CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The accolades continue to roll in for the ‘King’ of Island harness racing.
Marc Campbell has put up unheard of numbers during the 2017 season and will now be a finalist, and prohibitive favourite, for the horsemanship award to be doled out at the national O’Brien awards to be held in January in Ontario. Campbell was selected by the nominating committee to go against Guy Gagnon, a top trainer-driver at Rideau Carleton Raceway in Ottawa, along with Travis Cullen, who has become a force as a trainer-driver on the tough Woodbine Entertainment Group circuit in Ontario.
O’Brien award voters would usually cast their ballots in the division, with the top two point earners getting nominated as the O’Brien award finalists. This won’t be the case this year, as shortly after the nominees were announced, Cullen received a positive test and suspension from the Ontario Racing Commission, disqualifying him from consideration for the award. This leaves Campbell and Gagnon alone as the finalists.
Campbell, who recently broke his own Charlottetown Driving Park record by recording his 145 victory of the season, has 239 wins and $568,611 in earnings as a driver in 2017 along with 123 wins and $366,316 in purses as a trainer. His 239-win season is the second highest in the history of Atlantic Canadian harness racing, behind Steve Mahar’s 284-win season in 1990.
The difference is the racing opportunity presented to the pair as Campbell has 753 starts as a driver this season, while Mahar had 1,452 times behind the gate during his record-breaking season. During that time in New Brunswick, the province had multiple tracks racing at the same time with opportunities to race all season long at tracks like Exhibition Park Raceway in Saint John, Fredericton Raceway and New Brunswick Downs in Moncton.
My condolences to the family of David McGuigan on his recent passing.
The native of Gasperaux was formerly an active owner-trainer in Island harness racing with horses like Hotcupatea and Lonefeather. The 82-year-old McGuigan passed the love of the sport to his son George McGuigan, who is an active participant in the industry.
Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park is down to racing once a week with a 16-dash card slated for Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. Missing from the action is driver Gilles Barrieau, who has returned to his native New Brunswick to train his horses at Exhibition Park Raceway for the winter months. The Dieppe, N.B., native has been a regular in Island racing during the summer months for the past few seasons.
Stratford native Robert Shepherd hit a career milestone Wednesday night at Flamboro Downs in Dundas, Ont., as he earned his 3,000th lifetime driving win.
The 37-year-old started his career on the backstretch of Charlottetown, making his first start in 1999 then relocated to Alberta before settling into the tough Ontario driving colony as a dominant driver on the B circuit.
Shepherd, who now lives in Flamborough, Ont., has more than $21 million in career earnings as a driver.
Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Red Shores at the Charlottetown Driving Park:
Race 1 – Windemere Rene
Race 2 – Oh To Be Me
Race 3 – Outrageous Spirit
Race 4 – Doublejackandaces
Race 5 – Hop Up
Race 6 – Dads Filly
Race 7 – Positive Art
Race 8 – Sendmeasign
Race 9 – Eagle Jolt
Race 10 – Cougar Gal
Race 11 – Threestepstoheaven
Race 12 – Drivingthedragon N
Race 13 – Zingers Laugh
Race 14 – Smiley Bayama
Race 15 – Donald Doc
Race 16 – Heart And Soul
Nicholas Oakes' column appears in The Guardian each Friday. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.