CAMPBELLVILLE, August 14 – Finland’s Mika Forss took the lead in the 2017 World Driving Championship standings with three straight victories in the second leg of the competition on Monday evening (August 14) at Mohawk Racetrack in Campbellville, Ont.
Canada’s James MacDonald kicked off the second leg of the five-city World Driving Championship, hosted by Standardbred Canada, at his home track with a victory in the first trotting contest of the series aboard the late-closing Mystery Bet ($7.40).
MacDonald, who entered the second leg sitting second in the standings with 50 points behind The United States’ Marcus Miller (57 points), took the lead briefly on his home turf with the win, which was his third of the tournament that began in Alberta on Saturday at Century Downs.
However, Finland’s Mika Forss was a force to be reckoned with in the remainder of the second leg. He arrived at Mohawk sitting sixth in the point standings, but climbed to the top of the leaderboard by the end of the night.
Forss sent pacer Dialamara ($3.60), the 2-1 second choice on the toteboard, to the lead from post six before the first turn and never looked back en route to a two-length victory in 1:53.3. It was a rare drive and just his second win on the pace for the European trotting specialist.
The Finnish representative then fanned 6-5 favourite Lights Go Out ($4.70) three-wide off cover approaching the third quarter mark in the next race and took over command in the stretch with the pacing mare drawing off by three lengths to stop the clock in 1:54.3.
Overcoming the outside post 10, Forss won the fourth and final race of the Mohawk leg with Mego Moss ($81.40), who swept off cover turning for home and trotted away for the 39-1 upset in 1:54.2.
“I have to say, I love Mohawk!” laughed Forss, who celebrated his third victory by performing a dab in the sulky as he crossed the finish line.
Forss now leads with 95 points heading into the third leg of the WDC, which will be held tomorrow evening (August 15) at Georgian Downs in Innisfil, Ont.
“No [pressure] because it’s a different day, different horses,” said Forss. “We’ll see, I’ll do my best in all the races and we’ll find out.”
The competition featuring 11 top international harness drivers remains fierce. MacDonald ranks second, only eight points behind Forss, while first leg leader Marcus Miller is third with 74.5 points just ahead of defending WDC champion Dexter Dunn of New Zealand, who climbed three spots with a solid performance that included three runner-up finishes in the Mohawk races. Shane Graham (Australia) and Bjorn Goop (Sweden) are tied for fifth with 62 points each, followed by Gerhard Mayr (Austria), Mark Purdon (New Zealand), Noel Baldacchino (Malta), Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) and Rik Depuydt (Belgium).
Following Tuesday’s Georgian Downs leg, the action will move to Trois-Rivières, Que. on Wednesday, August 16, where Hippodrome 3R will host the fourth leg. After that, the drivers will head to Prince Edward Island’s Red Shores Racetrack and Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park for the fifth and final leg of the Championship on Friday, August 18, one of the major highlights of Old Home Week.
The top point-earner at the end of the five legs will be declared the 2017 World Driving Champion and win $25,000 in prize money.
The World Driving Championship – along with the 25th anniversary edition of the World Trotting Conference, to be hosted in Charlottetown – are both held every two years and will coincide with the 250th Anniversary of horse racing in Canada, and Canada 150 celebrations.
2017 WORLD DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERBOARD
Rank – Driver (Country) – Points
1. Mika Forss (Finland) – 95
2. James MacDonald (Canada) – 83
3. Marcus Miller (United States) – 74.5
4. Dexter Dunn (ITA/New Zealand) – 71
5. Shane Graham (Australia) – 62
5. Bjorn Goop (Sweden) – 62
7. Gerhard Mayr (Austria) – 57
8. Mark Purdon (New Zealand) – 52
9. Noel Baldacchino (Malta) – 49
10. Eirik Hoitomt (Norway) – 44.5
11. Rik Depuydt (Belgium) – 43