Luck, skill, and timing catapult Drew Campbell to fast start

Posted June 12, 2009, at 10:16 p.m.

What does the state’s top harness racing driver for 2008 do for an encore? Keep winning.

That’s Drew Campbell’s approach and — based on both wins and purse money — it couldn’t be a better one in 2009.

Last year, the Lewiston native won almost 21 percent (20.8) of his 1,263 races with 263 wins. He also had 249 places (seconds) and 192 shows (thirds) for total purse earnings of $777,512 to finish as Maine’s top-ranked driver.

This year, the 42-year-old Campbell is doing even better, winning 28.6 percent of his races through June 7. In his first 311 starts, he’s had 89 wins, 78 places, and 46 shows for $191,620 in purse money.

When asked to account for his hot start, Campbell said it was a combination of luck, skill and timing.

“My horses started out on a good note, which was the key and the accounts [horses] I picked up were key right from the start, even at Plainridge,” said Campbell, referring to Plainridge (Mass.) Racecourse, one of two other tracks he races besides Scarborough Downs.

“A lot of it has to do with the quality of the horse and how ready they are at the start,” he added.

Campbell won the first three races and four overall at Scarborough June 4 and won five of the 10 races on the card May 29 on a rainy, muddy day at Scarborough.

“I got lucky down there and got some guys who had some good, sharp horses. In Scarborough, you know who’s been doing their work all winter and those are the guys whose horses I picked up right off the bat.”

Both Drew and brother Heath Campbell, who is ranked second among Bangor Raceway drivers, are enjoying successful seasons this year.

“Yeah, he’s holding down the fort up there in Bangor and I’m doing pretty well at Scarborough,” Drew Campbell said. “Now that Plainridge is finished racing, I’m only doing Wednesdays at Rockingham [Park in Salem, N.H.] with an option to go to Bangor on Tuesdays, but I’m not going to.”

This will be the first year in the last several that Drew Campbell will not do any Bangor races, at least for the foreseeable future.

“That would mean racing six days a week, which I’ve done often, but I prefer to do five,” he said. “It gives me a couple days to catch up on stuff.”

Campbell said the afternoon post times at both Scarborough and Bangor are popular with most horsemen. He is definitely a big fan.

“It works out real good because I keep seven or eight horses in my stable and it takes most of the morning to get your work done, have a little time before races, and get home at a decent time at night,” he said. “This really works out well.”

Campbell is also a trainer who’s currently ranked 14th in the state with a 20.8 winning percentage (11 wins in 53 starts). He finished fourth last year with 67 wins in 222 starts (30.2 percent).

Smile for the camera

The Maine State Harness Racing Commission granted Bangor Raceway’s request for an extension of the requirement for a back-stretch camera being put into operation by July 4.

Bangor director of racing Corey Smith told commission members that Bangor Raceway owner Penn National Gaming Inc. made the request to push the camera requirement back to the 2010 season due to concerns over ongoing construction and replacement of the stables.

Commission chairman George McHale agreed with commission member Stan Kuklinsky’s suggestion that Bangor set up a temporary camera by using a portable unit that can be mounted somewhere.

The commission voted to suspend the camera requirement through June and July, but told Smith that Bangor would have to install and test a system utilizing a portable camera mounted on a pole or other structure 25 feet up by the time Bangor’s fall racing season starts in September.

The aim is to have a proper view of the backstretch for both better security and rules enforcement.

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