The Future Star winner at the 2017 O’Brien Awards, driver Brett MacDonald certainly delivered on that promise with a breakout year in 2020.
While still a tender 24 years of age, MacDonald was Canada’s second-winningest driver last year, amassing 279 victories and capturing top honours at Clinton Raceway, Flamboro Downs and Georgian Downs in just his sixth full season of driving. Like many top horsepeople, MacDonald was born into the sport, and the pull of the racetrack proved too strong for him to pursue another profession.
“I knew I wanted to do it at a very early age,” MacDonald said in a recent profile by the Hamilton Spectator. “My family was into it and I simply did not like school. I did graduate high school and did some classes in the electrician and other trade fields, but it was always about the horses.”
And, for MacDonald, it truly is all about the horses — day in and day out.
Brett MacDonald guides Avatar J to victory at Western Fair
From his home base in Freelton, Ont., MacDonald‘s commute to Flamboro Downs is a paltry 15 minutes, but with Clinton, Georgian and The Raceway at the Western Fair District all over an hour away, the youthful reinsman puts up with a demanding road schedule in order to stay competitive on Ontario’s “triple-A” circuit and try to break into harness racing’s big leagues at Woodbine Mohawk Park.
“It’s seven nights a week in the winter driving and six in the summer,” he continued. “But if one wants to do this, there is no other way.”
And if that weren’t enough, he spends most mornings assisting his father, Ron, in maintaining a 16-horse stable — and having the odd drive at Mohawk behind some of the stable’s promising young performers.
By way of a perpetual, relentless grind of long days and long drives, MacDonald is building some serious momentum. Since moving west from Rideau Carleton Raceway at the end of 2017, his mounts have earned more than $1.2 million and he has driven at least 180 winners each of the last three seasons. And while a seat in Canada’s top colony may be the ultimate goal, MacDonald will be content with maintaining his current trajectory through 2021:
“I’m very happy with my year, winning 279 races and nearly $1.8 million in purses. Both are personal highs. I won’t go into 2021 with any specific goals other than to do better.”