The World Driving Championship, presented by Standardbred Canada, will kick off in just seven weeks. The five-track, cross-country event will feature 11 drivers from around the world, including Canadian representative Brandon Campbell. Trot Insider interviewed Campbell to talk about pressure, preparation, and the obstacles he’s had to overcome on his road to the WDC.
What was it like to put on the Canadian colours for the first time?
It was amazing, to tell the truth. It’s almost surreal. It’s something I’ve been shooting for, for so long. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’m doing it. I got the colours and I’m very excited. It can’t come soon enough.
Obviously you watch the Olympics and you find yourself cheering for Canada. Every time you turn on the TV, you watch for Canada. It’s neat to cheer on your country. It doesn’t matter what sport. There’s a pride to cheer on your country.
You’ve had a chance to think about the 22 races, each with 11 horses. What are your thoughts?
I’m going to treat them like any other races. The large fields are going to be the most difficult thing. Some of these tracks are small tracks and they’re going to be racing 11 horses. It’ll be a different racing style altogether. What do you do when you get the nine-hole in an 11 horse field? That’s going to be the most difficult part. Do you take back and try to get points, or just go for the whole thing?
How are you approaching the five different tracks?
It’ll be tough here at Century Downs, just like going to the half mile tracks. It’s all turns here, no straight-aways. It’s really hard to gain ground on this track. I don’t think our horses are used to being driven on the outside or wide the whole way and I can’t see them taking to that style. I’m going to drive a North American style and do what I do. If I was going to Sweden, I’d adjust to their style of driving. But here, they’ll have to adjust to the way our horses race.
They’re talking about going nine wide here at Century (we only go eight wide normally) and I can tell you right now, we hit the turns here so fast, it’s really hard to get there. Front end speed holds so well here. I imagine I’ll try to be extremely aggressive at some points and hope that I get some speed horses that I can carry through.
I like Georgian a lot. It’s a speed track but it’s a big five-eighths, and there’s lots of room for movement there. At Mohawk, 11 horse fields really won’t change things very much on that size track.
What about the final two tracks, the half milers of Hippodrome 3R and Red Shores at Charlottetown Driving Park?
I just thank God I can make a horse leave. That’s going to be the toughest part. If you’re going to lay back in those races, you’re not going to get any chance to move. If these guys stack up three high on a half-mile track, will they be done and a guy be able to swoop by the whole field? It’s really hard to predict how this will go. I’ve laid in bed thinking about this so many times and I don’t know how I’m going to approach it. I’ll adjust to what happens, I guess.
What are your thoughts of the other competitors?
All these guys that are coming, they’re professionals. There are no safety concerns. They’re used to the big fields, but our horses are not used to it. There’s not too many horses that can race on the outside the whole way. When it comes to these races, are these horses going to die out? It’s hard to predict.
I’ve watched these guys on YouTube. I watched Jody when he won down in the United States. There was a lot of European driving style in there, I noticed. They were usually lined up in two tiers. It’s different. I’ve been watching videos left right and centre, studying like crazy.
I’ve been watching Marcus Miller and Dexter Dunn. I’m watching Bjorn Goop. I’m going to go there, having watched what these guys are doing and how they drive.
Do you have family and friends coming?
I have so many people that are talking about going. My mother and my father, and my aunts are coming. My one cousin lives in Charlottetown and I have a bunch of family and friends that’ll meet me in Charlottetown at the end of it. My wife is coming with me.
I have a lot of supporters and I expect that Canadians across the country will be cheering for me. It’s going to be a fantastic feeling. To have that many people cheering for me is all new to me. I have supporters in Calgary but everybody is going to be watching.
On May 15, you received a 30-day suspension and $100 fine from Horse Racing Alberta, for “supplying a body fluid sample that tested positive for marijuana.” Can you talk about that?
I don’t feel great about it, especially with the position I’m in. I made a mistake. I’m human. I’m not the first guy to ever make a mistake but I feel horrible about it. I was extremely scared that I threw everything away for it, that I was going to lose it all.
I’ve been going to meetings to try to work on the issue. It was a small slip and it did happen. I have to own up to it and unfortunately, what’s done is done. I apologize to everybody for it. I’m sorry for all the hardships and issues it caused everybody at Standardbred Canada and in the event, but I’m really happy they let me go forward.
How about the industry in Alberta, and the Racing Commission? Are you moving forward to their satisfaction as well?
The judges here cut my suspension in half by me providing a clean sample right away, meeting all requirements, going to AADAC (Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission) and getting assessments. Now I’m going to meetings for Standardbred Canada as well. The representative at AADAC, through Alberta Health, didn’t feel I had any problems, but even so, I followed through and have been getting treatments to ensure everything is good. It’s something I completely regret.
What’s your primary goal in the WDC?
First and foremost is to do good by everybody, represent Canada in a respectful manner, and give the people something to cheer for. Ultimately, of course, I want to win. I’m going in with the mindset that I’m going to.
I read the book, The Secret. I constantly tell myself, “I’m gonna win, I’m gonna win, I’m gonna win.” I try to attract it to me. When I won the Canadian event (National Driving Championship), it was about being a part of it, but as I get closer to this, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do this thing.
What about the pressure of it being in Canada, following in the footsteps of other greats? Herve Filion, who recently passed away, won the first event in 1970, and here you are today.
That usually just pumps me up more than anything. It just builds my confidence.
The one place I feel a bit of pressure is that there might be a little bit of angst because I’m from a small track in Western Canada, and I’m getting to do this versus the big boys that drive downtown all the time. I’ve heard that some people think I don’t deserve to be there. I went through the same tournament as everybody else did. I made it to the Canadian finals three times.
It’s big for us in Western Canada. Nobody from out here has ever got the opportunity to do this. I want to show all of Canada that I can do it, and for the people in Western Canada and small track people, it’s a really big deal and I want to do it for the people out here.
People feel I might not be able to hold the pressure. But every race I go into, doesn’t matter if it’s for $100,000 or $1,000, it feels no different to me. You’re in driving mode.