National harness event coming to Western Fair

By Morris Dalla Costa, The London Free Press

Western Fair Raceway (Postmedia Network file photo)

Western Fair Raceway (Postmedia Network file photo)

The Raceway at Western Fair District has been chosen by Standardbred Canada to stage the 2016 national driving championship on Friday, Oct. 14.

It’s the first time the event will be held in London.

“We submitted a bid to hold the event. It was the first time we submitted for the national. It just seemed like the right time to do it,” Raceway manager Greg Blanchard said.

The Molson Pace is usually the most high profile and biggest waging event of the year for the Raceway.

“I don’t know if it will be as good as the Molson Pace but it will be up there,” he said. “The Molson Pace comes at the end of our season and this comes at the beginning of another season so it’s a good way to start things.

“Anytime you have a driver’s challenge it’s exciting because the fans can follow the points and it gets pretty competitive.”

Four regional driving championships will precede the national: western at Century Downs in Calgary June 26; Ontario at Grand River Raceway in Elora on June 24; Quebec and Eastern Ontario at Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivieres July 12; and Atlantic at Charlottetown Driving Park, June 25.

Regional events will feature either eight or nine drivers, who will compete in a minimum of eight races. Drivers receive points based on their finishing position and the top two advance to the national championship.

Drivers at the nationals will ride in eight or 10 races. Each driver has to race from every start position. The horses are selected randomly.

“Even if a local driver wins his way into the event and there is a horse he’s driven before in a race, there’s no guarantee he’s going to get that horse,” Blanchard said. “There really isn’t a home-track advantage.”

The winner here will represents Canada at the 2017 world driving championship, which will be held in Canada.