CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The 2018 winter meet drew to a close Saturday afternoon at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park (CDP) with Marc Campbell retaining his iron grip on the driving standings.
The Winsloe reinsman had five winners on the final card of the winter season at the capital oval to boost his win total to 14 after just three cards in 2018. To put it in perspective, in Campbell's record-breaking 2017 season saw him win just 10 races before the winter meet shut down, and that was with four cards to work with although Campbell was absent for one of those.
The record-breaking driver will head to Mississauga, Ont., this weekend for the national O'Brien Awards, where he is nominated for the horsemanship award against Quebec horseman Guy Gagnon. It is the fourth time Campbell has been nominated for the prestigious award with him winning the honour for his 2012 season.
Campbell is not alone in the cast of O'Brien Award hopefuls, as Island connections are eligible for awards throughout the night.
Brett MacDonald, son of Island native Ron MacDonald, is a nominee for the Future Star Award. The 21-year-old MacDonald competes regularly at Rideau Carleton Raceway outside Ottawa, where he was third for drivers during the 2017 season.
Pure Country is up for the aged pacing mare award at the ceremony. The winner of $471,000 in purses in 2017 was driven almost exclusively by Kingston native Mark MacDonald.
Summerside native Dr. Ian Moore has two nominees on the evening. Classic Pro is nominated for the three-year-old pacing colt award against the Alberta-sired colt Mateo, the first time an Alberta-bred horse was nominated for an O'Brien. A son of former Moore pupil Shadow Play, Classic Pro won four of 14 starts in 2017 and earned more than $293,000 on the season.
Moore's other nominee is Percy Bluechip in the two-year-old pacing filly award. Also a daughter of Shadow Play, Percy Blue Chip is up against fellow Shadow Play filly Kendall Seelster. The Moore-trained Percy Blue Chip won five of nine starts in 2017, banking $440,000 and winning a number of Ontario Sires Stakes events, including breaking the Georgian Downs track record for rookie fillies in her lifetime debut.
The O’Brien Award winners will be announced at the annual black tie gala on Saturday night at the Hilton Mississauga/Meadowvale Hotel in Ontario. The awards were established in 1989 to celebrate the top horses and horse people in Canadian harness racing. They were named in honour of legendary Alberton horseman Joe O'Brien.
An Island-owned and bred filly is a major contender in the $39,400 Blizzard series final set for Friday at Woodbine Raceway in Ontario. Bettim Jackie was a 1:53.2 winner last week in a preliminary leg of the series for owners Jeff Lilley of Charlottetown, Blair Maclauchlan of Stratford and Nova Scotia co-owner Danny Purcell. The three-year-old daughter of Andreoli Hanover has drawn Post 3 in the Race 5 final on the Woodbine program at 3-1 odds with Louis Philippe Roy in the bike for trainer Richard Moreau. The race is scheduled to go to post at 9:30 p.m. Atlantic.
Warren Grove horseman Jonah Moase is relocating his stable to Rideau Carleton Raceway, outside Ottawa, for the winter racing season. Moase has 180 lifetime wins as a trainer along with $550,000 in purse earnings.
The Atlantic Standardbred Winter Mixed Sale slated for Saturday, March 24, at the MacMillan Show Centre in Bible Hill, N.S., is cancelled. Organizer Paul Walker said the event was called off due to lack of entries.
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at email@example.com.