by James Witherite, Vernon Downs racing media
John MacDonald was the star of the show at Vernon Downs on Saturday (October 25) evening, winning four of 13 races on the card--three of them with his own trainees.
He kicked off his driving grand slam in the featured second race, a $6,500 upper-level conditioned pace. Dragon Fever ($7.60), a four-year-old Dragon Again gelding from the MacDonald stable, sprinted to the front from race's outset, set sensible fractions of :27.3 and :56.3, turning aside a bid from the pocket-sitting Barbarian (Fern Paquet, Jr.) on the far turn before kicking clear to a 2-1/2 length victory in 1:53.1.
In the fourth race, a $3,000 second-level conditioned pace, MacDonald pounced from the pocket in mid-stretch with Firethorn ($6.10), beating the pacesetting Donna's Scape in a 1:52.3 mile. MacKenzie's Bliss ($16.20) gave MacDonald a training and driving hat trick in the eighth race, also kicking to the fore to take the $5,100 fifth-level conditioned pace in 1:53.1.
In the ninth race, a $4,000-$5,000 claiming handicap trot, MacDonald teamed up with the Arnold Marks-trained Windsun Galliano ($9.60), working clear through a :28.1 first quarter before rating a more conservative tempo on the backstretch. After dismissing a first-over challenge from Funny Photo (Lems), Windsun Galliano drew clear in the stretch for a 1:57.1 triumph, ending up five lengths in front at the line when the pocket-sitting Nineanddivine (Claude Huckabone, III) broke stride in deep stretch.
Only three nights of racing remain in the 2014 season at Vernon Downs. Closing week kicks off on Thursday (October 30) with a 10-race program, due to start at 6:45 p.m. EDT.