than 3,000 races and almost $50 million in purse earnings.

However, he wasn’t originally scheduled to race in the NDC, but was a last-week replacement for Louis-Philippe Roy who withdrew due to racing commitments he already had this week.

Trevor Henry and Roy had earned berths in the NDC by finishing first and second respectively in the Ontario Regional Driving Championship at The Raceway at Western Fair in May. McNair was third in that championship and was offered Roy’s spot when Roy withdrew. So late was McNair’s addition to the eight-driver field that he had to race the horses that Roy had drawn.

“It’s my first national championship,” McNair said after hearing of his addition to the field earlier this week. “It is a tough way to earn the spot, and I do feel for Louis. I haven’t seen the horses I’ll be driving yet but I’m excited and pretty sure I’ve got a good shot.”

Wednesday, McNair won with Dry Creek Image, Jdcyril, Donald Doc and Lumiere. He also had two second-place finishes and a third-place finish to win with 92 points. A perfect run of eight wins is worth 120 points. Stephane Brosseau was second at 62 and was followed by Kelly Hoerdt at 51, Guy Gagnon at 43, Gilles Barrieau at 40, Redmond Doucet at 38, Henry at 29 and Jamie Gray at 21.

McNair figured early on in the NDC that it was going to be a good night when he won the second race of the tournament with Dry Creek Image.

“When that horse from the eight-hole won parked the whole way, I figured I had a good shot since a lot of my better ones were later on,” he said.

McNair and Dry Creek Image won from outside post 8 with a stretch run to grab a slim win.

McNair and 2017 world driving champion James MacDonald will represent Canada at next May’s world championship meet in Sweden.

“I think we’re gonna have a whole lot of fun,” McNair said. “It’s going to be a great time.”

  • Guelph Sports Journal