By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express
An Oshawa native is being honoured for his career in horse racing.
Paul MacDonell is joining the list of this year’s Class of 2020 inductees into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (CHRHF).
“It feels great, it really does,” says MacDonell of the recognition. “There’s a very small amount of people in the hall of fame and to be a part of it, it’s really, really something.”
Founded in 1976, the CHRHF inducts 10 people and horses from categories, including Builders, Jockeys, Trainers, Drivers, Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds. MacDonell joins the roster as a Standardbred Driver.
MacDonell’s driving career is highlighted by both consistency and superstars, with earnings surpassing $1 million for 33 consecutive years, due in part to piloting such horses as Hall of Fame Honoured Members Somebeachsomewhere, Admirals Express, and Invitro.
“I raced a horse called Somebeachsomewhere who will probably go down in history as one of the best race horses of all time, and that includes the world,” says MacDonell. “He was a dynamic horse that everyone followed back in 2008, and he was just one of those super heroes, like Secretariat from the Thoroughbred side, or Northern Dancer,” he continues.
“Somebeachsomewhere was, in our business of harness racing, Standardbred side, one of the best of all time.”
Macdonell has also been the primary pilot for millionaires Village Jiffy, Village Connection, Elusive Desire, Bigtime Ball and Laddie.
The Oshawa native’s major stakes victories include three Metro Paces, five Confederation Cups, and eight Breeders Crowns, as well as a record 16 Ontario Sires Stakes Super Finals to his credit.
MacDonell was also awarded an O’Brien Award as the 2008 Canadian Driver of the Year, and to date, has chalked up more than 15,000 top three finishes, 5,623 wins, and has driven horses to in excess of $122 million in purse earnings.
MacDonell attributes his successful career to his love for horses, which started at a young age.
“My dad had a few horses in the Oshawa area. He worked at General Motors and did it part time. After school I would go to the barn with my dad,” he says, adding that he was around 10 or 11 years old at this time.
“I fell into looking after the horses with him and helping him out, which then graduated into a career of harness racing,” says MacDonell.
MacDonell explains you start with getting your trainer’s licence and then you graduate to become a driver. He started his driving career at Kawartha Downs when he was 18, about 38 years ago, and remains active in the business today. The now Guelph resident continues to race, and mostly works in training the horses for competition.
“I think most of it is just my love of the horses, I love being around the animals, and then of course getting them ready to compete.
And as MacDonell reflects on his accomplishments throughout his career, his advice for up-and-comers in the industry is simple.
“It’s just like any career. It doesn’t happen overnight,” says MacDonell. “You have to really invest in it. It’s hard work. It’s not easy. Just like any professional that’s made it to a high level, you have to invest and you have to really, really work at it.”