Driver Mark MacDonald reached the 5,000-victory milestone Monday night, winning Yonkers Raceway's sixth race with the pacing mare Midnight Mass.
MacDonald won the $14,500 event as the odds-on ($3.30) choice (1:56.2), returned to the winner's circle for the requisite 60 percent pomp and 40 percent circumstance, then had to wait out a judge's inquiry involving possible stretch interference. The results stood, and MacDonald, accompanied by his lovely better half, Alea-Ashly Kaufman, was allowed to keep the congratulatory sign.
The 33-year-old MacDonald, a native of Charlottetown, PEI, was a Toronto circuit standout for years. He migrated stateside (Middletown, NY), making Yonkers his base of operation since beginning his 2012 racing season in late February. He is currently ninth in the local standings.
"As I was getting closer (to 5,000), I started to think about it more," MacDonald said. "I couldn't be happier with the way things have worked out since I made the move. Everywhere I've driven, people have treated me very well. I've had support from a lot of trainers like Mark Ford and Peter Foley, and I really appreciate it.
"I was returning from a serious injury, and I know I came back too soon (last season). So, I took time off through the end of the season and into early 2012, and thought it was a good time to make the change.
"I had to get back to being comfortable in the sulky again, then learn Yonkers and the other tracks I've been driving (Tioga, Pocono, Meadowlands).
"I've found Yonkers to be the toughest half-mile track I've ever driven. In some ways, it's like a big track, because you can't move three-wide here too early.
MacDonald takes his seat behind the Foley-trained Bolt the Duer--second in the Art Rooney Pace here--for Saturday's $600,000 final of the Meadowlands Pace.
MacDonald's resume, which began with a win behind Make it Music in a "quarter claimer" at Rideau Carleton Raceway in June of 1997 ("I was 17, but I had a USTA license [through the Maritimes], so Ontario let me drive"), includes personal bests in 2006 of wins (745) and purses (more than $10.1 million).
He won that season's Little Brown Jug with Mr. Feelgood, added a pair of Breeders Crowns (2007 Mare Pace-Moving Pictures and 2011 3-Year-Old Colt/Gelding Pace-Betterthancheddar) a North America Cup (2010-Sportswriter) and a pair of O'Brien Awards as Canada's leading driver. His career purse earnings exceed $60.6 million.
Yonkers continues its normal five-night-per-week live schedule, with first post every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:10 PM. Evening simulcasting accompanies all live programs, with afternoon simulcasting available around the NYRA schedule.