The Atlantic regional driving championship is front and centre on a rare Saturday night card at Red Shores at Summerside Raceway.
Nine of Atlantic Canada’s elite harness racing drivers will compete in nine races to determine who will move on to compete for the national title. There are nine races with eight horses in each race, so each driver will sit out one race.
Meet the P.E.I. drivers
Now in his 10th season as a driver, Marc Campbell is one of three P.E.I. representatives.
Campbell has 1,185 victories and over $2.5 million in purses won. Since 2008, nobody has won more harness races on the Island.
Jason Hughes has quickly put together two solid seasons, and is well on his way at making 2014 his best ever. Hughes enters Saturday’s competition with 732 winners, and purse money surpassing $1.2 million.
Brodie MacPhee rounds out the Island contingent. The MacPhee name has a long history of Maritime racing, and has a permanent place on the family Wall of Fame at the Charlottetown Driving Park.
Brodie’s grandfather Alex drove 834 winners while his father Brian has graced the winner’s circle over 1,700 times. Brodie, during his young career, has 512 winners and is oh so close to $1 million in earnings.
One of the most respected names in New Brunswick harness racing is Barrieau.
Gilles Barrieau will be flying the New Brunswick flag in his attempt to make it to the national final.
Gilles has 3,828 winning drives over his illustrious career, and banked just under $7 million dollars.
Billy O’Donnell is the English “Magic Man” while Mario Baillargeon is the French “Magic Man.” I like to call Gilles Barrieau the Maritime “Magic Man.” His talent in the race bike makes him a serious contender.
The newest member of harness racing’s 2,000-win club is Todd Trites. He goes into the competition with 2,010 victories and over $3 million in purses.
The diminutive New Brunswicker enjoyed a large pay day sweeping the Maritime Breeders finals recently in Charlottetown, and comes into Saturday’s card with some hot hands.
Darren Crowe constantly finds himself on the Truro leader board year after year. He joined the 1,000-win club recently, winning at his home base in Truro. His purse money won is over the 1.6 million dollar mark.
Ryan Ellis is an Air Canada pilot by trade, and joined the harness racing drivers colony in 2007. He’s been the “top jock” at Truro Raceway the past two seasons, and led the entire country in average last year.
From a very limited number of starts, Ellis has 312 winners and $371,000 in prize money.
The final member of Team Nova Scotia is the pride of Cape Breton, Ryan Campbell.
He’s another young fella that never started driving horses until 2007. With that said, no other driver has won more races on Cape Breton since Campbell began his career. Now he has 464 trips to the winner’s circle and $352,000 won.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Kevin Dillon, to say the least, is the rookie in the field. He just began his driving career in 2012.
Last year, he ended up with a .404 driving average over on “The Rock.” He has only driven 77 times, winning on 15 occasions, in a short time to advance to a regional driving championship is a remarkable feat for our Newfoundland and Labrador representative.
No matter what the outcome is, you will be entertained from start to finish. For Summerside to host such an event is simply remarkable. Be there!
The Atlantic Aged Pacing Mares Series also opens up in Summerside on Saturday. Two divisions are featured as these lady horses accumulate points for the fall final.
The two-year-old baby races are featured on Saturday in Charlottetown at 11 a.m. The future stars of harness racing are always a must see.
A look at Saturday’s picks:
Best bets - Rambling Lily in Race 9, and General Lucky Percy in Race 12.
Long shot possibilities - Ultimate Success in Race 4, and Worth Remembering in Race 9.
Vance Cameron is the track announcer in Summerside and Charlottetown. Comments and suggestions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.