Paul MacDonell, Randy Waples honored to be joining the Legends Day lineup

The two drivers, due to be inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in August, will join the lineup of eight other Hall of Famers on June 12 at Clinton Raceway.

by Dave Briggs

Driver Paul MacDonell may be making his first appearance at Legends Day on June 12, but he has been at Clinton Raceway in spirit for all previous 10 editions. A giant photo of him driving Lifetime Dream to victory in the 1993 Breeders Crown Mare Trot for local trainer Butch Elliott is prominently displayed on the back of the Clinton grandstand.

“I have that connection with Clinton and I always love going there. First of all, Butch Elliott is a good friend who trained her and I like to see him every so often, so it’s cool to reconnect there,” MacDonell said.

Lifetime Dream’s Breeders Crown victory at Mohawk Raceway near Toronto capped off a wild celebration in Clinton.

“It was a big day… a big thing back then for that community,” MacDonell said.

So big that MacDonell is guessing he might hear more about Lifetime Dream from Clinton racing fans than another superstar horse he drove: Somebeachsomewhere.

Joining MacDonell as a first-time Legends Day legend this year is driver Randy Waples. Both Waples and MacDonell will be officially inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame in August.

At Clinton, they will join fellow Hall of Famers Doug Brown, Steve Condren, Wally Hennessey, Trevor Ritchie and Waples’ father, Ron, in contesting the $15,000 Legends Day Trot. Hall of Famers John Campbell, Bill O’Donnell and Dave Wall will also be at Legends Day to sign autographs.

Those appearing at this year’s Legends Day have collectively earned nearly $1.2 billion in their racing careers (by Standardbred Canada accounting).

“It’s quite an honor to even be associated with those guys, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to it,” MacDonell said.

Randy was even more effusive about becoming a Legends Day legend: “I’m wickedly pumped for it,” he said.

Though, he stressed he was humbled to even be considered to joining the other superstars on the track and at the autograph table.

“Say you’ve got O’Donnell on one side and my father on the other side and then someone is coming down the line to get autographs, I think it’s going to flash into my head, ‘Man, they really don’t want to ask me for this autograph, but they don’t have a whole lot of choice,’” Randy said, laughing.

“I have a tough time putting myself with those guys… These are my heroes. Every one of them, they were all my heroes, Randy said. “These guys are just in a completely different echelon than I put myself in… Though, when I was driving, I was never intimidated by them. I don’t think I was intimidated by anybody, but I revered them.

“It’s not just Brownie and the Condren, it’s O’Donnell and the Ronnie Waples and John Campbell… it’s Trevor Ritchie, Paul MacDonell.

“Watching Trevor behind the gate, he could get his body to go with the trotter. I’ve never seen anybody do that… He had a way that when a horse would trot that his body would move the same way… There were times behind the gate with him when I thought he was going to lose a trotter… he’d be trotting, but not trotting solid and his body would adjust with the way that that horse was trotting and the next thing you know that horse would set and then he’d go.”

Both Randy and MacDonell said being part of Legends Day likely will solidify the fact they are due to be inducted into the Hall of Fame later this summer.

“Once I get amongst them and get there and get involved in it, it’ll probably hit home a little harder then,” MacDonell said. “Just to be able to hang around those types of guys and be a part of it… I’m just really looking forward to it.”

Randy said he’s looking forward to driving against his father in the Legends Day Trot.

“As I get a little bit older and as I watch my father get older… he’ll be 76 this year, I don’t know how many more times I have to drive against him,” Randy said. “He’s my guy… In the early days, I think I spent more time watching what he was doing in a race than watching what I was doing in a race.”

Having two generations of the Waples family appearing at Legends Day will be a treat. Sadly, the opportunity to honour the immense contribution three generations of the clan has made to harness racing was lost when Keith Waples died in 2021 at the age of 97. Keith was Ron Waples’ cousin.

Still, this year’s Legends Day is sure to be a celebration, particularly after being postponed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, as it has in recent editions, will raise money for the Clinton Public Hospital Foundation.

There will be an online auction from June 5-9 at
. On Legends Day itself, there will be a silent auction, autographs with the Legends from 2-3 p.m., the Legends Day Trot will hit the track at 4 p.m. and a chicken barbeque will follow the races. All the food has been donated and all sales will, again, go to the Foundation.

Previous editions of Legends Day have raised more than $260,000 for the foundation. In 2019, Legends Day raised $50,000 before the pandemic put a one-year pause on the, normally, biennial event.