Truro Raceway will be the host for the Nova Scotia vs. Ontario Drivers Challenge this Sunday, June 4, with four top drivers from Woodbine Mohawk Park flying in to represent Team Ontario, while four of the top drivers in Nova Scotia will represent Team Nova Scotia in the full nine-race challenge.
The event is presented by the Nova Scotia Harness Racing Industry Association and is a fundraising event on behalf of Kidsport, Nova Scotia, an organization that provide grants to help cover the costs of sport registration and equipment fees so that all kids aged 18 and under in Nova Scotia can play a season of sport. There will be limited quantities of commemorative t-shirts sold for the event and there will be 50/50 draw and a charity BBQ, with all proceeds to Kidsport.
Team Ontario will include back-to-back O’Brien Award winner as Canada’s top driver, James MacDonald, along with perennial star drivers Bob McClure, Doug McNair and Louis-Philippe Roy. Team Nova Scotia will be represented by 2022 Truro Raceway driving champion Paul Langille, as well as long-time Truro regular and former driving champion Ernie Laffin. Inverness Raceway will be represented by its 2022 driving champion Redmond Doucet, while driver Mark Pezzarello will carry the torch on behalf of Northside Downs.
The event has been a long time in the making, as it was originally scheduled for 2020, but was derailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Event organizer Christina Saftic is very pleased that the drivers challenge will finally be able to take place.
“This event is long overdue, as it was originally scheduled for 2020," said Saftic, who works for Ontario Racing. "To see it finally come to fruition is very exciting. Being from Truro, it is always great to get home for a fun race card, but to be able to organize something for so many people in the province, to get out and enjoy with a focus on harness racing, was the ultimate goal. It also looks like we will also have a wide range of viewers tuning in from near and far online as well, so that is a bonus!”
For Kingston, P.E.I. native James MacDonald, it will be an East Coast homecoming of sorts, with lots of fans expected to come out and support him from all over the Atlantic provinces. He is looking forward to being part of the event.
“I’m really excited to be heading back to the East Coast," said MacDonald. "I hope we can all put on a great show for the fans. They have supported me throughout my career and I’m looking forward to seeing them in person. It’s also nice to be able to contribute to raising funds for a great charity. It’s going to be a fun day.”
Truro Raceway’s 2022 driving champion Paul Langille thinks it’s a wide-open event that anyone can win based on how the draw turned out for horses and post positions.
“It’s a good-looking race card with eight drives for each driver," said Langille. "Everyone has a chance, I think. I have a couple horses myself that look like they could be ok, but I’m sure everyone feels the same way. I’m sure there will be a lot of kids here to see the Ontario drivers driving here.”
This Sunday will mark driver Bob McClure’s first ever visit to Truro Raceway and he’s looking forward to being part of the event.
“I’m looking forward to meeting some new people and experiencing Truro Raceway and the area for the first time," said McClure. "Driver challenges are always competitive and a lot of fun and, with the funds going to Kidsport, Nova Scotia and helping kids play sports, I’m happy to be a part of it.”
Ernie Laffin has driven at Truro Raceway since 1990 and has long been a mainstay in the drivers colony. Taking part in the challenge will be a special for the reinsman.
“It will be an exciting day for Truro Raceway and our fans," said Laffin. "We’ll have many of the best drivers in Canada taking on many of the top drivers in Nova Scotia. I’m honoured to be a part of it.”
All nine races on the card will be part of the drivers challenge and the team with the most total points from their drives will be the winner. The point system awarded to the drivers will be as follows: five points awarded for a first-place finish; four points awarded for a second-place finish; three points awarded for a third-place finish; two points awarded for a fourth-place finish; and one point awarded for a fifth-place finish. If a horse is scratched or there is not a full field and some drivers are not in the race, each of those situations will result in the driver being awarded two points.
Post time for the Sunday card is 1 p.m. ADT/12 noon EDT. The program will feature Canada’s lowest takeout Pick 5 in Race 1 at 12 per cent, with a $1,500 pool guarantee and a 20-cent minimum, as well as a Superfecta carryover in Race 2 of $279.45. There is also a 15 per cent low takeout Pick 4 in Race 6 with a $750 guarantee. The track’s pre-game show begins a half hour before post time with Melissa Keith and Grady Hachey.
To view Sunday's harness racing entries, click the following link: Sunday Entries - Truro Raceway.
(With files from Truro Raceway)