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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing

DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS

By Ken Weingartner for USTA — The thought of representing the U.S. in August’s World Driving Championship already has kept Jordan Ross awake at night. But in the best possible way.

Ross, a 25-year-old Tennessee native who enjoyed a breakout season on the Indiana circuit in 2022, has been selected by the U.S. Trotting Association to wear the Stars and Stripes in this year’s WDC.

The event, conducted since 1970, will bring together a dozen drivers to compete in 20 races at four different tracks in three different countries — The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium — Aug. 13-18.

“Jordan Ross is a coming-to-the-top driver who grew up around horses in Tennessee and is making a name for himself in the Midwest, earning over $1.6 million in 2022,” said U.S. Trotting Association President Russell Williams. “He will represent the United States brilliantly at this world event.”

Ross will follow in the footsteps of recent U.S. reps Yannick Gingras, Marcus Miller, and Tim Tetrick in the competition. Gingras finished second in Sweden in 2019 while Miller was third in Canada in 2017, and Tetrick was third in Australia in 2015. The last U.S. driver to win the WDC was Dave Magee in 1995.

“I watched some of the races when those guys were in it, and I never thought in a million years that I would be going to it,” Ross said. “The night I found out I stayed up late just thinking about it. I watched a couple races from over there, just trying to see what the atmosphere was like.

“Representing the U.S., that’s amazing. It’s very exciting, and I’m honored to get the chance. The main thing is to stay focused, not get too far ahead of myself. Just stay hard at it and try to get better each and every day.”

Ross, who got his first driving win in 2016, entered last year with a total of 131 victories in 1,018 starts and $884,213 in purses. In 2022, he surpassed not only his best previous campaign, but his overall career figures by posting 153 triumphs and $1.62 million in purses while driving in nearly the same number of prior races — 1,084.

His 83 wins at Harrah’s Hoosier Park put him seventh in the driver standings and represented a 361-percent increase over his 18 victories at the Indiana oval in 2021. In addition, Ross finished second in wins and purses last year on the Indiana fairs circuit, with 48 triumphs and $153,354 in money.

“It happened so quickly, it took a while to sink in,” Ross said about his rapid ascent. “I had fun driving at the fairs. It was a blast. Some of the people I drove for at the fairs, I did OK with their horses and then they let me drive a little more for them at Hoosier.

“It’s really a confidence thing. Sometimes, you can be at a very high point if you have a good week, and sometimes you can be at a very low point if you have a bad week. Balancing everything is the key. The main thing is to go out there and do the best I can with the horses I get to drive.”

Ross was introduced to harness racing by his grandfather, Graham, who trained a stable of 15 to 20 horses that raced primarily at the Illinois fairs. Ross was hanging around his grandfather’s barn at an early age and became immersed in the business. Ross began working for Robert Taylor, one of his grandfather’s friends, in 2015.

“I think I first started going to the barn when I was 4 or 5,” Ross said. “From there, I learned how to clean stalls, learned how to harness, the right way to do stuff. It’s something I love doing. I love being around horses. You can see the transition from them being babies to becoming racehorses and then from 2 to 3 seeing how their progress goes. From kind of being green to being good, smart racehorses.”

This year, Ross has been driving at Miami Valley Raceway, where he has 14 wins. He will return to Hoosier Park when it opens its 2023 season on March 24. When he has time, he will prepare to take on the world. Rick Ebbinge, from The Netherlands, is the defending WDC titleholder.

“I’ll watch as many races as I can from over there and try to see the style of racing,” Ross said. “It’s a different atmosphere. And I’ll watch the other drivers (in the WDC) to see their driving styles. I’ll take some notes. I’ve got a little time to prepare.”

He also has time to prepare for new languages, cuisines, and cultures.

“I’ll get to see parts of the world that I might not otherwise get to visit,” Ross said. “I’ll have to see if I can pick up all the different languages. I’m not too picky (when it comes to food). I don’t mind trying new things. As long as it tastes good, I don’t mind trying it.

“It will be a very exciting experience.”

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