Brandon Campbell won the 2016 National Driving Championship (NDC) on Friday, Oct. 14 at The Raceway at the Western Fair District in London, Ont. and will represent Canada in the 2017 World Driving Championship, which will be hosted by Standardbred Canada at racetracks across the country next August.
Campbell accumulated the most points during the eight-race driving tournament over seven other top Canadian reinsmen to earn the honours of representing his country on the international stage.
The 33-year-old reinsman from Calgary, Alta. advanced to the National Driving Championship after winning the Western Regional Driving Championship this past June at Century Downs Racetrack and Casino -- one of four regional tournaments from which the top two point earners advanced to the NDC. This was Campbell's third time competing in the NDC and his first victory.
"I've done this three times now, I'm thrilled," said Campbell. "I don't even know what to say."
Campbell put together a string of runner-up finishes in four straight legs of the NDC to remain a contender throughout the heated competition in which seven different drivers earned wins.
Campbell padded his leading point total with his first victory of the tournament in the seventh leg, guiding Wacky Rei ($4.90) to victory. He secured the lead from the inside post with the four-year-old pacing mare and held off the pocket-pulling Shesastarreporter and James MacDonald in a photo finish for the 1:58 victory.
While Campbell said he was confident in his chances of winning the NDC title, there was an anxious moment when his mount broke stride at the start of the final race leaving the door wide open for James MacDonald, the runner-up in the point standings, to steal the glory with a first or second-place finish.
"There were tears. I was crying a little bit," Campbell said of his reaction when he was taken out of contention in the final leg. "I was watching James second over, he was the first or second favourite, and I thought it was all over. He went to move her and she didn't have any go and I started cheering again 'go boys go.'"
MacDonald finished sixth in the final race, won by longshot winner Ivegotmyeyeonu and Trevor Henry, and was unable to catch Campbell atop the leaderboard.
Campbell secured the 2016 National Driving Championship title with 63 points while James MacDonald finished second with 57 points. Jason Hughes, the only two-leg winner in the competition, was third with 52 points. Jim Marino (50 points), Henry (45), Brett MacDonald (41), Guy Gagnon (32) and Corey MacPherson (30) completed the order of finish.
The National Driving Championship consisted of races two through six and eight through 10 on the Friday program at The Raceway. Drivers were able to have input into the horses they drove as a hockey pool style “draft” was conducted Tuesday for them to choose their horses in each race before the post position draw was made.
FINAL POINT TOTALS:
- Brandon Campbell - 63
- James MacDonald - 57
- Jason Hughes - 52
- Jim Marino - 50
- Trevor Henry - 45
- Brett MacDonald - 41
- Guy Gagnon - 32
- Corey MacPherson - 30
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