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MacDonald hitches his race bike to Arts Star
May 25, 2009
By Sandra Snyder

LONDON, ON — Not Enough made it a tough decision, but Mark MacDonald is a man of his word, so the Cambridge resident will be sitting behind Arts Star in Friday night’s $130,000 Gold Final for three-year-old pacing fillies.

“It was a tough decision. They are two very comparable fillies,” admits MacDonald, who piloted both Not Enough and Arts Star to elimination victories at Western Fair Raceway last weekend. “They both raced really super, but I am a man of my word, so I’m driving Arts Star.”

Long before the entries were submitted for last week’s elimination round, Arts Star co-owner Steve Calhoun had asked MacDonald if he would commit to driving the filly in the Gold Series season opener. MacDonald had driven Arts Star throughout her two-year-old season, and Calhoun wanted some assurance that the talented reinsman would be back in the race bike for the sophomore campaign.

The men have a long standing business relationship and MacDonald was confident in the Modern Art daughter’s skills, so he gave Calhoun his word that Arts Star would be his first choice when race day arrived.

When the draw results were published for last Friday’s elimination, MacDonald had his choice of two mounts in each $40,000 contest. He opted for Arts Star in the first and Not Enough in the second, making it clear to Not Enough’s trainer Tracy Brainard that he was committed to the other filly if it came down to a choice in the final.

In the first elimination MacDonald fired Arts Star off the gate from Post 5 and dropped her into second behind last year’s division champion St Lads Popcorn, then powered past the leader in the stretch to claim a three-quarter length victory in 1:56.2. Two races later the reinsman sent Not Enough to the front from Post 3 and that filly cruised home a one length winner in 1:55.1.

“It was definitely a tough choice,” admits MacDonald. “And I don’t even think she (Not Enough) was at her best last week. I expect she’s the one to beat, no question about it.”

Brad Forward will pick up the drive on Not Enough in Friday’s Gold Final, and the pair will start from the trailing Post 8. MacDonald will steer Arts Star from Post 6, and says that the reason it was easy to commit to the filly is the same reason he is not losing any sleep over the outside post.

“Fortunately for me, Arts Star is really handy,” he explains. “She had the five-hole last week and she really handled the half-mile good. We screamed out of there and landed in the two-hole, but I could have kept going if I had wanted to. She’s got great gate speed and a good brush; she’s handy enough to overcome it (Post 6) I think.”

Interestingly, MacDonald admits he would not have been as confident in the filly’s prospects last season. Although Arts Star posted three wins, four seconds and one third in 11 starts and earned $185,800 for Chatham residents Steve Calhoun and Michael Lindley, and trainer Casie Coleman’s West Wins Stable of Cambridge, the filly was what her driver calls a “pistol”.

“At two she was a nice filly, but she was green all year, she wouldn’t relax,” explains MacDonald. “She was always a bit of a pistol, she couldn’t settle off the gate. That was her Achilles heel as a two-year-old.

“Now she’s got where she’s nice and quiet — you can leave with her and put her in a hole. She’s improved a lot. Casie’s crew did a great job with her,” he adds.

With her newfound versatility, MacDonald expects that Arts Star will be a force to be reckoned with on the Gold Series circuit this summer.

“She is a big, good looking filly. She wears a long hopple, goes with a low head and doesn’t wear a boot,” he notes. “If she stays sound and has some racing luck here and there, she should have a really good summer.”

The pair would love to see that racing luck come into play in Friday’s Gold Final, which goes postward as Race 5 on Western Fair Raceway’s marquee night, featuring the $283,000 Molson Pace Final in Race 10. Post time for Friday’s talent-laden program is 7:05 pm.

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