The 2017 harness racing season is officially underway at Kawartha Downs as eight qualifiers went to the gate under sunny skies this morning at the Fraserville oval. 

Nick Boyd, one of KD’s top drivers the past few seasons, made a successful return to the sulky after being on the sidelines for several months recovering from multiple injuries sustained during a hockey game in January.

Nick won the first qualifier of the day with Mad For Plaid who was six lengths the best in 1:59.4. It was the first start of the year for the eight-year-old gelding by Ken Warkentin owned by Linda and Derek Reid and trained by Wilson Reid. A regular at KD, Mad For Plaid’s time was a life best despite the track being off a second.

In the second race Nick piloted another Kawartha favourite, Keystone Samurai, to a second place finish behind winner D G Nickabocker. David Ahern owns, trains and drives the winner, a six-year-old daughter of Million Dollar Cam.

Boyd’s second win of the day came with Royal Engagement who was making her first lifetime start at Kawartha. She won by more than five lengths in 2:00.3. Tommy Riley trains the seven-year-old daughter of Stonebridge Regal, who has $166,000 on her card lifetime, for owner Brett Riley.

“I was happy with how my qualifiers went, it was good to be back,” said Boyd. “The day went well and there’s a lot of excitement about opening night next Saturday.”

The fastest mile of the morning was turned in by Battle Call who had 17 lengths on his rivals in the 1:56.4 effort under the guidance of Reg Gassien. Knightstalker Stable of Oshawa owns the 10 year-old son of Omar Khayam who was making his first start at KD since 2012. The veteran pacer has 194 lifetime starts to his credit for $203,000 in earnings.

Other winners on the day included Warken On Air (2:01, Rick Webb), Ken Kan Win (2:00, Jim Gillespie), Crown Classic (2:01, Per Henriksen) and Santanna Blue Chip (1:59.2, Jason Woodward).

The opening night card at Kawartha Downs is May 27 with a 7 p.m. start. The night features a tribute to Gord Brown, the winningest driver of all time at Kawartha Downs who retired from driving in the off season and now joins the KD team as an expert race analyst.