After a mid-afternoon rain shower, the $12,500 Bill McDonnell Memorial Invitation Pace was held to honour the memory of the former Grand River Agricultural Society and Ontario Racing Commission director who passed away last September at the age of 79.
“If we go back to Elimira when we were really in trouble in late 80s, it was Bill and Mr. Grey who were running the commission at the time, and without their help, we wouldn’t be here,” noted Dr. Ted Clarke, general manager of Grand River Raceway and the former Elmira Raceway. “So if you’re measuring what effect he had, you could say 100 percent.”
“It’s very emotional,” said Marlene McDonnell, who was on hand for the Industry Day celebrations and the race named after her late husband, “but I know that this would be the biggest honour; there just isn’t any greater. He would be so pleased.”
The McDonnell Memorial was won by the front-striding Saulsbrook Peach and driver Robert Shepherd. Leading front start to finish, the seven-year-old Royal Mattjesty-Atlanta Girl gelding set fractions of :27.3, :57 and 1:25.2 before stopping the clock in 1:54.1 in sloppy conditions. Lets Wait And See (Nick Steward) tipped out near the third quarter mark after Single White Sock (Doug McNair) made little progress first over and came on to finish second, two and a quarter lengths behind the winner, who returned $8.60 to his backers as the 3-1 second choice. Rise Up Now (Sylvain Filion), the 6-5 favourite, follow in third off a pocket trip.
Saulsbrook Peach has been Preferred regular at the Ontario ‘B’ tracks since being claimed in February for $10,000 at Woodbine Racetrack by Catheline Pelletier of Mirabel, Que. The Isabelle Darveau trainee now has six wins from 26 starts this year and seasonal earnings over $40,000.