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Campbell sent to hospital

October 22, 2006
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In the last frenzied rush before the finish line, driver Ron Pierce felt his mount duck sideways. The movement started a chain reaction that ended with one horse dead and harness racing’s richest driver, John Campbell, with a fractured leg.

The incident occurred in the 10th race at Woodbine Racetrack, in the second of two elimination races for the Breeders Crown 3-Year-Old Colt Pace. The race was won by Mister Big.

“At the eighth pole I thought I was winning the race.\" said Pierce. “My horse [Total Truth] got a little sideways and we lost momentum for a minute. Then deep in the stretch battle he came back on – and late in the lane – maybe even past the finish line he suddenly ducked sideways again. He caught the right front leg of [Brian] Sear’s horse [Shark Gesture] and that horse went down and Campbell could not avoid him.”

Woodbine track Nurse Lynda Ruscoe and paramedic Alison Juskovic responded immediately to the fallen driver. “It was obvious he had a fracture of the left lower leg – tibia or fibia – and was in a great deal of pain. He had no other injuries and was conscious and alert. There was a brief delay while the advanced care attendant Tod Ferguson administered pain medication before transporting him. He was fully checked for head and spine injuries. The last word we got was that he was offloaded at Etobicoke General Hospital,” said Ruscoe.

An orthopedic specialist had been called to Etobicok to assess Campbell’s fracture. The leading money-winning driver in harness racing with more than $240 million in purse money was enjoying a career resurgence after recovering from an elbow fracture suffered in a racing accident in 2003. Campbell had just won three of the Breeders Crown elimination races and was scheduled to drive in each of the eight finals on Oct. 28 at Woodbine.

Campbell’s mount, Scootin Direct, a winner of $167,979 was euthanized on the track by official Woodbine veterinarian Dr. John McCall. “The horse’s shoulder was snapped from the impact. He had a broken humerus and unfortunately there was no other option but to euthanize him.”

Driver Brian Sears walked away from the accident and was not injured. The horse he drove, Shark Gesture, was also examined by Dr. McCall. “He had skinned knees, hocks and a tear on his chest, which I stitched. He also had a cut on his nose. The injuries were mostly superficial. He had a moderate knee injury, nothing that seemed to compromise the joint. (Moira Fanning for the Breeders Crown)
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