Eight of Canada's best drivers converged at Fraser Downs on March 21 for a chance to represent our country in the World Driving Championship
and with two wins, one second and three thirds, Brad Forward earned the 2009 National Driving Championship title with a total of 65 points.
Going into the final leg, representatives from each region including Gilles Barrieau, Brad Forward, Guy Gagnon and Kelly Hoerdt had earned enough points to remain in the running for the NDC title.
In the last race, Forward secured the title with a win in rein to Kg Mattattack, who survived a first-over journey to triumph in 1:55.4 ahead of Geraint Hanover (Daniel Potvin) in a photo finish while Popular Demand (Guy Gagnon) rounded out the top three.
Forward, a native of Newfoundland now residing in Woodstock, Ont., said he tried not to look at the scoreboard during the challenge and he did not know that he had won the title after the final leg.
“I'm really stuck for words,” said Forward following the official NDC presentation. “It's been an amazing experience. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without the support of my family.”
Fifteen members of Forward’s family including his wife, Sandra, and three daughters, Kaitlyn, Melissa and Jessica, were in attendance to cheer him on throughout the eight-race challenge. Forward’s parents, siblings and nephews travelled across the country from Newfoundland to support the Ontario representative.
Forward will represent Canada in the World Driving Championship scheduled in Norway from May 14-20.
Standardbred Canada will co-ordinate the presentation of Canadian colours to the winning driver at his local racetrack or within his local community.
This is the second time that Standardbred Canada, the national organization for harness racing, has co-ordinated this event. Prior to 2007, Canada’s representative to the World competition was determined by a stats based formula. In 2007, SC developed a more equitable way that featured driving competitions to generate more awareness and a higher profile both for Canada’s representative and the World's.
Charlottetown Driving Park hosted the inaugural National Driving Championship in 2007 where Gilles Barrieau was crowned champion and represented Canada at the Worlds in New Zealand where Christopher Martens of Belgium won the title.
Here is a recap of this afternoon's National Driving Championship from Fraser Downs:
Guy Gagnon stole the show in the opening leg winning with Nazko Jade in 1:59.2. Nazko Jade led off the gate but surrendered the lead to Sylvias Jewel and Paul MacDonell at the first quarter. Gagnon pulled the pocket and retook the lead during the second half then opened up by almost four lengths to secure the win. The Crowd Wentwild (Bill Davis) was second with Kg Datemate (Brad Forward) finishing third.
*NDC - Race 1*
Brad Forward prevailed in the second leg with Everybody Dance winning in a career-best 1:56.2. Everybody Dance advanced first over through the second quarter and held off the pocket-sitter Big Promise (Guy Gagnon) for the victory. Millbanks Motion (Gilles Barrieau) rounded out the top three.
*NDC - Race 2*
Local reinsman Bill Davis stepped up to take the lead in the third leg with Red Star Islander. He rallied from off the pace to take his first win of the year by six and a half lengths in a career-best clocking of 1:55.4. Daves Showboat (Kelly Hoerdt) was the runner-up with Sunbury Hope (Paul MacDonell) finishing third.
*NDC - Race 3*
Marc Campbell jumped up in the standings with a win in the fourth leg aboard Winter Bliss. Campbell made the winning move when he angled Winter Bliss three-wide down the backstretch. Solar Wind (Kelly Hoerdt) made a late-stretch dash but Winter Bliss held on for the win in 1:56.4. With a third place finish in rein to Tahuya Burner, Brad Forward took the number one spot on the leader board.
*NDC - Race 4*
Gilles Barrieau scored his first win of the challenge moving him into a third-place tie with Bill Davis after Kootenay Ice rallied off a second-over trip equaling his life's mark of 1:55.2. Witty Scholar (Kelly Hoerdt) was a close second with Katies Gun (Brad Forward) finishing third.
*NDC - Race 5*
Gilles Barrieau returned to the winner’s circle and claimed the top spot in the challenge after Rocket Rachael prevailed in the sixth leg winning in 1:56.2. She left from the inside post surrendering briefly to A Midnight Promise (Marc Campbell) before the first quarter. Rocket Rachael landed on top again during the second quarter and paced on to win ahead of Kootenay Finale (Guy Gagnon) and Lady Lola (Daniel Potvin).
*NDC - Race 6*
Guy Gagnon claimed the lead in the standings when Joe Millionaire turned back all challengers en route to victory in the seventh leg. The time of the mile was 1:55.4. Hewitt A (Brad Forward) and Trimline (Marc Campbell) finished second and third in a photo finish.
*NDC - Race 7*
Brad Forward secured the National Driving Championship with his second win on the card. Kg Mattattack survived a first-over journey to triumph in the final leg in 1:55.4 ahead of Geraint Hanover (Daniel Potvin) in a photo finish. Popular Demand (Guy Gagnon) rounded out the top three.
*NDC - Race 8*
1. Brad Forward - 65 pts
2. Guy Gagnon - 61 pts
3. Gilles Barrieau - 50 pts
4. Kelly Hoerdt - 47 pts
5. Bill Davis - 44 pts
6. Marc Campbell - 39 pts
7. Daniel Potvin - 36 pts
8. Paul MacDonell - 34 pts
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