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Hard luck MacDonald suffers more punishment
Monday, May 30, 2011 - by Karen Briggs, USTA Web Newsroom Senior Correspondent

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Karen Briggs
Toronto, ON --- Most people who make a living by sitting in a race bike (or a jogger, for that matter) have a few war stories to tell. Accidents in harness racing are rare, but when they happen, they tend to be horrific.

Top Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit linesman Mark MacDonald knows that better than most. The 32-year-old from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, has suffered more than his share of hair-curling wrecks, most recently this past Thursday night (May 26) at Campbellville, Ontario’s Mohawk oval.

During the 10th race on Thursday’s card, the 1-5 favorite, a sophomore filly named If I Didnt Care, driven by Jody Jamieson, broke stride and went to her knees in the stretch as she was coming on for second. Jamieson’s bike was tipped up in the air and he was able to step off. Most of the field successfully dodged the filly (including MacDonald’s brother Anthony, who was driving Myfellowameripans), but Mark MacDonald and Dancers Cam had no chance of avoiding a collision. They somersaulted over If I Didnt Care, catapulting MacDonald from his seat face-first onto the track, directly in front of the grandstand.

Jamieson suffered only minor bumps and bruises, and was able to resume driving duties the following night at London’s Western Fair Raceway (where, despite a sore shoulder and a case of the post-wreck jitters, he delivered a win in an Ontario Sire Stakes Gold Final with his father Carl’s trotting filly, Lukes Sophie, and was second in the C$300,000 Molson Pace with Art Professor).

The horses involved in the altercation also escaped relatively unscathed.

USTA/Mark Hall photo
Mark MacDonald was injured in an accident at Mohawk this past Thursday.

MacDonald wasn’t so lucky. He was transported to Hamilton General Hospital with severe facial injuries, including a broken nose and jaw, and the reported loss of some of his teeth. He is also reported to have dislocated his right shoulder, which is particularly bad news since he suffered the same injury to the left shoulder just three years ago and had to endure extensive rehab before he could return to driving duties.

It’s another very tough break for the two-time O’Brien Award winner, who celebrated the pinnacle of his career just a year ago, when he captured his first C$1.5 million Pepsi North America Cup with Casie Coleman trainee Sportswriter. That same summer, he and Coleman pupil Western Silk also triumphed in straight heats at the Jugette. MacDonald has been Coleman’s go-to guy for most of her powerhouse pacers and trotters, but he will now be forced to sit out the 2011 edition of the NA Cup (for which Coleman is readying the lightly-raced Betterthancheddar for a possible repeat performance) and, more than likely, the rest of the big summer stakes.

And MacDonald has already spent more nights than he’d care to count, watching racing from a hospital bed. He first injured his left shoulder, as well as shattering his wrist, back in 2002 in a wreck at Windsor Raceway. And his face has borne the brunt of the damage before as well. In January, 2004, he was involved in a horrifying accident at Western Fair, leaving him with a jigsaw puzzle of a mug -- though miraculously, it only kept him out of action for about a month.

“The worst one was when I had my whole face broken a few years ago,” MacDonald recalled while on leave with the shoulder dislocation in 2008. “That one was rough. It shattered my cheekbones, my orbital bones, my jaw… I had something like 100 stitches, and another 30 in my tongue. My jaw was wired shut for a couple of months and I lost weight like crazy. Let me tell you, after a while nothing tastes good coming through a straw! Mashed potatoes and gravy were what kept me alive for a while.”

In his garage, MacDonald still keeps the remnants of his helmet, which was shattered in two, as a reminder of that day. He remarked that if the accident had happened in the days before the modern helmets were legislated, “you wouldn’t be talking to me now, because I’d be dead.”

Though no one has yet confirmed that he will add a second shattered helmet to the collection thanks to Thursday’s disaster, everyone who knows MacDonald is confident of his extraordinary recuperative powers. No one doubts that he will once again rise above his physical challenges and return to the game he loves. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.


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