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Barrieau Is Back!

Published: September 16, 2018 10:29 am ET

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Gilles Barrieau won the inaugural edition of Standardbred Canada’s National Driving Championship in 2007, and there’s nothing he’d like better than to add the 2018 title to his resume along with the chance to represent Canada at the World Driving Championship (WDC) in Sweden.

Given that the New Brunswick native has competed in three past Nationals, all with top three finishes, his chances of succeeding are very good.

Following his victory in 2007, which earned him the honour of representing Canada in the WDC New Zealand and Australia, Gilles won the 2008 Atlantic Regional Driving Championship (ARDC) and then finished in third in the 2008 NDC to Brad Forward. Following a runner up finish in the 2011 ARDC, he was runner-up to winner Jody Jamieson in the 2011 NDC.

Barrieau was asked to compare the 2007 field to the 2018 field. “The drivers from 2007 were very skilled, and I would say that the drivers for this field are stronger. There is a lot of talent in this group and it will make for a great competition!”

Speaking of talent, Barrieau has been driving horses for 38 years, amassing more than 4,300 winners and earnings in excess of $8.7 million. His UDRS has consistently been above .347 for the past 22 years. His impressive resume is highlighted by four Gold Cup & Saucer victories and an O’Brien Award of Horsemanship in 2005.

His family roots run deep in harness racing. His dad, Alfred, was one of 16 children and four of his siblings and Alfred would become involved in racing, though for Alfred it was primarily as a hobby. Gilles’ uncle Marcel was a top notch horseman, and a great mentor and teacher for Gilles who followed his footsteps into the industry.

Barrieau was the perennial champion in New Brunswick racing for years but in 2014 was forced to leave that province because of a decrease in race dates. He relocated to PEI and has since become a regular competitor on the Red Shores circuit.

For Gilles, the novelty of competing in a World Championship never wanes, “It would be a great honour to represent Canada, just as it is a great honour to represent the East Coast in the National Driving Championship. Harness racing is a huge part of my life and to be from the Maritimes and represent all of Canada would be amazing. As it is interesting to learn about the similarities and differences of harness racing in other countries, it is exciting to share what it is like in Canada.”

And if a trip to Sweden is in the cards for the soft spoken horseman, he’s looking forward to playing tourist! “Besides learning about racing in this country, I'm not going to lie, I googled "Top tourist attractions in Sweden,” and from this list I would pick some of the historical places to visit like Gamla Stan, I'd like to see some of Sweden from the water (Stromma Boat Tour) and the Gota Canal, and the most intriguing would be the Ice Hotel! And, of course, farms!”

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