A familiar face, and former leading driver at The Raceway at Western Fair District, is coming back to London for the Molson Pace. Mark MacDonald has been one of North America's top pilots for many years, but this is one race he has yet to win.
"I've been in ‘The Pace' with some very nice horses,” he said. "Tigerama set the track record there (1:50.4 in 2008) in his elimination, but he drew the outside post in the final and things didn't work out.
"I finished second with Dr. No to Our Lucky Killean (2006) and I've been there with Sand Olls Dexter (2004) and others... Having lived in London and driven there lots – it's just one of those marquee events that a guy like me would love to win.”
There's a ‘tank' of a horse from south of the border that goes by the name of Bandolito, co-owned, trained and driven, for the most part, by Daryl Bier. He's a son of Ponder and MacDonald has yet to sit behind this ‘tank,' but he's very familiar with the Ponder family.
"I know them well,” he stated. "I've driven Ponder and I've driven his stakes champ sons Thinking Out Loud and Bolt The Duer – they're both world class and I think Bandolito is ready for his coming out party, too. He hasn't beaten the big boys yet, but The Pace would be a nice spot to start.”
Bandolito is a lightly raced 4 year old with just 19 career starts, but he has 13 wins, a mark of 1:48f and he's banked over $250,000. Charles Dombeck, Dave Bier and brother Daryl all share in ownership and they've recruited MacDonald to pilot this speed demon is this year's edition of the $150,000 Molson Pace, which will take place Friday, May 30.
"I was at Yonkers watching a race from Dover Downs, in April, and I was like ‘Who is this pacing out of his harness?'”
Turns out it was Bandolito, with Daryl Bier in the bike, cruising to a gate-to-wire 1:48.2 win. In victory, he paced his third quarter in :26.2 and his final quarter in :25.4, which equates to a :52.1 final half-mile.
So it is evident that Bandolito has tremendous speed over the five-eighths ovals, but how will he respond to his first test over the half-miler?
"He's a very slick pacer and he doesn't wear a boot,” said MacDonald. "His speed is just crazy... The half mile track should be just fine for this guy.”
Some say Bandolito rolls along on the lead like the late Riyadh. A front-end, half-mile track specialist who took on the best there was back in the early to mid ‘90s.
"We'll see how he draws and go from there,” added MacDonald. "I know he'll be a serious contender... I know he's ready for the big boys in London... They'll need their ‘A+ Game' to beat him!”
A confident MacDonald will join London track announcer Shannon ‘Sugar' Doyle on Friday's Molson Pace pre-race show to discuss his return to the London oval and offer more insights into this year's Molson ‘Dark Horse.' (Western Fair)