Alberta native Mike Hennessy earned the opportunity to represent Western Canada on the world harness racing stage by winning the 2022 Western Regional Driving Championships at Century Downs near Calgary, Alberta . Sunday (June 19).

Paul Ryneveld (left), Managing Director. racing at Century Downs and a Dir. of Standardbred Canada, with 2022 Western Regional Driving Champion Mike Hennessy at Century Downs (Caitlin Fancy/Coady Photo)

Hennessy, a resident of Lacombe, Alta., won two of seven races in the qualifying contest, scoring a small upset with HF Patrick ($10.70) in Stage 3, followed by an open victory in Stage 6 with Naked Burner ($4.70). With two second and fourth places in his other races, Hennessy finished the contest with an insurmountable lead heading into the final race and won the hardware with 62 points.

” It’s awesome. You always come here to have fun, but when you win it makes everything a little bit better,” Hennessy said with a laugh.

Having passed the 1,000 win milestone, Hennessy has been riding horses in Western Canada and along its circuits for nearly 20 years. He had a career year in 2019 with $881,803 in purses earned and 136 wins, which ranks him second after his 2017 season where he won 142 races.

Mike Hennessy throws a punch after guiding Naked Burner to victory in the Western Regional Driving Championship at Century Downs (Caitlin Fancy/Coady Photo)

Phil Giesbrecht, the current leading driver at Century Downs with 39 wins this season, broke a second-place tie on the final leg to earn the final spot in the 2022 National Driving Championship. Giesbrecht, who is stationed in Fort Saskatchewan , Alberta, had just one win on the day but racked up enough points to be tied with Dave Kelly heading into the final run. A third-place finish with Shark Week, slipping through a late inside seam, and a seventh-place finish from Kelly earned Giesbrecht second place with 50 points overall.

“I had a few activists help me through, and I’m glad they did,” Giesbrecht said. I just want to thank everyone for putting their horses on, it was great. A lot of pleasure.”

Giesbrecht, who began his riding career at the Manitoba Fairs in 2007, moves up to the National Driving Championship in a year where he currently holds an all-time personal best driving average of 0.419 out of 285 starts. He won over 1,000 races during his 15-year career and earned just over $6 million in purses.

The winner and runner-up will join the top two of the other three regional qualifiers at the 2022 National Driving Championship at Century Mile on Thursday, November 24 for the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2023 World Driving Championship in Italy.

Ontario Regional Driving Championship winner Louis-Philippe Roy and runner-up Doug McNair qualified in May at the Western Fair District Raceway. The Quebec/Eastern Ontario Regional will take place next Sunday (June 26) at Hippodrome 3R in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. followed by the Atlantic Regional Championship on Saturday, July 30 at Red Shores Racetrack & Casino at Charlottetown Driving Park.

The final ranking of the Western Regional Driving Championship is as follows:

1. Mike Hennessy (Alta.) – 62 points
2. Phil Giesbrecht (Alta.) – 50
3. Dave Kelly (Alta.) – 45 (tie)

3. Glenn Le Drew (Man./Sask.) – 45 (tie)
3. Rod Thereres (BC) – 45 (tie)
6. Brandon Campbell (BC) – 31
7. Kelly Hoerdt (Alta.) – 30
8. Scott Knight (BC) – 19

From Standardbred Canada