After breaking both wrists in a racing accident Sunday at Edmonton’s Century Mile, Brandon Campbell kept driving and swept both the Western Canada Pacing Derby with Major Custard and the Robert Byrne Memorial with Probert later in the card.
by Garnet Barnsdale
Twitter was buzzing last Sunday (Nov. 29) following two big stakes races at Century Mile, not because driver Brandon Campbell won as expected with the two favorites. His accomplishments that day were surely unique. Campbell notched the stakes victories not knowing he had suffered two broken wrists sustained in a spill earlier in the card.
Trainer Jim Marino tweeted out a picture of Campbell in two casts with the message: “After a spill earlier in the card, Brandon won both stake finals and an overnight with two broken wrists!” Sugar Doyle, announcer at The Raceway at Western Fair tweeted, “He’s like ‘The Moneyman’ – just keeps going…Amazing!”
It was in the fourth race where the accident occurred and watching it live, you could see one driver get catapulted out of the sulky. That reinsman happened to be Campbell, who was driving A Cowboys Dream.
“We were just going into the first turn and everybody was filing in line,” said Campbell. “The rail horse — I’m not sure if she jumped something or what she did — but she went straight down in a pile and it was just a chain reaction, so we’re all over the place. Tyler Redwood and James Jungquist, both their horses went down and so did Shes On A Roll.I was just in behind and I had nowhere to go and no time to go there. So, she went down, and I got catapulted over top of the whole situation.”
Like most harness racing wrecks, this one started suddenly and without warning, but Campbell retained a vivid memory of the event.
“I remember being up in the air, looking down, going ‘Jesus, it’s going to hurt.’,” he said. “We’re a long way up, and I happened to hit my feet running and then came straight down on my hands. Everybody walked away for the most part, but we all got shaken up pretty good.”
Campbell did not at first think he had sustained serious damage.
“I guess I knew that I had hurt myself,” he says. “I started to notice a little bit of pain in my wrist and my hands.”
But there were still the two major stakes races to be run. He admits, he might have been just a little in denial.
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” he said. “I was looking forward to this race for a long time with Major Custard. And then I happened to pick up Probert.”
Major Custard came into the $92,840 Western Canada Pacing Derby final with a record of 18 wins from his first 21 starts, and despite a sub-par performance in the elimination the week before, the sophomore pacing son of Custard The Dragon out of the Art Major mare Chemistry was still expected to be sent postward as an overwhelming favorite. Probert, winner of the $75,000 Mary Murphy Memorial earlier in the month in a dazzling 1:52.3 paced over Fraser Downs, entered the final of the $88,320 Robert Byrne Memorial on Sunday on a six-race win streak. She figured to be bet even heavier than Major Custard despite both pacers being quoted as 4-5 morning line chalks.
Probert took command of the Don Byrne heading to the half and she drove away to a four-length 1:53 win while under some urging from Campbell, who admitted the encouragement hurt his hands a bit.
“Yeah, the only time it hurt was when I was urging for the most part,” he said. “But when you’re in that situation, your adrenaline kicks in. I was really thinking of just pushing through it.”
Push through it he did, but the Pacing Derby win would be anything but easy. Campbell and Major Custard got into some road trouble which they would eventually overcome on their way to victory.
“It all started happening up the backside around the 5/8 pole,” he said. “The next thing you know, we all bunched up really quick. At the last turn, I wasn’t overly concerned because all the horses in front had slowed to a walk. They were all tired, so I kind of dropped back to Dave Kelly’s horse, Make Some Waves and I was pretty confident that at some point down the lane, I was going to get enough room. Mike Hennessy was drawing off a little bit with Criminal record, but his horse was already tired, too. Once I got the big colt motivated, he just started moving and he paced by the front horse easily.”
Major Custard took a 2 1/2-length win timed in 1:54.4. Perhaps buoyed by sweeping two big stakes races, Campbell still didn’t feel his injuries were significant so he made the three-hour drive home to Calgary.
“My buddy drove and I just sat in the passenger seat and reflected on what a good day it had been,” he said. “Then the further we went down the road, they started hurting a little bit more. And I got home, had a shower and I tried to lay down but I couldn’t because of the pain so I just decided finally, before anybody woke up, that I’d take myself into the hospital. The guy came to me and said, ‘I got bad news for you. Both your scaphoid bones in your wrists are broken, so you’re going to be in casts from 4 to 6 weeks.’”
Campbell isn’t one to look for sympathy, but he was concerned how his two young girls Presley and Blakely might react. He came up with what he thought might be a good solution. He got both casts colored little-girl pink.
“They knew something was going on,” he explains. “And I just thought it would kind of ease any struggles that they had and just make them happy when dad showed up with two pink casts on.”
Two pink casts, each a memento of sorts for each stakes win taken on an afternoon at Century Mile that Campbell won’t ever forget.